The Lifelong Quest for Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 49

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 49 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In all these Notes, the fundamental core element is the idea of the Hero, the individual who journeys into the Underworld of her/his life to initiate a process of ongoing recovery from the ravages and horrors of addiction.  This is the same Hero that attends the core of thousands upon thousands of stories told in all the societies of the human experience all over the world. We have merely focused on it here in these Notes, seeing its parallel in the lives of all of us.

The recent DC Comics movie, Aquaman, is a tale of an undersea society of women and men living in many tribes, the center of which is the mythic world of Atlantis.  Atlantis was also a world of hubris that was created by Plato and other scholars and which, as a result of massive mythical conflicts, was eventually buried on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Aquaman
Aquaman

The hero of the modern movie, Aquaman, was a crossbreed of the queen of the undersea world and a surface human, a lighthouse keeper who rescued her from near death on the rocks at the foot of his lighthouse.  This hero, Aquaman, is blessed with significant powers and, upon reaching adulthood, he is drawn into a conflict between the tribes of the undersea world.  He is charged with the mandate to restore order to this world. To carry out this mandate, he must journey to a strange and dangerous realm and retrieve a golden trident, a weapon which grants him a set of powers that approach invincibility. This trident will enable him to prevail over all others and to restore peace and prosperity to the undersea realm.

The parallel to other mythic systems, particularly to that of King Arthur of early Celtic lore, is clear and very powerfully done in Aquaman. As in King Arthur, the golden trident is akin to the sword Excalibur which Arthur, a seemingly common man of royal blood, retrieves from a stone and is elevated to the mantle of King. As King, Arthur leads the Knights of the Round Table, each of whom set out episodically on quests of chivalry, conquest and spiritual enlightenment.

Does all of this strike you as profoundly as it strikes me…that all of us in recovery, those of us who have truly committed ourselves to lives of responsibility, accountability and service, are heroes of precisely equal stature and power…all of us?  Our journeys to achieve levels of sobriety have the same elements of these majestic stories, from the explorations into the frightening darkness of our pasts to the glory of the milestones that we celebrate with our Fellows and through the service that we are challenged to provide to others.

As we look at all the great heroic stories of the human experience, all those stories that mirror the lives of so many of us, there is this heroic mantle that seems to have been laid upon all of us.  It is the grace of a Higher Power, a mantle which we all are mandated to wear, to work, to be of service, in small and large ways, to make the world in which we live a better, safer place.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 48

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 48 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In the Hindu traditions, there is a long Sanskrit epic called the Mahabharata, about a multi-generational feud between two ruling families, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, ruling in the ancient land that is today Northern India. The story culminates in a giant battle involving all the young men of the time, all aligned with one of the two families.

As the battle is about to begin, the head of the Pandavas, Arjuna, asks his charioteer, who is also the god Krishna, to drive him into the ‘no man’s land’ between the two armies. Seeing the size of the armies aligned against each other and imagining what is about to begin, Arjuna is overcome with grief. He asks Krishna for some relief, some way to avoid the coming armageddon. Krishna answers with a long poetic text that has become highly celebrated in spiritual circles; it is the Bhagavad Gita, aka the “Gita,” a spectacular, deeply articulated, relatively long prescription for an enlightened way of being.

Krishna begins the Gita with a direct response to Arjuna’s question.  He says that, as a warrior, Arjuna’s dharma, his cosmic reason for being, is to fight; he cannot avoid the call to arms.  Krishna says, “For a warrior, nothing is higher than a war against evil […] for it comes as an open gate to heaven.”

This is a wonderfully inspirational message for me, and, I believe, for all of us on the lifelong journey in sobriety. Active alcoholic behavior, living in the active disease, is an intrinsic evil, a place where we are active agents of devastation and abuse, abuse of people and the cosmos.  Our efforts to cross the threshold to abstinence, to a life of deeply imbedded behavior modification, and to a committed life of service are truly those of the warrior, that of the nobility of a warrior in a glorious quest for conquest over evil. Reading the Gita, from its beginning in the exchange with Arjuna, is a wonderful spiritual experience…and seeing it from the perspective of our own personal journeys is a great gift of grace from our own Higher Power.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 45

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 45 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In the aftermath of the fall of Rome in the 5th century and the loss of its literary and cultural majesty, the European continent became widely diverse and generally devoid of scholarship. The Church was the only institution of wide-spread power. In this environment, which lasted almost 600 years, there were a number of mythic systems which emerge. One was the great Celtic legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. A host of stories emerged out of this system, about kings, queens, knights and ladies, who pursue glorious quests in search of physical, psychical and spiritual treasures.

The most prominent of these quests is the search for the “Holy Grail,” which is the cup that Christ drank from at the Last Supper and which Joseph of Arimathea used to capture some of Christ’s blood as he was lowered from the Cross. Joseph was portrayed as part of a group that then fled Palestine, traveling West with the Cup to found an order in the Celtic lands charged with keeping the Cup. The Arthurian Knights that sought the Grail were on quests for spiritual enlightenment and ascension, which they achieve by coming into the presence of the Grail.

Those of us on the journeys into lives of sobriety are on similar quests…quests to achieve a sense of freedom, peace and serenity. Having made the decision to commit ourselves to the journey, we must do the work to recover with a sense of determination and rigor. We must explore the dark and frightening elements of our past in all its dimensions and find a conscious contact with our Higher Power so we can repair the harm we may have done in our disease and develop a saner mode of life.

Finally, we fully commit ourselves to a life of service, to mankind and to the cosmos. In relatively short order, we find ourselves in a place just as glorious as those the Arthurian Knights achieved in the presence of the Grail.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 44

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 44 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In the Charles Dickens’ story, A Christmas Carol, the protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly banker whom no one likes and who has nothing good to say about life, sees an apparition late on Christmas Eve.  It is of his long dead partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him of the errors of his miserly ways and foretells the coming of three spirits in dreams Scrooge is to have that same night.  

In the first such dream, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to the place of his boyhood and has him witness an adolescent Ebenezer struggling with his long abandonment by his father to a difficult boarding school. The young Ebenezer is rescued and brought home by his dear sister, but, as he grows into manhood in the dream, he becomes obsessed with the idea of working tirelessly to be financially successful, perhaps as a counterweight to the feelings of loneliness and deprivation he had as a boy.

The Ghost takes Scrooge through the various times of his later life…early adulthood, middle age, and full maturity, observing his increasing focus on financial success and on a gradual withdrawal from society.

The second dream has the Ghost of Christmas Present taking Scrooge around to those people of Scrooge’s current life, showing their happiness with simple things despite a very meager set of living circumstances.

The third dream, with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, focuses on a series of dire future happenings that seem fully ordained, but for which Scrooge becomes obsessed with a desire to change.

Upon waking up on Christmas morning, Scrooge is entirely transformed.  He immediately attends to the serious circumstances of those people in his current life and commits himself to living a happy, joyous life with all those around him.

It occurs to me that, while the circumstances and nature of Scrooge’s addiction is radically different, the process of his deterioration over time and the depth of the societal chasm he creates for himself provide a stark parallel to our lives in the diseases of alcoholism and drug abuse.   Looking at the process of his change over Christmas Eve into Day, there appears a wonderful, if highly compressed, parallel to our getting sober and working the steps.

The confrontation with Marley is the beginning of the great awakening.  The journeys on which he is taken by the three Spirits seem akin to the working of Steps, traversing the long-gone and recent pasts to get a sense of the depth of his disease, and then the embrace of a new way to be present in the world.  They all seem a very sharp and poignant parallel to our own journeys.

The people Scrooge attends to on Christmas Day and beyond – his housekeeper, his clerk and family, and his own nephew, the son of his dear sister – all convey to Scrooge an infectious joy and wonder at life, one that seems to echo our own joyous lives in sobriety today.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 44

Ariadne’s Thread

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 44 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

There is an ancient mythological story about King Minos of Crete who builds a massive, intricate Labyrinth to contain a creature named the Minotaur, half man and half bull, the issue of his wife who mistakenly mates with a bull in a ruse of the god Poseidon.  The Minotaur is a monster that only feeds on humans and Minos has exacted a toll on the city of Athens to send him young girls and boys on a regular basis as food for the Minotaur. Theseus is one of those and, while on Crete waiting to be fed to the Minotaur, he meets Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, who falls in love with him.  She gives Theseus a sword and a ball of twine, the twine to be used by Theseus to tie to the opening of the Labyrinth and let unravel as he and his fellow victims are led to the center to be eaten by the Minotaur.  Once there Theseus uses the sword to kill the Minotaur in a monstrous battle, and then escapes using the twine, “Ariadne’s Thread,” to find his way back to the opening with his fellows.

As we have seen, many of these mythological stories have wonderful analogies for those of us on the Journey to Recovery from the ravages of alcoholism and drug addiction.  The Minotaur, a monster of ugly proportions, could clearly represent our disease, one which was spawned by early life mishaps and one which consumed our loved ones as we trampled through our life in the disease. The act of conquering the disease is the first step, but then we must use the tools, carefully and doggedly working the steps, using the steps as “Ariadne’s Thread,” to find our way to a life of freedom and service. Each of these steps provides us with a wonderful sense of progress in escaping the dread of our lives in the disease.

My wish is that it be universal…that all of us be Theseus…that we find Ariadne’s Thread as the lifelong avenue to a sober life in the Sunshine of the Spirit.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 43

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 43 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In the multi-season show, Stargate SG – 1 and its offshoot, Stargate Atlantis, there is a force to be reckoned with called the Replicators, which are antagonistic self-replicating machines that are driven to replicate themselves by consuming both alloys and technologies of the nearest most advanced civilizations. They grow to destroy the societies which spawned them.  Their original beginnings were a mistake of an earlier species and they prove very difficult to eradicate.

It occurs to me that there is an interesting parallel here with the recurring incidence of the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction in families.  The disease seems to replicate itself in strange ways…it consumes us and our families across generations and among siblings and cousins. Sometimes it skips people in generations or in extended sibling or cousin relationships, but when it does strike, it can be as deadly as it was for the original sufferer.

In the Stargate Atlantis story, the Replicators are finally controlled by the development of a “disruptor gun” which breaks down the electromagnetic bonds inherent in the replicator machinery and causes them to disintegrate. My parallel with the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction and the replicator menace as told in these stories provides an interesting twist here.

We break down the replication of our disease in family structures by getting sober, by developing and maintaining a life of committed sobriety and service, which begins to model new, healthy behavior patterns.  These create a psychological and spiritual force which disrupts the development of the disease in our loved ones, thus breaking down the elements of the disease in the family structures and the tendencies for it to replicate.  Our loved ones absorb these patterns of recovery and service into their psyches and, in time, that helps them deal with their own latent or initiatory tendencies; they can thus avoid the patterns that could lead to future development of the disease.

In 1995, Pete Hamill, a journalist in New York, published a memoir called A Drinking Life.  It is the story of his Irish family’s drinking history, his own early life consumed with alcohol abuse, and his career associated with a community of people of some renown where the one defining constant was alcohol.  He hit a bottom one day and, recalling his familial history with alcohol, he said to himself: “The madness must stop.  The madness stops here,” and he stopped drinking forever.

In our own commitment to sobriety and to a life of service, we help to eradicate the replication of the disease for all future generations.