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.

The Council’s Speakers Series Luncheons 2000-2018 – A Galaxy of Stars

The Council’s Fall & Spring Luncheon Speakers 2000-2018 [Click for larger images]
The Council on Recovery’s 2018 Fall Luncheon with Alice Cooper was the 36th Luncheon  in the The Waggoners Foundation Speaker Series. Since 2000, the Waggoners Foundation along with, more recently, the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation, have underwritten the production of a Spring and Fall Luncheons. These luncheons have raised millions of dollars over the past 18 years. The Luncheon have been headlined by some of the biggest celebrities of their era, each of whom has entertained and inspired thousands with their recovery stories.

On The Council’s website, we proudly present the complete Galaxy of Stars who have helped us raise awareness and funds over the years. View the list here and enjoy the reminiscence!

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 42

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 42 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 an earlier note, I talked about the Greek experience of hieros gamos, the idea of a sacred marriage between an archetypal feminine and masculine.  I likened it to the union of our ego, our conscious being, and our authentic self, the deep elements of who we really are. It is the union that we begin to achieve as we pursue a life of committed sobriety and service to others, that process that comes by working the Steps and connecting with the Fellowship of recovery.  But there is another way to look at the idea of hieros gamos in our individual conscious beings.

Regardless of whether we are woman or man, we have archetypal elements of both genders in each of our individual psyches. Carl Jung spent a good part of his analysis of the human psyche on this, naming that the masculine elements of the feminine psyche as the “animus,” and the feminine aspects of the masculine as the “anima.”  Jung saw these elements as largely part of the unconscious but they are clearly elements that we are to strive to keep  in balance to achieve a level of wholeness in Jungian terms.

The masculine elements can be seen as those qualities of physical and emotional strength, accountability and responsibility, and the propensity for heroic acts. The feminine can be seen as those qualities of tenderness, compassion, sensitivity and loving nurturing. It is not to be inferred that either gender lacks what the other exhibits, by any means; it is only that the ones mentioned tend to be dominant for the particular gender.

In the alcoholic or drug addicted personality, the feminine or masculine elements of the representative gender can be grossly outsized, so much so that the individual is dysfunctional as a man or a woman…too aggressive and domineering or completely wimpy and ineffective…no matter what the gender.  Our pursuit to sobriety is meant to find the right balance so that we can be of service in any and all ways that might be needed by the societies and communities to which we serve. We need to find a true marriage of the masculine and feminine parts of us to achieve the fully committed life of service that we crave and that puts us in the place we were meant to be.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 41

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 41 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 a literary device that was originated in classical literature and theatre known in Latin as in medias res. It denotes that literary device of starting a story in the middle, “in the middle of things,” as the Latin might be translated.  We all know many stories, in literature, theater and movies that utilize this device; it is usually accompanied by multiple flashbacks and “jumping forwards” as a complex story is revealed. The Odyssey, which we keep talking about as a classic “hero’s Journey” story, uses this device; the story of Odysseus’ long journey home starts in the middle and is told in many, seemingly disjointed, subplots from different parts and different times in the overall story.

If we look at the lives of all of us in addiction and in the long journeys of recovery, this device might seem like a constant for us.  We really do start our recovery “in the middle of things,” usually somewhere in the middle of our lives.  The long story from our early days in the disease, into our descent to the darkest of moments, maybe many such moments, then the excruciating crawl to complete abstinence and the purposeful pursuit of the steps and tools…it is all a long, long story with the critical, pivotal elements appearing “in the middle.”

Odysseus has been traveling around the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas on a 10 year journey trying to find his way home after the Trojan War.  His story, the Odyssey, begins in the ninth year of this journey with his 20 year old son, Telemachus, whom Odysseus hasn’t seen since his infancy, setting out to visit his father’s fellow Greek warriors to gain some news of his father’s possible fates.  Meanwhile Odysseus has landed on the island of Scheria, having lost everything – all his ships, all his possessions, all his men, and any scrap of clothing he may have had on.  Naked, drawn and exhausted, he is at a real bottom.  He is encouraged to tell his story and he does so starting at the beginning after the sack of Troy.  The story unfolds with Telemachus and him finally landing back on Ithaca, Odysseus’ kingdom, and progressing through the process of regaining his rightful place as King.

After we gain some semblance of sobriety and begin to work the steps, the critical element is in telling our story, in recognizing the harm we have done in our disease, and using our new found serenity to repair the harm done to so many.  We work from the middle, back through the past, and then into the future, finally beginning to bask in the sunlight of recovery that a future in fully committed sobriety gives us.