The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey – Part 63

Guest blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 63 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.

The 2001 HBO series, Band of Brothers, is about a company of paratroopers, “E” or Easy Company of the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, who parachuted behind the lines in Normandy on “D” Day, the 6th of June, 1944.  A total of 10 episodes, it takes this group of men from their training in the U.S., through the invasion, into Germany, and to the conclusion of World War II in mid-1945. The exploits of this unit were quite intense and unique in what they faced in a number of events of the War.  But the story is really about the men and the bonds that they forged as they encountered horrific events together.  It provides a powerful image of what can develop among people in a long term, high stressed series of events.

I am reminded of the leaders of the Greeks who fought together in the long term siege of Troy, as portrayed in Homer’s Iliad.  Odysseus, Achilles, Nestor, Menelaus, Ajax, and even Agamemnon were side-by-side in many battles for 10 years.  Similarly, the 2017 movie, Wonder Woman, the story involving the Amazons, presents the leaders of this colony of women warriors as a very similar band. Diana, her Mother, Queen Hippolyta, Antiope, Menalippe, Artemis, Venelia and Euboea have bonded together in a lifetime of strife in much the same way.  As I see it, the idea of the “band of brothers” (or sisters), formed in this manner, carries a deep soulful mythos.

It also has a very powerful resonance for all us; it mirrors precisely the Fellowships that are a part of our own Journeys to Sobriety.  Think of the bonds we have formed, still continue to form, with the sisters and brothers around us in all our activities.  Could the energies that it all produces be more mythic?  Could it seem more soulful and spiritually bound?

The term “band of brothers” comes from Scene III, Act IV of Shakespeare’s Henry V, wherein the King is exhorting his army facing a looming, badly-outmanned battle with the French. How fitting it is for all of us….

It will be remembered with advantages

What feats we do this day….*

For, from this day to the ending of the world,

We, those of us in them, shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

*My apologies to the Bard, Will S., for a wee-bit of editing

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey – Part 62

Guest blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 62 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.

The experience of living in the Community and Fellowship of AA and its sister 12 Step programs leads us to see the miracle of Love in its purest form.  We come to care for each other in an absolute sense, unconditionally, eschewing any form of quid pro quo.  It is a spectacular experience, one of which many of us struggle to realize the full potential.

The human species, homo sapiens, craves community and companionship.  We formed tribes from the earliest periods. There was/is a dark side to this; our tribal nature could also develop an us vs. them tendency when opinions or beliefs diverged.  Hate so spawned became the antithesis of Love, but it seems to me that Love has always overcome hate even after the most ugly, longest running of human clashes.  Over time, Love always prevails and, for many of us, the idea of a Higher Power is that of pure unconditional love.  It seems to me to be the one Absolute.

I would endeavor to define Love as the deep, soulful, unconditional caring for another.  Our Higher Power exhibits this kind of Love for us in getting us to this point in our lives and in endeavoring to help others join us.

Many of the mythic stories we have discussed have Love prevailing over crisis and chaos to return a hero to her or his natural state within her or his community. Odysseus is able to finally get home after the love of Athena, Calypso and Circe help him to overcome the scourge of the Trojan War.  Dante is finally able to embrace the vision of God when Beatrice guides him through Paradiso.  Even Don Quixote’s love for his fanciful Desdemona sustained him in his quest.

In our own experiences in our Fellowship, we come to realize that the love of the men and women in our own meeting structures transcend all other elements of who and what we are.  We embrace everyone, even those with whom, in another setting, we might have had significant difficulty and differences of opinion on a host of matters.  None of that counts for anything when it comes to our mutual commitment to each other’s spiritual health and well being.

It is so clear to me today, as I reflect on the majesty of this Fellowship, that we need to bring our own best capacity to love to each of our daily lives in order to become, and to remain, psychically and spiritually whole.

Grateful Client Gives Back

This guest post is written and graciously shared by Janel, a grateful client who found recovery through The Council

Seven years ago I was trapped living a nightmare with no way out. My addiction took me to the darkest place imaginable. I was literally battling for my soul. I could not stop using. I eventually gave up and tried to take my own life. It was the only way I thought I could find peace. Waking up in Ben Taub’s ICU after my liver shut down, I realized that God had another plan for me. I had been given a second chance at life.

Forced to seek help, The Council on Recovery started me on my new journey. They found me a bed at a treatment center where I spent almost 3 months coming out of my fog of addiction. While there I met one of The Council’s recovery coaches who told me about a longer term treatment program, where I spent fifteen additional months. During that time, I learned so much about myself and how to overcome my addiction. I learned how to be a lady and live life with a purpose. I would not be where I am today if it hadn’t been for The Council guiding me in the right direction. Their resources are what saved my life. The work they do in the recovery community is vital. Most addicts don’t know how to stop. They do not know how to get help. That’s what The Council is for.

Last year I found a way to give back and help The Council. I used my story and my first-ever marathon to help raise more than $3,000 for this powerful organization. The marathon was about pushing myself to do something I once saw as impossible. It was meant to inspire others and – of course – bring as much attention to The Council as possible.

People need to know there is a solution. They need to know where to reach out when they are ready. I am living proof that recovery is possible. Today, I am 7 years clean and sober and I am a productive member of society. I have put myself through school, received my Bachelors degree in Human Services, and now manage a successful staffing agency. I have run a marathon and am now training for my first Ironman. Seven years ago my addiction almost killed me, but today I live free with no limits to be and do whatever I want to. And it all began at The Council. They showed me how to break the chains that bound me. They gave me hope. 

Janel Marathon pic
Janel ran the Chevron Houston Marathon as her first-ever marathon and used the opportunity to help raise more than $3,000 for The Council on Recovery

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 59

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 59 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.

For those of us who have achieved a certain level of committed sobriety, i.e., multiple years of living and working actively in the Fellowships of AA and its sister programs, we begin to find ourselves moving into a realm of peace and serenity that seems other worldly. We still must face the normal struggles of life and we experience crises and trauma with friends and family that challenge our sense of presence, but there is a growing calm in all of it.  We have learned that staying in the here and now of today, avoiding the tendency to obsess about outcomes, gives us an inner peace and a power to face the world with grace and resolution.

The journey to this state, for each of us, was as mythic as all the great stories of literature and history. At the depths of our bottoms, we may have felt like Edmund Dantes in the dungeons of Chateau d’If, in The Count of Monte Cristo…alone, cold and dissolute in the deep recesses of that dreaded island prison in the Bay of Marseilles.  The feeling of hopelessness, doom and isolation was overwhelming.  As in the story, fellows like Abbe Faria, a fellow prisoner for Dantes, may have given us a process to begin the journey of relief.  Also like Dantes, the journey may have been long; our own “rocketing into the Fourth Dimension” may have progressed much less like a rocket than a speed akin to the Lexington Avenue Local.

The working of the Steps, the constant renewal of self-examination, a continual reinforcement of the focus on a Higher Power, and an untiring commitment to service elevate our personal psyches to an unusual extent.  We begin to feel, slowly and purposefully, a deep need to focus on service, service to all things and to all people, service that is an unflinching, almost unconscious, process attending each and everyone one of our daily waking moments.

I have come to see this evolving state of consciousness to be an unusual spiritual presence, one that speaks to a new and enlightened way of being in the world, for all of us, individually and collectively.  To have come from those terribly dark and hopeless places of our disease, to work along a journey of love and commitment, to and from our fellows in the programs, in our journey to sobriety, and then to arrive at a point where uncompromising and selfless service becomes the primary focus of our lives, is truly mythic…and maybe it is so deeply mythic that it begins to defy imagination.

Our alcoholism may have provided us with a “dark portal” to a life that will take generations for all of us to fully understand.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 58

Battle Hymn of the Repulic

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 58 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 1861, at the outset of the Civil War, poetess Julia Ward Howe penned the lyrics to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, to the tune of the earlier work, John Brown’s Body. Both were part of the Abolitionist movement, which had been trying for past decades to bring an end to Slavery in America. The initial stanza to Howe’s rendition is as follows:

Mine eyes have seen the Glory of the coming of the Lord.

He is trampling out the Vintage where the Grapes of Wrath are stored.

He has loosed the fateful Lightening of his terrible swift Sword.

His Truth is marching on…

In my view, the idea of the “grapes of wrath” in this song could be seen as the need for retribution against the institution of slavery, a deep felt sense that is coming forth into the consciousness of the people of America in a manner similar to that of a vintner bringing forth the sweetness of a wine by the crushing of grapes.  The virulence of this song and of Howe’s expressed opposition to slavery parallels the intensity that gripped the nation in the lead-up to the Civil War.  

Interestingly, John Steinbeck used these same words as the title of his 1939 Pulitzer Prize winning book about the plight of the “Okie” migrants from the Plains’ states to California, in the aftermath of the devastation of the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s.  I would see his vision as that of equating the “grapes of wrath” with the need to address the deplorable conditions imposed on these migrants in their flight from the Plains and their efforts to find a place of “home” in the wine and agricultural regions of California.  It is clear to many that Steinbeck thought just about as negatively toward the banks that he believed forced the Okies off their farms and out of the Plains and toward the large corporate farming companies and vintners that exploited them as migrant workers in California, just about as strongly as Howe and others might have thought of the institutionalized system of Slavery in America.

There is another parallel here for me.  Would it not seem logical to see our despicable behavior in the depths of our drinking and using as something similar to the “grapes of wrath.” How we behaved with the world around us, the pain and trauma we created for those we otherwise really did love, could be seen as negatively as Howe and Steinbeck saw their themes. To get sober and develop a sustainable life of sobriety, we had to trample those grapes, those legions of behavior, and repair the devastation that they created.  The fascinating play of the words of “vintage” and “grapes” and the volume of wine and spirits that attended our lives in our disease adds another fascinating element of synchronicity here.  We had to work to allow the authenticity of our inner most selves to emerge as wine does from the trampling of grapes.

How wonderful it is today that, as we work diligently to build a life in Sobriety and to allow the Truth of who and what we really are to fully develop, we are working for our own indomitable Truth to be “marching on…’

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 57

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 57 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 evolution of these Notes, we have attempted to look at the afflictions of addiction and alcoholism both in the rampant untreated state and in the long, maybe lifelong process of recovery.  We have seen these journeys from a deeply mythic perspective, all aspects of them having stark parallels to the thousands of stories of heroes that attend the human experience.

In recent times, I have begun to see our journeys as coming in stages. First, we stop drinking or using. We deal with the pain, the minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day agonies of living without the substance or behaviors we used to medicate and escape.  Slowly, slowly, we begin to feel better and, in time, time itself seems to move along without those daily tremors of abstinence and deprivation.  Soon then we begin a second stage…that of working with a sponsor over the steps, one by one, embracing a Higher Power in personal terms and climbing the staircase of the Spirit, coming to understand our disease and its pitfalls in deeper and deeper terms.  We commit ourselves to service is small ways, supporting the Fellowship in daily chores and working with others.

In a few months or years, we move to a third stage, life in a container, a network of like women and men with whom we can live and be sustained with increasing ease and comfort.  As addicts and alcoholics, we are always at risk, but, in time, staying close to that Community, relapse becomes less and less of an option.  We begin to see the true meaning of the idea of a Sunshine of the Spirit. We begin to feel the overwhelming sense of gratitude for our Higher Power and the Fellowship that engulfs us.

Beyond this, I am beginning to see the idea of a fourth stage, maybe another dimension, a fourth dimension.  Committing ourselves to service first and foremost, eschewing any recognition, or even any third party knowledge, of such service other than our Higher Power, we become a rock upon which the power of the Fellowship is seamlessly resting.

We become a bit like Dante in the final stages of Paradiso.  Earlier in this trilogy, Dante had to trudge through the horrors of the Inferno with all the characterizations of the missteps of mankind. Then he moved into and through Purgatorio where is detailed the struggles to redeem oneself of the travesties of bad behavior. Much of Dante’s larger story here is reminiscent of our own journeys and our progress towards committed sobriety. But then Dante finally ascends into heaven, Paradiso, where he ultimately comes face to face with God.  As outlined in earlier Notes, the scene is captivating with God represented as a magical essence of pure love.

It has come to me that there are those of us to whom we all look for leadership and inspiration who have been cloaked with just such a spiritual mantle. Said another way, there are women and men among us in whose presence we all feel especially blessed…women and men who have become a near manifestation, deep within in our mind and hearts, of the power of a higher being.  What a joy it is to live in a community of such lightness and splendor!