The Lifelong Quest for Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 8

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 8 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 ancient mythopoetic story of the Odyssey, Odysseus is desperately trying to find his way home after a 10-year war, to the Island of Ithaca where he is King. The armies of the great city states of Greece had been locked in a struggle to conquer the impregnable City of Troy on the extreme west coast of modern day Turkey. Odysseus was one of the leaders of the Greeks, the one who devised the plan to penetrate Troy through the gift of a giant horse secretly filled with soldiers, the Trojan Horse.  The behavior of the Greeks once inside the City and the slaughter of the Trojan population angered the gods.  The Journey home of all the Greek leaders was fraught with calamity, but none so severe as Odysseus.’

Odysseus encounters all sorts of disasters on his tortuous Journey home, much of it accompanied by the bad behavior of his men and him.  After nine years on the Journey, having lost everything, all his ships, all his men, all his possessions, he is washed up on the island of Scheria, naked, exhausted and broken.  He is taken in by the people of this land, and in a fit of surrender, he tells his whole long story.  It is in this telling that he finally gains the support and insight to complete his Journey home and, once back in Ithaca, to ultimately regain his rightful place as King.

The story is another classic hero’s journey, filled with all the elements of similar epics. Odysseus’ arrival home results in some additional conflicts with others on Ithaca seeking to rule.  With the help of the goddess Athena, a peace is declared by all the conflict parties accepting a sacred oath to restrain from any further violence forever.  This ending is dealt with rather briefly in the actual story, but the journey of Odysseus, in the torments and trials he must overcome, very much parallel our own Journeys to Sobriety.

He can only finally find forbearance and release from his tragic journey after he loses everything, surrenders and tells his story.  Having done so, and following the dictums of his hosts on Scheria, he can find his way home and achieve a sense of peace for himself and his people. For all of us, it is in telling our story, truthfully and with energetic rigor, that we can finally make progress on the elusive quest of Sobriety…and, in having done so, we can finally find peace and a rightful place for ourselves in the world.