Myth, Story and Recovery


Bram Janssens 123rf

"We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world." --Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Story reconstruction and storytelling play an important role in addiction recovery. Newly emerging recovery narratives cleave lives into the transformative categories of before and after. They encapsulate and distance the destruction of the past and open unlimited possibilities for the future. Storytelling and story sharing (the latter adding the act of listening) evolve as rituals of self-healing, service and communion. They affirm our membership within a community of shared experience, identity and resolve. The foundational knowledge of these communities of recovery is drawn not from scientific studies or clinical texts but from a library of stories drawn from the lives of present and past members and from stories collected from the larger world that offer instruction on how to conduct ones' personal, family and community life in long-term recovery. The latter range from the latest news stories to the oldest fables.

Ancient myths have much to tell us about the imperfections of character that are deeply intertwined with the addiction experience and that serve as landmines of drama within the recovery process. One of my latest posted papers explores what guidance some noted mythical figures (Icarus, Narcissus, Sisyphus, Prometheus, Achilles, the Sirens, Pandora and Procrustes) may have to offer us on living a life in recovery. You can view the article here.

I hope you enjoy it.