I love Star Wars. Everyone falls in love with the operatic tales of gallant scoundrels, princesses who become generals, and a lost order of mysterious space wizards who wielded swords of light. “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” are the ten words that sparked a creative revolution like no other. The potency of this modern myth is so great that most people, even those who don’t speak English, know the names Skywalker and Vader. At the heart of the story is the never ending struggle between the Light and Dark for the soul of the galaxy. For anyone familiar with mythology, of course, we know that this conflict is often at the center of all such tales, but through the power of myth we are all happy to enjoy another variation upon this sacred theme. After all, why not? We have lived for millennia in civilizations which have examined the unconscious mind and sought to create a discourse around what appears to be a binary without any hope for reconciliation — our own inner light and darkness. Yet, what if over the course of time we have failed to examine this core myth, and instead of trying to overcome it we have become trapped in performing it over and over again — to our own injurious end?
The first step on the path to becoming Invincible comes from the realization that there is no war between the Light and the Dark. There are not two wolves within you locked in mortal combat. All there is, all there was, and all there ever will be is you. Just you.
I first began my journey into addiction and substance abuse when I was a teenager. Like most, I was seeking some form of escape from the pain I felt associated with the traumas of my life. What I was looking for was any kind of short term relief, and neither the diminishing returns nor the long term consequences were on my mind when I drank my first beer or smoked my first joint. Let me get ahead of myself for a moment and state that I am not here to preach against alcohol, cannabis, or other substances. There is a place and time for responsible substance use, and the use of substances themselves is not evidence of addiction. We can get addicted to shopping online, losing weight, or working ourselves to the bone — any behavior that falls into the pattern of being used for short term relief from suffering that has long term negative consequences can and should be defined as an addiction. As a matter of fact, some forms of addiction, such as losing weight, are so insidious and dangerous that society — ignorant of the deleterious effects — may actually reward us for those behaviors instead of seeing them as the red flag of internal suffering.
Like many people suffering from addiction, I saw this as a moral failure within myself. I wouldn’t or couldn’t bring myself to seek help through therapy. My family was not only the source of my trauma, but they had an immense stigma against drug abuse and addiction. So I did what any teenager with zero coping skills and self-esteem would do in my position, I blamed my “dark side” and gave myself something to fight against. Now that there were two wolves inside of me, I could simply feed the right one and call it a day. If the bad wolf won, then I could blame myself for making bad choices that day and tell myself to do better tomorrow. When I was at my lowest points vomiting my drunkenness into a toilet or on the verge of delirious madness while high, I imagined a version of myself not unlike the creature Gollum from the Lord of the Rings who was responsible for tricking me into the situations I found myself in.
Thus came about the warring cycle of false Recovery and inevitable Relapse as my soul descended into Civil War, and my mind became the home of a prison within which I convinced myself I could trap these shadows. It was a war that I created, and I created it because that was what I saw all around me. Myths were full of these great battles of the binaries, and our own society fought wars against ideas and perspectives. We are, all of us, fed a steady diet of the conflict paradigm to the point where it has embedded itself in the deepest circuits of our consciousness. So long as we engage in it, we will never escape it. Yet, it isn’t real. I’m not denying that conflict exists, but its underlying premises are false which means the conclusions we base our actions upon are equally false. The only way to win is to stop playing.
To borrow a quote from another great series with spiritual themes, albeit in the wrong context, “There is no war in Ba Sing Se”. Our own internal conflict is thus no less absurd than the reveal at the end of Fight Club that Tyler Durden was a figment of the main character’s delusions, and that he was kicking his own ass in the parking lot that night. After you are able to reconcile the foolishness of the choice to create a figment within yourself to fight against, then you are able to let it go. Make no mistake, arriving at that conclusion and realizing it is now up to you to make a different choice for how to cope with trauma is absolutely terrifying — most do their best to forget that fact and run headlong back into relapse rather than cross the boundary into the unknown of personal responsibility for coping with trauma. While no victim of trauma is to blame for the things which hurt them, it is a nihilistic truth that it is our responsibility to fix it ourselves. Here is the place where I found myself taking the first steps on the path to becoming Invincible.
At the risk of being repetitive, I fully understand that substance abuse disorders and addictive behaviors have proven genetic links, and that this discourse runs itself into the Nature vs Nurture debate. I am not a professional, by any means. I’m just a guy from Kansas sharing his own experiences, and if my experiences resonate with yours that is fantastic. If my experiences make you feel like taking the first steps on the path to Recovery, that is fantastic. If my experiences give you the encouragement you need to start opening up to people, that is fantastic. I know that where I am now in my life and on my journey is a genuine blessing, and I know that I didn’t do it on my own.
Joseph Campbell identified the crossing of the threshold from the comfortable and familiar into the great and terrifying unknown as the moment that begins the Hero’s Journey. Along that journey the hero gets help from some supernatural helper like a wizard. My wizard, my Obi-Wan Kenobi, a man who taught me so much that would help me along my way, once asked me “What are you going to do with all this knowledge, all these tools that I am imparting to you?” At the time, I admit I didn’t have an answer. Now I know. This is it. This blog is my answer to that question, that challenge. I am going to share the road I paved, the views and experiences which I developed along the way which I built upon the foundation that he helped me to create. I am going to do what I do best, and tell you a story. The story of how I became Invincible.