Addictions and Storytelling

Stories are maps, repositories of collected wisdom, ciphers and guides for making sense of the human journey. Whether archaic, prosaic, or postmodern, stories illuminate the paths undertaken by all those who seek resolution and healing. And stories are all the same, at heart: beneath the guises of religion, behind the consistent attempts to make them fresh and new, beyond the politics and tribalisms that run through the tales of every generation. Stories tell one thing: how to discover hidden illumination.

Healing from addictions requires the discovery, or rediscovery, of a story that bridges the chasm between the addicted and their own healing. That story might be spiritual in nature, or communal, or familial. The origin of the story does not matter much; but it must be a story of struggle, and of confrontation, and of coming through. It might be told by mentors – as are the stories of Alcoholics Anonymous – or peers, or a stranger one meets on the road. That stranger is an avatar of the old gods upon whom we stumble in the ancient tales. Helper, healer, guide. Without such assistance one cannot continue.

The story is a hinge, a spine, a well. Its discovery is essential, its absence a desert of longing. And it comes to one slowly, in fits and starts, sounding incredible at first, then making its way toward the possible. The story calls, in ways that are unfathomable, and calls again, and calls until we answer or do not. Join us, says the story. Understand what you may do. Use this tale, own it, and find your kinship with those who inhabit its wide and welcoming course. Open the map, find your place, and call with your strengthening voice, so that other travelers pause, and find you, and usher you forward.

The story of addiction is always unfinished. Often it begins in childhood or adolescence, by way of trauma, abandonment, or violence. Sometimes the story begins with a vignette of sadness, or insecurity, or fear. Frequently it is passed down, by parents lost within their own unfinished tales of what might have been. The young person carries it forward, not knowing that they have assumed its authorship. The story accumulates, and comes to surround the adult user. It grows, and spreads, and makes its way into every cherished space. Eventually its inflation occupies the whole world of the user. And in this way, the story makes itself invisible.

A community is a library of such tales, colliding and interweaving, carrying forward the gathered momentum of the past. The diverse tales of recovery contain many similarities and many shared moments of discovery. The map of healing is revealed by these moments, by the illumination they cast over a dark landscape of wandering.

The companionship of stories, the crafting of new scenes and chapters, the collecting of hardscrabble wisdom: these are all aspects of our own unfolding story. For me, it feels good and purposeful to be a part of that narrative, to share its richness and warmth. To be a fragment of this story inside my own story, which, in turn, is nested inside the larger stories in which I’ve found myself. Endless interwoven stories.

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