I am going to miss the TV show “Mom,” with Allison Janney and Mimi Kennedy, which after eight seasons has been canceled by CBS. The sit-com was unique in destigmatizing the world of addiction and recovery. Each episode was written with honesty and heart. It often made me laugh, always made me think, and occasionally brought a tear to my eye. This year, with the pandemic, has been particularly hard for those who struggle with sobriety day by day.
Bonnie, the Allison Janney character on “Mom,” is involved in what is known in literature as a Heroine’s Journey. This is a transitional story where the main character has to leave the familiar world where they are comfortable and enter a new domain where their prior assumptions no longer work. Addicts rarely want to leave the familiar world of substance abuse. The journey into recovery involves the character in a series of challenges and conflicts, where they will be tested and tried to their limit. Often a mentor arrives giving them a kick in the rear, as needed. Eventually she reaches bottom and after a life or death struggle, chooses sobriety. Here is where the Heroine’s Journey differs from the more familiar Hero’s Journey (such as we see in Homer’s Odyssey). The heroine doesn’t go on alone. She doesn’t succeed by her own strength. Instead, she gradually builds a team and together they find their way home. The victory is a shared victory.
When the Apostle Paul writes:
“So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:12-14)
He is speaking about the sins of the body, such as addiction. Many of us have faced a life or death struggle with what our carnal selves want. Note, though, that “children of God” is plural. We don’t make it to the end without joining a group. We become children of God, taking on the new identity of a person in recovery.