Pillar of Fire: A Myth?

Published on: Author: bette Leave a comment

When my daughter was 17 years old, we began talking about writing a book together.  Several years later – after she had failed in many attempts to become sober – we returned to the idea of writing a book together and begin calling it Pillar of Fire:  A Journey through Teenage Addiction.   Shannon is now 34 years old and is approaching her 6th “AA Birthday” as a clean and sober recovering alcoholic – and I couldn’t be prouder!


We continue talking about “our book” every time we’re together.  I recently returned to the two large file boxes that contain all of the notes and documents that mark the steps along the painful and bumpy road to her recovery.  I often ask myself why I keep it all – and why I keep returning to it.  Every time the answer comes back to the mythical book and the Pillar of Fire.


Last week I ran across a copy of a short article that Shannon showed me when she was 28 years old and in her last rehab experience at Singing Trees in Garberville, CA.  (www.singingtreesrecovery.com).  She first showed it to me when she had been sober for less than a month.  That wasn’t really unusual because after each of her 5 previous experiences in rehab, she would accumulate a certain length of time sober before drinking again.  What was unusual about this time was her excitement over finding this article. (Attached below.)


When I read it for the first time the story seemed a bit far fetched.  I also wondered why, if it were true, I hadn’t heard of it before – especially in my training as a school counselor . . .  not to mention in the family groups we had attended in various rehab hospitals along the way.  But sensing her excitement, I was certainly not about to ask any questions.


As I was rereading my only copy of that article, I decided it was important enough to retype so that I could include it in “our” book.  So that’s what I’ve been doing today.  Once again, however, I began wondering why I had not heard more about it since it seemed to have been the “magic bullet” my daughter needed in order to kick her habit.


So . . . I used Google and found out why.  At first it bothered me to find out that the theory had been discredited by the scientific community, and I almost stopped typing it about half-way through.  After reading about “THIQ – The Biochemical Culprit” on a “myth-busting” website, however . . . I began thinking about Joseph Campbell’s book The Power of Myth  . . .  and I continued typing.


A myth is a story that helps human beings understand things that are otherwise impossible to understand.  That was the basis of the “myths” we were taught in school that were held by civilizations that we consider unscientific.  It’s also the basis for the stories that illustrate the deep truths held by all religions today.


I believe that a belief is simply a “decision to act ‘as if.’”  People who hold onto the literal interruption of the stories contained in any sacred text can sometimes fall prey to the need to “prove” their belief system “scientifically.”   A lifetime can be spent trying to convince others that they are “right,” and they can miss out on the deeper truths and the power held within any “myth.”


The THIQ explanation of Alcoholism helped save my daughter’s life.  At a time when she was the most vulnerable – even close to insanity and/or death – she found the “truth” in what others have discredited as not true.  After 6 years of sobriety I wonder if she knows about the “Mythbuster” webpage http://hamsnetwork.org/myths/ .  I also wonder if it would matter to her at all.


It seems to me that if used properly, these 10 myths might serve to help alcoholics who want sobriety to find it.  “Choose your myth and decide to act ‘as if’ it is true.”  That’s what Shannon did – and she’s got 6 years of sobriety and a license as an addiction counselor to “prove” it works.


That’s scientific enough for me!


NOTE: After writing this post I found myself wondering about research that has been discredited.  I recently read about another piece of “discredited research” in The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doige. He describes research on macaque monkeys that was once discredited but later found to be important in the field of neuroplasticity.  When I got past internet articles about the “Harm Reduction” technique (The Minnesota Alternative) –  I found references to newer “legitimate research” in the field of addiction medicine.  One article suggests that “models of the neurochemical bases of addiction in the future may also feature lowered levels of GABA as the disease progresses.”  The author of that article is continuing to explore the implications of THIQ and cites recent reports that “cigarette smoke also may contribute increased levels of THIQ in the thalamus which has been reported to remain in the brains of addicted macaques for up to 7 years post-last use.” [1]

What I believe to be true is that there are as many causes of alcoholism as there are alcoholics – and probably an equal number of treatments and combinations of treatments. Human behavior is not an exact science, and the science of addiction is in its infancy.  It’s impossible to predict what the future may hold, so I’m slow to discredit anything that “works if you work it.”



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