The journey of the hero…we see it in movies, read about it, and dream about it, yet few of us realize that this is the path that we too are destined to walk. It is the path we must walk. To feel fulfilled in this crazy life, you must be the hero in your own story. Now, I can already hear what some of you are already thinking.
“Yeah, right, I’m no hero.”
“Come on, that’s not for me.”
“I am just an ordinary person in this ordinary world with ordinary struggles.”
But let me tell you this: You are powerful. You were born to embark on the hero’s journey—and not just once, but multiple times throughout your life. Because the hero’s journey is ultimately the journey back to the center of self, something if we ever found it in the first place, have to keep journeying back to over and over again.
You see, the universe requires growth. If you look all around you in nature life is growing, changing, dying, being reborn. We must do the same, for we a part of nature.
I have been a fan of Joseph Campbell for years, and he talks about the monomyth, the ultimate narrative archetype, which is known as The Hero’s Journey. You can see examples of The Hero’s Journey in all sorts of mythic adventures: Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, even Simba in The Lion King.
This is such a prevalent storyline because it is a story that lies in our collective unconscious. It lies there because it is the journey of man since the beginning of time.
When I talk to my readers, clients, and friends I notice that so many of us are about to embark on a new journey, are in the midst of one, or have just completed our adventure, and are awaiting the next call.
I see people getting married, getting divorced, trying to salvage a troubled relationship, trying to have a baby, quitting drinking, desiring weight loss and a change in habits, wanting to begin or change a career, wishing to start a blog or start writing, wanting to redefine themselves in some way—all of this *is* the hero’s journey.
Why look at the hero’s journey? Because knowing which stage you are in on the path can help to illuminate the next steps. If you can see your path as the journey of a hero, it will help you to find the strength and endurance to accept the call to adventure, conquer the trials and tribulations that are sure to come your way, and become the hero of your own story.
It’s not easy, but it will be worth it—this I can promise you.
In The Hero with an African Face, Clyde Ford says, “Ultimately, the hero’s quest is not along an isolated path but on one traveled by all of humanity: not a victory over outside forces, but over those within; not a journey to far-off worlds but to the very center of one’s self.”
A journey you are destined to take.
I am embarking on a new adventure, a new journey when it comes to my career. However, I have just wrapped up a fifteen-year long journey—the journey to sobriety from alcohol.
That’s not to say the journey is entirely over. There will continue to be trials and tribulations, but I have already experienced the entirety of the journey, have weathered the storm and know that I can stay in the “reward zone” if I continue to acknowledge my WHY. Why I went on this journey in the first place.
Let’s take a look at The Hero’s Journey. Your journey and my journey…
The Ordinary World
This is where the journey begins. Hero’s start out like everyone else—living their ordinary life in the ordinary world, often unaware of his or her potential. For me the ordinary world looked like this: everyone drinks alcohol, so why shouldn’t I? This is what people do—they do it to celebrate, they drink when there is sorrow, they drink to foster connection, and they drink to ease boredom.
This was my perception, anyways. And I wanted to be no different. I wanted this ordinary life—to experience the suffering, sorrow, and tragedy in life, along with the happiness and joy with the help of my numbing companion, who helped me to limp on through, making life more tolerable, or so I thought.
The Call to Adventure
When you are being asked to leave your ordinary world, you will hear a call. Often it is faint at first. A small little whispering from your soul telling you to “go this way.” It is often so faint that we dismiss it, write it off as just a crazy idea.
If we don’t listen, the call will get louder and louder and LOUDER. It will not only be a cry from your soul, but outside forces will begin to conspire to move you in the direction or your calling.
I heard the faint call in my early 20’s. My soul was whispering “You are keeping yourself in a cage.” And, “There is something better out there for you, and drinking is going to keep you from it.” But I wasn’t ready.
Refusal of the Quest
Refusal of the quest is a natural and necessary part of the journey. Deep down we know that our former self will have to die so that a new self can be born—and this is fucking scary as hell. Our comfort zone (even if it is miserable) is called the comfort zone for a reason–it is comfortable because it is known, it is predictable, it is our identity.
Fear, lack of self-esteem, lack of confidence in one’s abilities, or the abandonment of hope and faith can keep you stuck at the threshold of the call—it can be difficult admitting that change is a must “yet passing such thresholds and facing such challenges and discoveries are the essence of the inner hero’s journey” (Clyde Ford, The Hero with an African Face).
Some of us are crawling around as caterpillars, thinking it impossible to transform into beautiful butterflies. But if you look around you…there are butterflies everywhere. All of life walks this path. If it is possible for them, it is possible for you.
I refused the call to sobriety for over ten years. I did everything I could not to hear it. I didn’t want to leave my comfort zone, even though in many respects alcohol made me miserable. Early on, I didn’t want to do the work to change, and better yet, I didn’t think the change would be worth it.
I tried to regulate my drinking and told many people I would always regulate (yeah, right) because I NEVER wanted to quit…I was clinging and grasping to this part of myself BIG TIME. But the call kept getting louder. It was no longer a faint whisper in my soul, it became desperation.
The call came in the form of domestic violence, almost two divorces, and infidelity to name a few. How bad was I going to let my life get before I accepted the call? Obviously, desperation is not enough to propel you forward. You have to also WANT to take the tumultuous journey to the new self.
The call also now came to be found in the form of outside voices…my husband, my parents, both telling me “this is a problem for you.” And you know what? That made me really fucking angry…because I knew they were right. (Ouch! This is still painful to admit!)
Accepting the Call
When you are truly ready and willing, you will accept the call. And not a minute before then. Clyde Ford says, “The hero’s journey is not for the faint-hearted wanderer, curious but not serious about where the journey leads, nor is it a journey to be taken in the throes of anger, but one to be relished in the spirit of high adventure.”
Had I accepted the call when I was angry when outside forces began to conspire and become a part of the call, I would have failed miserably because I would have initiated the journey from the place of anger.
The call must be accepted from a grounded, centered, and strong place. That place in your heart that knows now is the time. You must have faith that you can handle all of the trials and tribulations that are bound to come your way. You must know that you can handle the death of your former self. You are ready to be re-born. Joseph Campbell says, “The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure?”
You must look at this as an adventure, one you are willing to take, not one you are reluctant to embark on. You must be committed.
I said “yes” many times over the past few years. Dabbling in sobriety, stringing together days and months. But I wasn’t committed to the adventure, to the journey.
I wasn’t ready to weather the trials and tribulations, and ultimately I found myself back at “Refusal of the Quest.” If you step back to refusal, that doesn’t mean the call will let go of you. You just step back to that point in your journey, and the call will continue as it did, getting louder in the form of suffering, sorrow, danger and possibly disaster, urging you forward, until you are ready to accept the call whole-heartedly, never looking back.
I got to that point. Where it was desperation combined with a serious WANT. Desperation alone is not strong enough to sustain you; you have to have the want, the will to be reborn into your new self.
I asked myself what will it take to accept this call? I had tried everything I knew, up until that point. I had partaken in a million self-development workshops and courses, received numerous certifications, tried out different healing modalities, read all about others experiences in sobriety, participated in Hip Sobriety School.
I knew that I was not on an isolated path, but on one traveled by all of humanity, in some form or another. If they could do it, I could do it too. If life had become more fulfilling for them, I had to trust that life would be better for me as well and that all of the tests, trials and tribulations would be worth it.
I knew deep in my heart that AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) was not for me, which would have been the next logical step. Instead, I chose to go to a rehab, a place that offered multiple healing modalities and didn’t push AA down your throat.
I went with the conviction that this is it. I am ready to be reborn.
Tests, Trials, and Tribulations
In this stage of the journey, the universe will test your commitment. It will throw all kinds of trials and tribulations your way. If the journey was easy, you wouldn’t draw strength, courage and fortitude from it. It would not have the transformational effect of you feeling your personal power, your ability and willingness to persevere and transcend.
If it was easy, it wouldn’t be the journey of the hero.
This is why you must have a powerful WHY. Why are you going on this journey? Why do you want it? The universe guarantees that it will test your commitment. If you don’t have a powerful why you will find yourself back at Refusal of the Quest.
This has to be about YOU. You have to want this for yourself, you have to be curious about what the next life holds for you, you have to have the curious spirit of a warrior to make it through the trials and tribulations of your journey.
Choosing to go to rehab was a trial in and of itself. How can I be gone from my family for 30 days? How can I tell those around me what I am doing? Can I withstand the shame of openly sharing my struggle with addiction? Can my free-spirited, authority-hating, rule-breaking self handle the strict structure of rehab? Can that part of me who thinks I know everything (haha!) surrender to not knowing, to not having the answers, to taking a beginner’s mindset into this experience?
Then came the trials and tribulations of choosing the path of sobriety prior to the start of summer—one of the biggest drinking times of the year. With parties, camping trips, vacations, kids at home…can I weather all of this without being miserable?
Looking back, I can now see that I chose the perfect time, or better yet, the perfect time chose me. If I could weather the trials of summer and make it through, then I could handle anything sober.
Allies and Helpers
You will begin to see the magic of the universe as you endure your tests and trials, in the form of people, things, and places that will support your journey.
As previously stated, you are not meant to walk this path alone. Others are walking beside you on the same path, others have gone before you, others are simply there to support you on your courageous journey.
Remember, life is happening FOR you, not to you.
Joseph Campbell says, “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 only have to follow the thread of the hero-path.”
I have found allies and helpers EVERYWHERE. They are there, especially if you keep an eye out for them, knowing that they WILL be there, you will begin see them all around you.
You’ve made it…and the reward is yours for the taking. When you being the journey, you can’t possibly know what the reward will look or feel like. You will have an idea, but ultimately you have to surrender to the journey and have faith.
To trust that the new self that will be born will be the transformation of the caterpillar into the beautiful butterfly. The butterfly who has wings to soar to new heights, to taste freedom that wasn’t possible with the old self.
I have found freedom. I am no longer a slave to a substance that destroyed my body, mind, heart, and soul, simply because I said “yes.” I now have happiness I didn’t think was possible for me.
That’s not to say that life isn’t still full of trials, tribulations, sorrow, and tragedy. But having walked the path of the hero, I now have more tools to draw from, more internal fortitude and strength to know that I can weather the journeys ahead. I now look forward to the next journey, instead of resisting or fearing it.
Drawing from the internal well of resources you developed as you walked the path, maybe the next call doesn’t take ten years until it is accepted. Maybe next time you can jump right in because you know what lies ahead in the path.
You know that you can do it.
You know that you are a hero. The hero of your own story.
The Road Back Home
Having been reborn, you return home, anew. You must share your hero’s journey because now you have the light to illuminate the path for others who are right behind you in their journey.
You are now the hero that they look to. Having done it, you show others that it is possible.
We must light the way for others out of respect for those who lit the way for us.
We are meant to grow so that we have more to give. The journey is not complete until you travel back home as your new self, to share your journey. It doesn’t matter if you share with one person or 1,000 people, but you must share to see the journey to completion.
Where are you at in the hero’s journey? I would love to hear your story. I would be honored to be any ally and helper in your path in the form of a witness, or in whatever form of help you may need. Remember, you are not meant to walk this path alone. Keep an eye out for your allies and helpers, reach out to them, use them. There is no I without we, and no we without I. We need each other.
Cliff Note’s Version of The Hero’s Journey:
The Ordinary World
Your comfort zone
Call to Adventure
You hear a faint voice telling you “go this way.”
The call won’t leave you alone, it will get louder until you accept the call
Refusal of the Call
A necessary step in the journey
We must refuse to know that it is truly a calling and not just a crazy idea
We refuse because it is scary, knowing that a death will occur—the death of the old self, the death of an aspect of our identity
Accepting the Call
We say “yes”
We say “yes” in the spirit of adventure, from a strong, centered, grounded place
Desperation will not sustain you, you must have a strong WANT for a new self, a new identity
We must have a powerful WHY
Tests, Trials, and Tribulations
The universe will test your commitment
We must be tested in order to gain strength, fortitude, and harness our internal power—elements that are critical to success in the many journeys we will take
Remember your powerful WHY during this time to keep you going
Remember that it will all be worth it and the reward is waiting for you at the end
Allies and Helpers
You are not meant to walk this path alone, this is the journey of all of humanity
Remember that life is happening FOR you, not to you—the helpers are there FOR YOU
All of your hard work does not come without benefits
There is light at the end of the tunnel, you must trust and have faith
The Road Back Home
Your new self, your new identity must be shared
We must be an ally and helper to others, we must light the way or the journey has not been completed