Dear Star Wars,
It was love at first sight in the late 80´s as my young mind was fascinated by your ships, heroes, and creatures. My dad and grandfather thought you were pretty cool, so naturally I did too. One of most treasured possessions is my VHS box set of the original trilogy that I received at my 5th birthday. I spent a good portion of 1990´s wondering what else could happen in the your universe. I remember racing to the comic book stands to see if a new Star Wars comic was out so I could continue to explore a galaxy far, far away a long time ago. Then in the late 1990´s, starting with The Phantom Menace, we were introduced to the story of Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Padme´. Though I was consumed with trying to be cool in my adolescent years, I secretly loved getting to see more of the Star Wars universe (I could even tolerate Jar-Jar in small doses). After those films, my love cooled and you drifted from my mind. Then, on a rainy Sunday 3 years ago, I found myself completely immersed in a TV marathon of all your movies. Interrupted only by a mandatory trip to Trader Joe’s with my wife, that day was filled with laughter, smiles of awe, and asking ¨Did you see that?!¨ to my patient, but mostly bored wife. My love returned full force as I was taken back to my 5 year old self sitting in my grandparents´ living room. The past year has shown the franchise has been completely revitalized and you are cool again. It´s like 1977 all over again.
It´s more than your fast ships and strange planets. It´s the struggle within Star Wars that is so connecting. The power of the Light Side, the allure of the Dark Side. These are very real elements of our daily life. What your films illustrate so well is how hard it is to go to the Light Side. The temptation of the Dark Side is real and so, so easy. The Dark Side preys on fear, something we all struggle with. The Dark Side is relentless, constantly changing it´s approach. You show the Dark Side in various ways, like an absent machine-like father (Darth Vader) or the sinister Emperor. Side note: If you haven’t seen The Force Awakens, you should stop reading now and go watch it immediately (spoilers ahead!). Your newest film, The Force Awakens shows the Dark Side acting through a traitorous and haunted son. My favorite moment was when Kylo Ren fighting Rey on the edge of a crevice in the snow. Pushing her towards the edge, he pleads with her to turn to the Dark Side. She struggles with him, then calmly closes her eyes and breathes. It was reminiscent of Obi-Wan´s face right before he allows Vader to strike him down in A New Hope. She then opens her eyes and communicated a sense of strength and resiliency in one look that might be the best acting of the whole series. She fights him off and ultimately wins the battle.
The reason I love that look so much is as a substance abuse counselor I sometimes see that same look in my clients´ eyes. There is a steadfast resolve in their eyes as they make the improbable choice to turn from the easy path and go toward the difficult path. To turn from something consuming their life to something new, hard, and unknown. To turn from a lifestyle of destruction to a lifestyle of recovery. For some this means they have decided to go to inpatient treatment. For others, they may have agreed to get a sponsor. Others still may have agreed to just staying clean for the first time in their lives. Strangely it can be a peaceful moment, just as it was for Rey when fighting with Kylo Ren.
Of course, that is not where your story ends. There will be more struggles, not only for Rey, but for my clients after making that choice. The Dark Side never rests and finds new ways to attack, especially after a loss. Early reports are that the next chapter of Rey´s story, Episode 8, will be darker than The Force Awakens, suggesting you may give us an Empire Strikes Back kind of revenge story. In addiction therapy, we call this ¨busting the pink cloud¨, as clients often feel positive early in recovery, only then to have reality set in. It is kind of like the end of a honeymoon as the positive feelings related to committing to recovery begin to fade. It´s perfectly normal, but greatly increases the chances of relapse. Tough decisions have to be made and it is critical to keep one’s recovery supports close. Similar to X-wings in attack formation pouncing on the Death Star, every person has to stay focused on their particular job. That´s why we are such big advocates for working with the whole family, as well as group therapy. Just as you showed us over the years, making sure everyone is working together is key to fighting off the Dark Side.
So, Star Wars, thank you for your stories. Thank you for giving us a world beyond our imagination, yet still so close to home. I love you for that. And the Yoda quotes. Can´t get enough of them.