We Are the Kings of Tokyo

There’s a new game my family received as a holiday gift. We’ve played it many times now; it’s called King of Tokyo.

In King of Tokyo, each player takes on the role of a monster from those old-style movies featuring some type of huge rubber thing devastating the city. You roll dice to determine damage, healing, chance to buy special abilities, and victory points, the object being to reach a given number of points or be the last monster alive.

Here’s the thing: A certain spot is defined as Tokyo, and only one monster can be occupying it at a time. That monster gets extra points each turn they remain.

If you are in Tokyo, all attacks by the monsters outside Tokyo can only damage you.

If you are in Tokyo, all attacks you roll do simultaneous damage to every monster outside the city.

It reminded me (as many things do) of the destructive nature of addiction. What it does to us, to our families, to our friends. Therapists are taught about family systems, and how different family members can take on certain roles. When one member’s behavior gets worse or better, it affects everyone.

A person active in their addiction is like the monster in Tokyo. The damage he or she does is a barrage, hitting multiple targets without discrimination. Those around the person might or might not be hostile, but their energy is probably directed into the center of the circle.

You know what else is interesting? The monster currently in Tokyo is unable to do any healing of itself, even if the dice roll would usually allow it. So it stays there, the center of the universe, growing sicker and weaker and continuing to do damage…sound familiar?

The damage of addiction, manifesting in more ways than we realize. Some of it’s obvious when it leads to violence, or legal trouble. Some of it’s obvious when we look at financial problems. But there’s so much more. The damage of neglect, total or partial. Of closed doors and half-assed participation and phoning things in. The damage of modeling toxic or despairing attitudes for children. The damage of a void where the life we could be living belongs.

So how does a monster get out of Tokyo? Is there a way, or is it trapped forever? No. Whenever the monster in Tokyo takes damage, it has the choice to flee the city and let the attacking monster take it over. If the player feels they’ve taken too much damage now and are in need of healing, they leave. If they don’t think so yet, and still think the payoff in points they are getting is worth the danger, they stay.

As addicts, we don’t tend to “flee Tokyo” if things are going well. We flee when we’ve taken damage recently, and become desperate enough to acknowledge that we need help. Or–ambivalent–we stay, not wanting to let go of those bonus points we think we need.

In recovery, especially if we make it past the earliest stages and rack up a little time, we discover that–even though we are doing it by means other than substances–trying to level Tokyo works less and less well for us. We do not thrive in the center of the universe, and the consequences of putting ourselves there show up more quickly.

The game–and the fun metaphor–came at a good time for me, as I finished floundering through the holidays and tried to begin some healing from the way December went for me. How do I get out of Tokyo, and begin to heal? How do I tear myself free of self-absorption and shame?

Ummm…why am I phrasing it as “I do this” and “I do that?” Have I forgotten it isn’t just me? Have I forgotten that I have a spirituality that can help; one I can’t do well without? Of course I’ve forgotten. That’s what I do. I forget…and then I remember. And, if I’m ready to, I look toward the path out of Tokyo–a path trampled by something bigger and more powerful than I am.

One response to “We Are the Kings of Tokyo

  1. Love your use of metaphor, how you find meaning in the seemingly mundane. It’s beautiful. Forgive me for quoting you in this comment, but your words bear repeating, at least for me:

    “How do I get out of Tokyo, and begin to heal? How do I tear myself free of self-absorption and shame?… I look toward the path out of Tokyo–a path trampled by something bigger and more powerful than I am.”

    I, too, must look to that path, a path trampled by somethingg bigger and more powerful than I am, in my case an illness I cannot will away, a past I cannot change. I am hopeful, though, for as I take steps, the path ahead becomes clearer and less strewn with the debris of the attack. My purpose, what I have learned in the aftermath of the attack, as I travel this journey, reveals itself.

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