Freedom from addiction: July Fourth ruminations from Cornerstone of Recovery
What does “freedom from addiction” truly mean? On this birthday celebration for the United States of America, that’s a question those of us in recovery should ask ourselves.
Sure, we can turn to our literature, because the texts of both primary recovery fellowships discusses freedom at length.
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” — Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, p. 83
“What is our message? The message is that an addict, any addict, can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live. Our message is hope and the promise of freedom.” — Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, p. 68
Recovery from addiction and alcoholism is synonymous with freedom … but like the freedom we celebrate on Independence Day, it’s difficult to describe it to those who don’t have it. Those born under the yoke of oppression find themselves staggered by the breadth and scope of freedom that we enjoy as Americans, and even as they dream of it and work to obtain it, they still can’t truly comprehend it until they live under the flag for which it stands.
For those who still suffer from addiction and alcoholism, it’s much the same. The concept of freedom from those illnesses is almost impossible to grasp when you’re trapped in a cycle of getting, using and drinking and finding ways and means to get more, often when it no longer works as it was originally intended.
By the end, those individuals see nothing but darkness and feel nothing but hopelessness … but those of us who have found a new way to live thanks to the recovery programs that have given us a chance to celebrate freedom of country and self on this July Fourth are a living testament that there is a better way.
To that end, we asked for contributions from the employees of Cornerstone of Recovery who have found recovery and now work to help others who come to us for help obtain for themselves.
Our question: “When it comes to your recovery or sobriety, what does freedom mean to you?”
Here’s what they told us … and Happy Fourth of July, whether you’re in recovery or not.
Executive Director of Marketing and Business Development
Freedom comes in all shapes and sizes. Freedom from active addiction is freedom from slavery: the slavery of having to drink and use in order to function and the slavery of not being able to be present wherever you are because the thoughts of using and drinking are never far off.
It's freedom from the physical bondage of use of drugs to avoid withdrawal. It’s freedom from having to lie and manipulate to avoid negative consequences. It’s freedom from fear of being found out.
It’s freedom to live without using.
It’s freedom to choose what I’m going to do today. Freedom to discover myself. Freedom to feel the emotions that God have me. Freedom to be honest with myself and others, even when it hurts. Freedom to build relationships on truth, not on lies and deceit. Freedom to love myself and be proud of who I am. Freedom to love others and who they are.
I could go on and on … recovery is freedom.
Therapist, Stepping Stone to Recovery
The secret to life is understanding and accepting that you don’t have control over anything, but your Higher Power does, and He is much better at it than you are. This is my freedom in recovery. The freedom from feeling the need to control everything and becoming overwhelmed to the point of acting out on every Schema and every fear that I have. I don’t fear much of anything anymore, because my Higher Power has my back, and that it true freedom.
Assessment and Orientation/Medical Detox counselor
Being able to make my own choices!
Assistant Director, Women’s Program
Having the freedom to choose a loving and caring Higher Power that took the desire away to use drugs many years ago. Last but not least, freedom comes from working and living the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions and Spiritual Principles with a sponsor that lives and breathes recovery; a sponsor that continues to go to meetings, works the Steps, the Traditions and everything else.
Counselor, Young Adult Program
Freedom in recovery means not having to worry about getting caught anymore. It means not being a chained to a drink or a drug anymore. Freedom means I get to make decisions for myself today. I get to make decisions that are not made for me by drugs, alcohol, a judge, or a probation officer.
Extended Care Counselor
Freedom, in the sense of recovery to me, would mean knowing that I no longer am tied down by the chains of my addiction, that I have the choice to live a prosperous life in recovery or a life full of misery in active addiction. The choice is mine today since I am clean, vs. when I was in active addiction and it felt like I had absolutely no say. I was a prisoner in my own body, torturing myself by allowing my disease to remain active and control my every move. Today, I have the freedom to choose not to live in that hell. Today I choose not to. Today I choose to live in recovery, free from my disease.
Executive Vice President
Freedom from the self-imposed prison I had been living in for so long. Everything I did revolved around alcohol and drugs, and if I couldn’t use, I didn’t go. That was just a small part of the prison I lived in. The mental prison was even worse. I felt so all alone and like such a piece of shit. I couldn’t let anyone in, because you would certainly know I was the monster that I felt I was. By the end of my addiction, the booze couldn’t quiet the voices — the voices that told me how low I was, how weak I was and how useless I was.
That I was so phony and fake.
That I could not live up to the expectations that I felt had been placed on me (which, in reality, I had placed on myself).
Today, I can truly say that I am free from the bondage of self. I certainly make mistakes, but I no longer use them as a reason to go to the “whipping post,” most of the time. I can learn from them and try to do better the next time. I can look myself in the mirror and see me as I am, warts and all, and not be sickened by what I see. I know I am driving to be better. I will never make “perfection,” but it is an ideal I look toward.
With my freedom comes hope for tomorrow. I no longer look into the future as the great abyss waiting to swollow me whole. I look to tomorrow to grow closer to what my Higher Power would have me be.
Family Care Counselor
Freedom to me goes so deep. We are complex human beings, and freedom can mean a thousand different things. My life today is most definitely not perfect — it is quite imperfect, and that is okay.
What I do know is that at any time, I have the freedom to make choices on how I want to perceive the world and how I want to process heartaches and or accomplishments.
Freedom to me began the day that I hit rock bottom while I was still drinking alcohol and in the thick of my addiction. Sobriety has taught me not only how to put down the very thing that was killing me, but it has taught me that I, Sherri, get the freedom of choice to not drink today.
If I choose to stay sober, then I have the proper mindset to give back to others and to practice strong boundaries in my life today. Freedom allows Sherri to be Sherri and to never feel not good enough. The world is a huge place and there are so many opportunities as there are hurdles, but freedom allows me to know that if one door closes that another door will open.
Freedom provides me with being my authentic self.
Counselor, Newcomers Program
Alcohol no longer tells me “how I will wake up, when I get up, or if I even get up at all.” I don’t answer to it. My freedom comes from the release of bondage to a liquid substance that took more than it gave. I find freedom in that alone.
Because I’m a bit of a geek with hairy feet, I find that the freedom created in recovery is best expressed by Samwise Gamgee in “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Coming out of field of corn, he tells Frodo, “If I take one more step I will have gone further from home than I’ve ever gone before.” It’s a scary thought, and there is certainly much unimagined danger ahead, just like in early recovery, but you’re not alone and there is incredible strength in this new fellowship you’ve chosen. In the end, you don’t get the life you dreamed of before the journey. You get a real one that means more than those old dreams, because you know the path it took to get there, the miracles of the fellowship, and learned to have gratitude for even the smallest of God’s gifts.