Independence Day may be over for another year, but celebrating freedom is something worth doing daily. More valuable even than political freedom is freedom of the soul:
Celebrating Freedom to Know What’s Right and Do It
Just about everyone who makes it into substance-abuse recovery has sworn many times, “I’ll never do that again.” Then they do it again before twenty-four hours have passed. They’ve also repeatedly assured themselves, “I won’t make a fool of myself this time.” Then they find that their willpower isn’t enough. And has used the excuse “Just this once won’t hurt”—despite the little voice inside reminding that it always does—too many times to count.
For that matter, the above description hits home to many people who have never touched drugs. All but the most sociopathic and immature of us have habits we know we should get rid of. But we keep doing whenever we get under pressure. Things like regular overeating, hoarding, procrastinating, nail-biting effectively control our choices and priorities. The words of the first-century writer Paul could well be ours: “I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15; see 7:15-25).
Paul was intimately familiar with the concept of relying on a Higher Power for freedom, long before Alcoholics Anonymous introduced the 12 Steps with “We admitted we were powerless … We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Nearly every recovering addict confirms it: you only find the freedom to do what you know is right, when you stop trying to do it all on your own.
Celebrating Freedom to Think for Yourself
Peer pressure to use isn’t the only unhealthy influence that can open a gate to substance addiction. This occurs when you feel guilty for saying no. It also occurs if you take a job or make a purchase because “everyone else” says it’s the best choice. If you have a tendency to believe everything you hear and to assume that others always know best, you’re probably in a higher-risk group for addiction.
If your vocabulary includes regular utterances of “x made me do it” and “I had no choice,” watch out! Even in the most authoritarian families and societies, there are people who know instinctively that “the boss” isn’t always right, that there’s a better way than what “everyone” says, that facing even the worst consequences is different from having no choice at all. Viktor Frankl said it best: “Everything can be taken from [you] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” (Man’s Search for Meaning).
Celebrating Freedom to Not Make Everyone Else’s Problems Your Problems
Closely related to thinking for yourself, this one means understanding that critics and guilt-trippers are suffering from blurred judgment brought on by their own feelings of inadequacy. It means knowing that you are not responsible for changing or saving anyone else, and you needn’t spend all your energy on attempts in that direction. It means not blaming yourself for not helping enough—or well enough—every time someone close to you hits a dead end. Remember how hard you fought against others’ attempts to persuade you to change for your own good?
The freedom not to feel responsible for solving everyone else’s problems extends into the larger world. Some recovering addicts are so zealous for the cause that they pounce on strangers for touching anything remotely addictive; some will even physically snatch away a joint or a can of beer. The “crusader” approach is more license (“I do as I please”) than freedom. This ends in “no one appreciates what I try to do for them” frustration.
Celebrating Freedom to Choose Forgiveness, Courage, and Peace
Most substance abusers are chronically angry and anxious, even before they first start using. These emotions are typical symptoms of the “victim” mentality. For example, “Nothing ever goes my way, and I deserve a release.” When you’re free in soul, you’re free to be happy, strong, and committed to the healthy path.
What will you do this week to celebrate your freedom from substance abuse? You could:
- Drink a toast to sobriety with your favorite herbal tea.
- Invite a friend to lunch to share personal triumphs with each other.
- Put a candle on a cupcake for each month/year of sobriety.
- Spend an hour or a day at your favorite spa.
- Go for a drive in the country, or a walk along the beach, and spend a few hours mindfully meditating. (Make it a “timeless” retreat: leave your watch at home and turn your phone off.)
- Treat yourself to a dark chocolate truffle, a new body lotion, or a beautifully bound poetry book.
And of course, if you belong to a 12-step recovery program or other support group, stand up in the meeting and invite them to join you in celebrating your milestones!
Celebrate with Kemah Palms
Kemah Palms prides a solid support system. From start of your substance abuse treatment to the end, you’ll find support through: