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Freedom in Recovery

The principle applied to recovery of freedom is written about in the ninth step of 12-step program materials. However, freedom is experienced for most recovering addicts the minute they are able to honestly admit to themselves that they are not able to give up the addiction without some type of help.

Our culture dictates that our heroes are those who single-handedly overcome obstacles to success and become fearless in the face of adversity. This is laudable and sometimes possible in other arenas, but when it comes to addictions it is not the best road for recovery. The act of letting go of the tough-guy façade is usually the beginning of a process that allows an addict to embrace recovery.

There is a great amount of relief in admitting that a problem has us stumped, no matter who we are or what the problem may be. Allowing for our human failings can sometimes relieve pressure to perform that is endemic in our cultural indoctrination. This pressure does not serve any purpose other than to isolate us from the resources that will, in fact, allow us to begin to band together to become stronger than that which is undoable alone. This is the true meaning of freedom.

Then there is the obvious freedom from the addiction itself. This concept appeals greatly to most addicts. As they continue to process through the 12 Steps, they begin to experience freedom from the dishonesty and cover up that was required to maintain their addiction. Then there is the freedom from the shame, anger, and pain of active addiction. These are not to be minimalized by anyone, as their toll is often the incentive to begin a recovery process from the onset.

Other freedoms are those that are less obvious to those not savvy in the life of an addict. Some of these are the freedom to travel without having to worry about having enough of the addictive substance available in new and strange places, the freedom to spend time with loved ones and family that has suffered because it was too difficult to maintain an “even keel” emotionally or physically during active addiction, and the freedom to go where one wants and do what one wants without the ball and chain of the addictive habit going along for the ride. These freedoms are great! Other freedoms that come in recovery are the freedoms to stop looking over one’s shoulder waiting to be caught or found out for participating in their addictive behaviors, freedom to live life without the day-to-day pain of ups and downs of physical and emotional cravings and serving those cravings, and the freedom to walk with one’s head held high and look others in the eye because one feels that they have finally found a good way to live in the world.

Not to mention the financial freedom that comes when all one’s available money is not being spent on the substance or addictive behavior. Freedom from the guilt and shame that come with knowing that they are taking necessary resources away from their families and loved ones and spending them on addiction. This is a great weight which gets lifted off the shoulders of every recovering addict, whether they borrowed, earned, stole or otherwise gained that money from whatever sources. They can now have the freedom to focus all of that energy and attention in the directions they would deem most appropriate for it to be channeled. This is great freedom, indeed.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.

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