Addiction is a trap. The addict is robbed of any real choices — he or she has to drink or drug. They have no freedom from their compulsions, obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviour which keep landing them in a tight spot. They are often confined to jails or hospitals.
Getting clean and sober means experiencing freedom. To appreciate the value of their new way of life, let us look at the seven types of freedom they gain or regain:
1. Freedom from hate
The alcoholic or addict usually becomes a package of resentments. In recovery, he or she learns to let go of this poison by developing a measure of compassion and tolerance. He discovers that others too have problems and learns to forgive. He realises that weakness is a universal human trait, which calls for support, rather than hate. He also learns that most resentments were created in him by his own selfish or self-centred attitudes and behaviours, not by any cruel intentions of others.
2. Freedom from guilt
Guilt and shame become part of the alcoholic’s life and personality. Innumerable embarrassing and dishonest situations and incidents generate an accumulated sense of guilt that begins to overshadow everything. He or she tries to hide this uncomfortable feeling by projecting a brave but false image of confidence and success. In the process of addiction recovery, he or she makes amends to those he has harmed and learns to live a comparatively guilt-free life. Getting over the uncomfortable sense of shame, recovering persons begin to live comfortably, free from the constraints of guilt and low self-worth.
3. Freedom from want
It is the experience of most persons that they become more prosperous after getting clean and sober. In recovery, some experience the financial success that is beyond their expectations. During active addiction, however, a typical addict is continually running after economic accomplishment, but failing. Even persons with considerable talent are not consistent or conscientious enough to turn their aptitudes into pay checks or perks. They lose jobs and the confidence of their associates due to their inconsistent or dishonest behaviours. They easily slip into debts. While financial success may take time to achieve in recovery, the fear of economic insecurity fades away, and this is a wonderful freedom that comes with sobriety.
Sober people often say, “Thank God, I’m sober.” They might as well add, “Thank God, I’m free!”
4. Freedom from fear
Alcoholics and addicts suffer from significant fears: fear of not getting their substance, of getting caught, of people discovering their real personalities, fear of future, and so on. They continue their drinking and using, consciously or unconsciously, in a bid to manage these anxieties. In recovery, their worries get mitigated, and they now have the tools to manage their fears. Faith replaces fear. It’s a process, but one that brings real joy and freedom in their lives.
5. Freedom from self
One of the most significant traits of an addict is his or her self-centeredness. He or she will try and manipulate people and situations to get what they want. He is obsessed with himself or herself and what they perceive as their well-being. However, when sober, they often exhibit commendable acts of altruism and compassion. They are finally released from the bondage of self and go beyond their selfish desires to connect with others. They learn to respect themselves by respecting others. In service, they find salvation.
6. Freedom from frustrations.
While drinking and using, the addict expects all things to go his or her way. Of course, this is an unrealistic expectation and inevitably results in frustration. This gives a handy excuse to blame, get angry and ultimately justify the drinking and drugging. In recovery, the person begins to build patience. He begins to realise that everything takes time and effort. Projects sometimes fail. Results are not always as expected or desired. With this realisation, comes freedom from impatience, anger and frustration. It takes time to work in this area, but abstinence slowly teaches the individual the value of taking it easy and accepting the results, whatever they may be. Sobriety may not free the addict from all his or her frustrations, but they shall become manageable.
7. Freedom from despair
With recovery, comes hope. The hope of a new life, the hope of achieving goals, fulfilling potential and experiencing happiness. With renewed self-worth and confidence, the addict goes ahead, free from the debilitating despair that ruled his days during addiction. Hope is a powerful element that shines through the dark clouds over an addict’s life. This new freedom is of a spiritual dimension, giving purpose and meaning to his or her life.