In 2007, as a newly self-identified alcoholic, I often heard the phrase, Freedom from the Bondage of Self. How could I be in the bondage of self? I believed that I was enslaved only by alcohol. I simply could not stop on my own, and I knew that once I could stop, all would be well again. At the time I did not understand that my alcohol consumption was only a symptom and that my addiction was the result of causes and conditions far deeper than I could ever imagine.
Physical sobriety came with relative ease and I willingly engaged in the type of self-exploration and analysis that I was told would lead me to the prize – emotional sobriety. As I looked at my childhood and analyzed all its aspects – nature and nurture – I realized, with a sinking heart, that I had been doomed and fated for alcoholism! I began shaming myself with a vengeance and then began resenting everyone who had a hand in my rearing and ultimately those who were unfortunate enough to live with me.
It was so much easier to blame others for all my fears, insecurities, and my inability to cope with life. I wouldn’t need to drink if only everyone else would just behave perfectly and have the same sensibilities as me. The thought that I could change the aspects of my nature that kept me feeling powerless, unworthy, incapable, ashamed, fearful, and unable to connect never entered my mind. I was so negatively wrapped up in “self” that I felt paralyzed. Many of these behaviors and mind-sets were learned, certainly, but I kept them alive and well-nurtured because this was all I knew, and I believed that change was impossible. I felt imprisoned by all these manifestations of “self” and I was able to justify drinking to relieve the pain.
Slowly, and with lots of help, my “bondage of self” began to loosen and I began to change. I had to practice, write, share, accept, and practice some more, over and over again. And, I’ve learned, that this will be an ongoing practice for me – one that I consider to be spiritual in nature. My spirit had been lost to all these varied forms of fear. Now my spirit feels free most of the time. Every now and then, I fall back into this type of negative thinking but, today, I’m able to cope with the challenges life presents me. I’m able to work through my problems instead of hiding from them and because of this, I feel free! I feel lighter, brighter, and I can breathe.
To me, this is FREEDOM.