Bondage of Self

“The only real freedom a human being can ever know is doing what you ought to do because you want to do it.” ~ Anon

Step # 1 offers the Freedom from Bondage to Self. So, it is important to understand what that means. Being in bondage is basically to be held against one’s will, to be in slavery. To not be free to do or think as one would wish to without consequences. How are we as alcoholics in bondage to self? I would say that when actively drinking, we really had no say so as to whether or not we drank. And once we took that first drink, we had no option in stopping. When drinking, we had no control over our behaviors or our options and, we lived in fear. That is of course a form of bondage. The saddest part of being in bondage to self is that we have no sense of self awareness or or being interconnected with others, especially to an HP. Alcohol was invited into our lives a a friend, that soon became our roommate, followed shortly in becoming our lord and master, and then the ruler of our universe. So long as we drank, we had no freedom to be our true selves.

In working on Step #1, I usually ask the people I work with to write down what it is they think life will look like if they do get into recovery. I also ask them what they want from AA. I believe you have to have some notion as to what you seek and what recovery will look like. So that once you get where you are going, you can better determine if that is what you had in mind in the first place. When I first came into AA, I just wanted to feel sane and have less trauma in my life.  I wanted to get back to the young, innocent kid in me that believed in people unquestionably and loved fully. What I got was so much more. Today, I have a life I never dreamed of that is normally pretty mundane and lacks a lot of trauma. I guess, that was what I was seeking all along. Have a fun journey.

Review of 6-12

In step #12, we confirm that we have turned our backs on our old ways of living forever. We are moving in a new direction of spiritual growth. ~ 12 Step Literature

Here are the final steps to review as we move into step #12:

Step #7: Key word is humility. Freedom from self-reliance. We must be willing to humbly ask HP to remove all of our character flaws.

Step #8: Key word is self-discipline. Freedom from blame. We must be willing to admit what harm we have caused and become willing to make amends to them.

Step #9: Key word: unconditional love. Freedom from the fear of people. We must be willing to make direct amends unless it would harm them/others.

Step #10: Key word: perseverance. Freedom from complacency.  We must be willing to admit when we are wrong and try to make things right.

Step #11: Key word: Spiritual Awareness. Freedom from loneliness. We must be willing to develop a conscious contact with HP and follow his/her will for us.

Step #12: Key word: service. Freedom from lack of purpose. We must be willing to give back freely what we have been freely given.

What do each of these steps have in common? Two words: must and willing. We must recover, or we will die. It is said that the 12 steps of AA are merely suggestions. True, but if you are in the middle of a storm at sea, it is suggested that you stay in the boat, keep your balance, and keep rowing to shore! Willingness is a key ingredient in recovery. Without willingness on the part of the alcoholic (as a sponsor) it will feel as if you are trying to push a wet noodle up a hill. Slow and messy! Happy rowing!

Cultivating a Free Mind

The pain that is involved in accessing and cultivating a free mind leads to insights, enlightenment, and wisdom. Do not fear. ~ Anon

The key to freedom lies in our willingness to learn, grow, and stay open to knew ideas. Just like most of you, I was watching people in Hurricane Irma on the news all weekend. When I would get sick and tired of it, I would randomly color, get on Facebook, garden, or do puzzles. There is just so much insanity I can tolerate. Back in my drinking days, I had no boundaries. Chaos was my nectar. Pain and crisis were my everyday conditions. In sobriety, I can get pretty tired of it pretty darn fast. Here were these news people and locals out on the beaches gawking at the destruction Mother Nature was wreaking. Every now and then, the news people would say that there was a curfew in order, but there they were; out in the storm and past curfew!

Sounds crazy huh!? It is. It was just as crazy as we were once. I would drive in blinding blizzards and go out a make donuts with my car in abandoned parking lots in the middle of an snow storm. I had no fear. I had almighty alcohol tell me that I was safe. I was immortal. That I could do and say anything I wanted to, and to hell with anyone that objected. They were “cold blankets” and “party poopers”. So, I understand the minds of those who laughed at a deadly storm and mocked the warnings of authorities. In AA, we get the chance to be free. But, that freedom comes with responsibility, accountability, and consequences. We can no longer blame alcohol for our choices in life. It is all on us. Choose wisely. Stay safe and enjoy your freedom.

Simply Free

A sure sign of spiritual growth is that you want more freedom and less stuff.

~  Lisa Villa Prosen

One amends that I have made to myself was to downsize, simplify, and stop buying “stuff”. I call most stuff “dustables”. If you have to clean your house, you understand the inane and repetitious chore of having to dust the same things, shelves, and stuff every few days. Several years ago, I decided my life was too valuable to be spent on repeatedly cleaning, dusting, and organizing stuff. I took a class on simplifying. And, each day after that, I slowly but surely removed things I had not touched or used in 6 months. That included: cd’s, books, clothes, chotchkies, toys, etc. I used 3 garbage bags (charity, re-gifts/trash) to be hauled out. And, here this is the trick: now when I buy one thing, two things are removed.

This keeps the clutter level under control. What happens when you simplify? Freedom. You will be free of the burden of weight of toting, storing and cleaning that stuff. You will be free to have more space and less stress in your life. You will have more free time and free space in your head, since you no longer have to take care and worry about that stuff. You will be free to be choosier about what you buy in the future. You spirit will be free to appreciate those things in your life that really matter. You will be free to fill your spirit with meaningful thoughts and not be burdened with the relics of the past. Set yourself free. Make amends to yourself, and simplify.

What Freedom Means

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.

~ Anne Frank

As we celebrate our collective freedom, it only makes sense to sit down and make note of just how free it is to be sober and completely at ease with oneself and the universe at last.  I am still pretty much a loner. I do love people, but I prize solitude more. As others clamor for more food, more fun, and more of whatever; I retreat into the quiet and peace that I craved for so many years.

What a relief to be able to wake up post holidays to know where I went, who I was with, what I said, and what I did; and not be ashamed of any of it. That to me, is true freedom. I did not have to impress, dress, or stress for anyone or anything. What a joy of freedom I feel to know that all days are of equal value. There are no special days, holidays or vacations from this disease. No amount of alcohol or anything will bring me greater joy than to be alive, to be connected to the universe, and to be truly free. I will toast my lemonade to that!

Step # 7 and Beyond

Our purpose is not to judge others,

but to practice attitudes of mercy and forgiveness.

~ Anonymous

In developing our healthier selves through the process of working the steps, we are encouraged to MYOB, focus on our work and not that of others, and to be mindful that not everyone has a 12 step program to teach them loving ways. I had to learn to mind only that which is from the tip of my own nose and inward. That business beyond the tip of my nose was not of my concern. It is none of our business what others think of us; and conversely, it is none of their business what we think of them. If we can keep our own side of the street clean, then the rest will work itself out.

A few months back it came to me in either my sleep or meditation (quite frankly, I get those confused) that G.O.D.’s intention for me was to “just love everyone; I will sort it our later.” What a huge relief that I do not have to be or act like G.O.D. That is not my job. I am not being paid well enough to take it on. And therefore, I am relieved of the burden. How fantastic is that? I spent much of my earlier years saddled with the notion I had to be all, do all and know all for everyone. It left me exhausted and full of resentment. How free we truly are to just be our selves and nothing more. Seek freedom through working the steps.