“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.” Martin Luther King’s words changed the world, his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech being one of the most moving and inspirational orations of the twentieth century. Freedom was the end game of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s in America – freedom simultaneously being one of the most taken for granted rights, and one of the most precious, depending on whether you are lucky enough to enjoy it or not.
Freedom can arise in many guises; freedom from imprisonment, torture, pain and suffering, from acts of cruelty that are inflicted upon us by others. But it can also mean a release from our own actions, the gift of being able to live free from the restrictions of addictive and destructive behaviours. Wayne Dyer, self-help author and motivational speaker, once said, “Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery”.
And isn’t that precisely what addiction is? A form of slavery that holds us back and restricts us, maintains its control over our every thought and action and response? We are not ourselves when we are operating under the cloud of addiction. We are not making free choices when those choices are governed by patterns of thought that rule our body and mind.
When we spend our money on alcohol, we are not free. When we show ourselves up and act in a manner not true to the real us inside, we are not free. When we cannot look in the mirror because we despise the person we have become, we are not free. When we are unable to be the friend or parent or partner that we are capable of being, we are not free. When we destroy our liver and brain and heart through excessive alcohol consumption, we are not free. When we put ourselves in dangerous situations, walking home alone late at night, drunk and out of control, we are not free.
Conquering addiction means granting ourselves freedom. It means we are able to choose how we behave. It means we know exactly what or who will make us happy. It means we fulfill our potential as a friend, parent or partner. It means we possess peace of mind. It means we know ourselves inside and out. It means we no longer spend money on the things that damage us. It means we take care of our bodies and minds and give ourselves the best chance at a long and happy life. It means we have dignity and self-respect. It means nothing or nobody exercises control over the person we are, apart from ourselves. It means remembering the finer details of every day and every night. It means being free to like the person we are.
Freedom is a precious gift, and being free from addiction is incredible. This state of existence, being released from the walls that once held you back and kept you lying facedown in the dirt, can feel like a rebirth. A fresh start. A chance to see life for what it is; amazing, in all of its complexities and its banalities.