Many people in recovery from addiction call freedom one of the greatest gifts of the Program. What does it mean to be free?

Hostages can be released by their captors. Depending on what they do after release, they may or may not experience freedom. They may also have to fight to maintain their freedom.

Release vs. Freedom

You are released from compulsive drinking, using, eating, and other effects of addiction by your Higher Power. You turn this release into freedom by using the Steps of the Program.

Often it is good to think about the freedoms you have gained, or will gain, through working a Twelve-Step program.

Physical aspects

Recovery will allow freedom from the physical aspects of the addiction.

The addictive behavior includes the intoxication of mood-altering substances, extremes of eating, spending, sexual behavior, and other addictive actions.

Addicts in recovery gain freedom from their physical addiction, including drunkenness, liver damage, obesity, purging, high blood pressure, and other medical, legal, financial, social, or other serious problems created by the addiction.

The physical craving for alcohol, other drugs, food, or other external or internal substances is reduced and often absent in recovery.

Emotional aspects

In recovery, you can expect a lot of freedom from the emotional aspects of the disease as well.

The fear of losing control, fear of others’ accusations, and other fears diminish.

You gain freedom from the rapid mood swings and emotional turmoil of food addiction.

Remember the hopelessness? You get the good feeling that maybe this will work for you.

Mental aspects

The mental mismanagement of addiction begins to disappear in recovery, and you gain freedom for better decision making.

You get some relaxation of the constant or frequent obsession with drinking, using, spending, sex, gambling, excitement, food, eating, weight, and/or purging.

Recovery brings relief from the severe black-and-white thinking that feeds so well into the disease.

Many addicts agree that they used to be their own worst enemies. In recovery they start to work for themselves rather than against themselves.

Judgment, not just about the addictive substances or behaviors, improves with recovery.

Spiritual aspects

Finally, the freedom of recovery allows you to develop the spiritual aspects of your life.

Addiction promotes isolation, loneliness, lies, half-lies, delusions, and general dishonesty, especially with yourself.

Addicts’ obsession with maintaining the illusion of control over their addiction makes them “play God” with their lives and their disease. You may have pushed your Higher Power out of the driver’s seat and worn yourself out trying to miss the bumps in the road.

Addicts learn through recovery that freedom of choice was taken away by the addiction long ago, leaving in its- place only an illusion that hides pain. Paradoxically, a major defense that addiction uses is that recovery requires giving up the freedom to drink, eat, use, or do the addictive behaviors, or as much as you want. In reality, recovery gives you the freedom from the bondage of addiction. That captivity was far more terrible than not having something like a drink or a dessert today.

The Four Freedoms of Abstinence and Moderation

Since we view addiction as having four aspects — physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual (PEMS model) — you can also see direct benefits in each area.

Freedom from intoxication (physical)

By abstaining from and/or moderating whatever amount of the drug, food, or activity that profoundly changes your bodily functions, your mood, your thinking process, and your spirit, you become sober or clearheaded enough to begin to understand and work the rest of the program.

Freedom from craving (emotional)

Abstinence and moderation also stabilize your mood swings and reduce the emotional effects of craving. Then you can learn what it means to share your feelings appropriately. Your life becomes less crisis-oriented, mood swings and guilt decrease, and you can begin to see glimpses of serenity.

Freedom from obsession (mental)

By removing or moderating the constant access to and preoccupation with addictive substances and behavior, you reduce the obsession and mental mismanagement that has disrupted your life. Obsession with alcohol, other drugs, activities, weight, and physical appearance decreases. Delusion fades away, and judgment improves.

Freedom from isolation (spiritual)

Finally, to the extent that addiction has isolated you from your Higher Power and other people, you begin to gain or regain these vital relationships. Through your abstinence, moderation, and working the program you become open to the love others have for you, and you can experience peace and surrender.

Freedoms, see also: Abstinence, Acceptance, Addiction model (PEMS), Affirmations, Behavior, Craving, Feelings, Honesty, Judgment, Moderation, Obsession, Openmindedness, Powerlessness, Prayer & meditation, Recovery, Sanity, Serenity, Spirituality, Step One, Stress & strain.

Updated 8 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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