"We are going to know a new freedom”-Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 83.
I have always marveled at the paradox that our nation’s liberation from the bondage of slavery is marked by the quintessential period of restriction. A holiday that requires us to adhere to strict guidelines and detailed instructions with such profound exactitude and measure. To distance ourselves from something that in the rest of the year we engage in unconditionally.
This is freedom?
In working firsthand with individuals in addiction treatment as they battle for ultimate freedom, I now understand that the answer to this question is a resounding yes.
The individual in recovery wages war against inner forces and drives that constantly entrap him and to which he has become “powerless” against. Forces which often pose a threat to virtually everything in his life that is of meaning and true value. He or she therefore knows so vividly that learning to exercise restraint is his only chance at achieving freedom. At survival.
He will tell you that a life of following whims and of permissiveness to excess becomes the deepest form of suffocation and imprisonment imaginable.
That doing, taking, ingesting, drinking whatever I want, whenever I want - a life that knows no boundaries - is the most insidious slavery of all.
As the individual in recovery will tell you, it is the determination to stay within parameters and exert the capacity to rid something from one’s life with a fierce rigor that is the clear path to a life of true freedom (and often the only antidote to toxic tendencies toward issues with maintaining boundaries - enmeshment or enabling - which addicts and family members tend to know well):
“Our first objective will be the development of self-restraint…For we can neither think nor act to good purpose until the habit of self-restraint has become automatic” -Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 91
I will never forget the moment that I sat with Eric (name changed), a prestigious lawyer, as he cried uncontrollably. After years of struggling and suffering, he was finally hit with the realization that his tendency toward ambition and drive for success had spiraled out of control. He sobbed as he shared that his drug use had been his escape from feelings of worthlessness and shame. He began to acknowledge that in his quest for fame and financial success, he was left in a perpetual void that had become his life.
After being given an opportunity to reflect, to come off the wheel, he confronted this raw reality and in this realization he felt a cathartic sense of freedom for the first time in years. We then were able to carve out space for him to learn to take control of his impulses and instincts, rather than the other way around. We explored ways of channeling and directing his drive toward success and achievement to productive, noble causes. To combat the chaos created when this natural tendency reigned “free.” By identifying this drive and setting out to take control - setting parameters and guidelines - he was liberated.
For full article, please see the Jewish Addiction Awareness Network Blog at https://www.jaanetwork.org/blog/from-chaos-to-seder-pesach-addiction-and-removing-our-personal-chains