Bart Ross – Recovery Services Manager
Early on in my own recovery journey, I was asked this question: “How free do you want to be?” I still ask myself this question often. So, this article will be my current thoughts on what it looks like to be free.
What it looks like to want to be free, simply put, is MORE; to be freer.
But that answer proves I’m still not 100% free. You’ll understand what I mean as you read on. If I had written this article years ago, it would have read much differently. If I would follow up with another article in the distant future, it would probably change again. Spiritual growth is about being free; it’s about change. It’s not about freedom to speak or act as I want to without restraint.
Freedom looks like this:
- Not being locked into a concept but remaining open-minded.
- When we’re okay with our own personal beliefs and don’t find it necessary to argue or push others to accept ours.
- When we can respect others’ beliefs.
- It’s not about freedom to speak or act as I want to without restraint.
- Not being imprisoned by our own thinking.
- To no longer live in the bondage of self.
What is the Bondage of Self?
The 3rd Step Prayer from the Big Book (pg. 63) says, “relieve me of the bondage of self.” The bondage of self comes in many forms. I view it as only thinking of ourselves, the need to have outside things for our happiness, and the need to be what we believe is perfect rather than what our higher power would have us be. Clearly, we are relying on self and thinking of self rather than our higher power and others; this is the bondage of self as I see it today.
To be free comes from the inner work of self-awareness.
Not awareness of who we are, but awareness of who we are not. Continuing to work the 12-Steps over and over as a way of life is a large part of becoming free. For some, therapy can also be very useful and sometimes necessary. We can be free from a path that is judged by others. Our life is not based on our thought of what success is. It’s not based on our material possessions, education, or cultural backgrounds. I’ll never forget hearing Sandy B. share at the beginning of one of his AA talks, “When I was growing up, my parents told me that if I get an education, then I’ll get a good job. If I get a good job, then I’ll make a lot of money. If I make a lot of money, then I can buy nice things. What they never told me is that none of this makes us happy.” I can see that we are in bondage to these things, which creates bondage of self. This is a perfect example of expecting inner peace from outside self-interests.
The purpose of the 3rd Step is not about getting connected to your higher power so that we get more material things, etc.
Its purpose is to be free from the bondage of self and to serve our higher power and the people around us. It’s about making a decision to be an example to others of what God can do.
“God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
When we’re free, we are less concerned about what’s “normal.”
Our beliefs are not based on other people’s ideas. Other people’s opinions no longer define our own perception of who we are. We are relieved of this fear. We are able to move on and not hold on to resentments. Sometimes this may take some 4th Step writing, but we are willing to search out the truth. We can live in the moment with our minds and our feet in the same place at the same time.
We no longer live in resentment of the past or fear of the future.
It is imperative that we remain open-minded and that our current beliefs may not be our actual reality. It may be our truth as we see it, which may not be God’s truth for us at all. To do this requires faith. Having faith only happens when we have no knowledge; knowledge meaning fact. Freedom is experienced when we are unsure of an outcome and have faith that it will all work out. I pray that we all continue to ask ourselves, “how free do I want to be” and continue to move towards being free.
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