I am thinking of how grateful I am for everything that I experienced over the past 65 years. The payoff for me in three decades of recovery is contained in the section of the book Alcoholics Anonymous commonly referred to as the AA Promises. The promises begin:
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
Several years ago I wrote about this promise and focused on the freedom from not being obsessed with how I would get my next drink. That freedom goes beyond the obsession with alcohol as a material substance. As I wrote last week, sobriety today has less to do with the physical manifestations of being drunk and more the mental and spiritual recovery. The same is true for the promised freedom.
I made the commitment in 1984 when checking into a detox rehab that I was not going to lie to anyone – I was going to tell my truth about life and addiction. Since that time, I am consistently challenged to be more rigorously self-honest. Freedom from self-deception and self-betrayal has led me on a path toward true self.
What is this true self? Psychology and spiritual literature discuss this point in great detail. I view true self as the opposite of an ego-driven false self. A starting point for me is the line from Hamlet that appears on AA coins, “To Thine Own Self be True”. I understand that first and foremost I got sober for me and not to keep anyone else happy. However, in sobriety I am able to play a constructive role in community, and be in true relationship with others. Self-worth is key. Having self-worth is the difference between getting sober because I have treated all those around me terribly vs. getting sober because I have treated myself terribly and have not lived as a true member of humanity.
For me, the freedom in the promises allows me to take stock of who I am, what I have to offer, and how I might better be able to participate as one of 7 billion humans on this earth. That is a tremendous freedom to explore!