I never realized I was locked in a prison of self-centered fear until I got my first taste of freedom in Alcoholics Anonymous. I ran as fast as I could through life, trying to outrun the fear that followed me everywhere. It was like trying to outrun my shadow. As soon as I stopped and rested the fear was there. I went through life in a state of dis-ease, but I thought this was just the way life was. I saw struggle and suffering everywhere I looked. I never thought to question it. Alcohol made life bearable for me, even “happy” sometimes. But always the fear would return.  

I had my first taste of freedom in Alcoholics Anonymous when I shared some painful truths about myself with my sponsor during my fifth step. I came in out of the cold that day and began to connect with you, life and my HP. Through the years, thanks to meetings, steps and service, HP has continued to remove old, false ideas that keep me in prison, separate from life.

Today I enjoy many freedoms. I am free from needing to change the way I feel, to self-medicate (unless of course you count caffeine). I am free from alcoholic loneliness -- that feeling of a hole in my gut that the wind whistles through. I am free from guilt and shame that kept me chained to yesterday. I am free from the war of self-hate I waged against myself for more than forty years.

I’m learning the AA promise, “a new freedom and a new happiness” is not only about freedom “from”, but also freedom “to”. Today I am free to make mistakes, free to not have to do every single thing perfectly. I am free to experience a whole range of emotions, not just fear-driven rage. I am free to care about others, to be of service, and to share my ESH without expecting anything in return. I am free to live my life anyway I choose. I am free to just Be.

Certainly my journey to freedom from bondage of self is far from over, but by now I’ve let go of enough old ideas to feel comfortable in my own skin most of the time. I have become a better man in the process.