For me, July means fireworks and barbecues and smells like corn on the cob and strawberry short cake. It’s a time to gather with family, stay up a little too late, and get eaten alive by mosquitos. I usually never wear the thing that’s the most weather appropriate (a sun dress and then it gets cold or jeans and the heat is sweltering even after the sun goes down). I almost always end up eating a bit too much, laughing a bit too loud and having a blast.
While Independence Day is a celebration of our nation and our freedom, it can also be challenging for many. When I worked at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, I learned that for some veterans with post-traumatic stress and other obstacles like addiction or mental health issues, this holiday can be triggering for many reasons: the loud noises and flashing lights and reminders of hard times and excruciating loss.
A holiday that is meant to celebrate freedom can sometimes remind us of our captivity in addiction and trauma and other struggles.
When I heard veterans at the VA talk about their experience, I was humbled. One man spoke about how for years every fourth of July, he locked himself in his basement with a bottle and music on full blast. Anything to drown out the noise and escape the pain. Another woman missed her brothers and sisters in the service and thought of the friends she knew who had given the ultimate sacrifice and would never be gathering for holidays again.
After working at the VA, the fourth of July means so much more to me now. It’s about so much more than fireworks and food. Freedom—and the freedom in recovery that I’ve found—mean so much more to me.
I think about the men and women I met who shared so courageously about their struggles. I think about how I will never know the hardships that complete strangers have endured on my behalf. I think about how so many veterans are hurting. And too many people are searching for the freedom that we take for granted every day.
What is freedom in recovery?
Freedom in recovery is a gift.
It is freedom from the obsession of using.
Freedom from the pain of isolation.
Freedom from a never-ending cycle of self-destruction.
Freedom from the bonds that hold us down.
Freedom from trauma.
Freedom from self-consciousness.
Just go to a recovery meeting or a faith-based group or a recovery community center or visit a recovery advocacy website and you will see freedom living, moving, breathing in the world around us. Freedom in recovery is a precious gift that is meant to be shared and celebrated and written about and talked about. It can be whispered to your neighbor or shouted from the mountain tops.
Maybe you connect with Janis Joplin’s view: “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose…”.
[Many of us in addiction recovery can relate to this lyric well, some of us while laughing. Others in tears].
Or perhaps you’ve heard and connect with the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians as he warns them not to try to be perfect (this is impossible) in order to have a connection with God (Grace is enough):
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (5:1).
Or maybe what you connect with best is the red, white and blue of Old Glory flying. God bless the USA, friends.
It’s Okay to be Walking Towards Freedom
It’s okay if you are struggling. It’s okay if you have to let your family and friends know that you are gonna have to sit this one out. It’s okay to blast heavy death metal into your headphones while drinking a sparkling water at dusk. It’s okay to make that phone call to an old buddy to reach out.
It’s okay if you feel like you are walking towards freedom, but it is somehow always out of reach.
It’s okay if you’ve grown weary.
I love what author Jen Hatmaker says in her book Simple and Free:
“Innumerable times I’ve grown weary, but the powerful backing of my faith community lit the extinguishing fire, and I carried on.”
We don’t have to do life alone.
It’s okay if you need to reach out to a community to help you rekindle that fire again.
If you are in a place of captivity today (either figurative or otherwise), know that recovery is a gift that you can receive. And it can bring you freedom from your struggles. I promise and am living proof of that. God also offers a gift of salvation and healing from our brokenness that can lead to the ultimate freedoms.
Freedom is possible. No matter what your life looks like or smells like or feels like today.
This July, join with me as we take a look of the concept of FREEDOM in recovery. What does it mean to live in freedom? How does recovery bring us to a place of freedom? How can a faith journey and relationship with God (or dare I say Jesus) bring us to a place of healing and freedom and peace?
I love questions.
I hope this month, you will join me in asking some more.
Want to connect? I'd love to hear from you!
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