The Risks of Freedom

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As I write this post, it is the day before July 4th, our nation’s Independence Day. On Independence Day of 2020, freedom is a hot topic across the country. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, one that has significantly stifled our freedoms as individuals and as a society.

The simplest of experiences has become a strategic event. If you go to the grocery store, do you have your mask? Can you bring own grocery bags? Is the person standing just a bit too close in the aisle where you’re trying to reach the cans of tuna infected with COVID? And why isn’t that woman over there wearing a mask?

I so miss what I took for granted. I miss seeing people smile. I miss hugs. And I hate those masks. (Does anyone like the smell of their own breath? Ugh.)

Yet what we’re being asked to do is all about keeping us healthy. And as much as the restrictions annoy me, I realized that this is what those in sobriety struggle with every single day.

Don’t do this; it may be a trigger that will threaten your sobriety. Don’t go there; you have a bad history at that place. Don’t talk to that person who used to be a friend; they’re still in active addiction.

For those struggling with addiction, and especially those in early sobriety, freedom can be a dangerous thing. The opportunity to choose to do what we want to do when we want to do it is a gift for most of us, yet it can be a gift with a deadly price tag for those trying to stay sober.

When David was in early sobriety, my husband and I chose not to drink around him. He didn’t ask us to refrain; we simply felt that as a sign of respect for his journey, that little “hardship” was something we would gladly undertake to support him in his quest to stay healthy.

I’d never say it made a difference in his sobriety. I don’t know if it had any effect at all. But it seemed at the time that it was a small thing we could do to say we understood what he was trying to do, and we would stand with him in support and respect as he tried to adjust to a life where too much freedom could be dangerous.

As we all struggle with the restrictions of life in 2020, let’s use this moment to try and understand those who deal with restrictions daily, perhaps moment by moment, because living with too much freedom can be a time bomb that threatens their sobriety and even their lives.

Freedom is a gift, but one that not everyone can accept. If you are supporting someone in sobriety, respect their choices and their limits, because freedom from addiction truly marks Independence Day.

 Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon.