I Was Wrecked By My False Understanding of Freedom

I Was Wrecked By My False Understanding of Freedom

The saddest point in my life was when I was living on the beach in Destin, Florida. The Gulf of Mexico was my front yard, and there was nothing between my view of the water but the white sand. On top of that, I had money, drugs, alcohol, parties, and total freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. Everything the world said was needed for true happiness and fulfillment. Only, even in my tolerant and self-declared open-mindedness, I was utterly depressed.

I could get out of bed in the morning, so maybe it was not as bad as some have it, but my life was at the lowest I have ever been. I sought what I grew up believing would make me happy: pleasure, enjoyment, and the Rockstar lifestyle I modeled after the icons I watched on MTV and in movies as a young suburban teenager.

My slogan was “do what feels right.” And that I did, even putting my desire for what feels right before others. I was utterly selfish. My comfortability and drive to feed my senses were the compasses I used to navigate daily. Without any outer constraints, I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

However, my compass and false freedom did not lead me to the promised happiness and fulfillment. The more I chose to serve myself, the more depressed I became. The more depressed I became, the more I served myself. A vicious cycle of actual vices and, unlike what some might declare, I could not break it. I was a slave to it. In my false freedom, I was the least free out of many of my classmates at the college I attended, who still lived at home with their parents. It was the opposite of what I perceived when I was younger.

Things picked up a little bit when I found Jesus during a long drive to a new apartment in Fort Walton. I realized that everything I tried in my search for happiness left me emptier, but I never gave Jesus a genuine chance.

So, I was determined to give Jesus a firmer try and felt something that night that was big enough to lead me back to attend Church on Sunday. I believed in Jesus, and things were looking up. However, my understanding was still flawed as I thought I could continue doing whatever I liked as long as I loved Jesus. My misunderstanding of Jesus and what love is would lead me down a path strikingly similar to the one I thought I left behind.

I still had the same false understanding of freedom. I thought I was free of the rules placed on me by others. I felt that without these rules, I could finally be happy. I thought I knew Jesus and He would not set any rules for me other than to be happy.

Looking back, I see the error in the ideology I followed. If only I knew the teaching of St. John Paul II. If only I knew the beauty of the words when he said during a pastoral visit in New Zealand in 1986, “While it is true that we ourselves decide what paths we will take, our decisions will lead us to true joy and fulfilment only if they are in accordance with God’s will.”

If only I understood that true freedom is the ability to choose the good and that external constraints placed upon us to lead us to the good and defend us from evil are necessary to protect us from internal restraints that will enslave us.

I would slowly come to understand this through experience (a.k.a. the hard way) after continuing down the road of selfish pleasure seeking. I would realize that following the Word of God taught through the Bible and the Church would lead me to real freedom, not take it away.

I learned that God wanted me to love Him and show my love for Him through obedience. Moreover, obedience to God was not merely a power grab by Him, but the path for true happiness. I realized that in the Bible and the teachings of the Church, God has given us directions to be happy. These directions may seem like restrictions restraining us from freedom, but in reality they are given to protect us from losing our freedom.

It was in following these directions that I finally found what I had always longed for. Jesus. Not just the idea of Him, but a personal relationship, a true friendship full of memories I can look back on. My days were filled with miracles. My life was being put back together before my eyes.

Through the help of the Holy Spirit, I eventually quit my deadly vicious cycle on April 24, 2007, and I have gone without drinking and drugging ever since. Each day since then has been better than the one before it. I realize the truth now that by placing upon myself the external restrictions of self-control, putting others first, and choosing the good things in life that may be difficult, I can be freed of the internal shackles of addiction, bitterness, and misery.

I thought I had everything on the beach, but, I had nothing compared to what I have received through the Lord. It was in giving up what I thought was everything, that I truly gained it all. I still occasionally go back to Destin and the beach for vacation, but I will never get back to a life without knowing Jesus. Life just is not as good without Jesus. I know from experience.

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