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  • Climbing up on Solsbury Hill I could see the city light
    Wind was blowing, time stood still - Eagle flew out of the night
    He was something to observe - Came in close, I heard a voice
    Standing stretching every nerve - Had to listen had no choice

    I did not believe the information, I just had to trust imagination
    My heart going boom boom boom
    "Son," he said "Grab your things, I've come to take you home."

    To keepin' silence I resigned - My friends would think I was a nut
    Turning water into wine - Open doors would soon be shut
    So I went from day to day - Tho' my life was in a rut
    Till I thought of what I'd say - Which connection I should cut

    I was feeling part of the scenery I walked right out of the machinery
    My heart going boom boom boom
    "Hey" he said "Grab your things I've come to take you home."

    When illusion spin her net - I'm never where I want to be
    And liberty she pirouette - When I think that I am free
    Watched by empty silhouettes - Who close their eyes but still can see
    No one taught them etiquette - I will show another me

    Today I don't need a replacement - I'll tell them what the smile on my face meant
    My heart going boom boom boom, "Hey" I said "You can keep my things, they've come to take me home."

    It was 35 years ago today that I first stepped into what I thought was my newfound freedom. That was the day I got my honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy. Freedom from the chains that I thought had bound me. I had begun my journey to that freedom 2 months earlier. I’d only sought to achieve freedom from the reach of a tyrant, the captain of my ship. He would have made Captain Bligh or Qweag look like Popeye the Sailor. He was downright mean and vindictive, highly unprofessional, and he had a hard-on for the Chief of my Engine Room, and we all suffered because of it. The tipping point had come when I’d gone down into the Engine Room in a blind rage, pulled the largest wrench out of the toolbox looking for someone or something to start wailing on with it, and fortunately had a moment of sanity in which a voice inside just said, “Put it down, and just walk away.” Thankfully, I listened to that voice.

    The next 2 months was a wild trip which I’ve previously written about here, that took me across country and back, living in abandoned gas stations, working wherever I went, spending time in a Felon Tank, but finally achieving not only freedom from that ship, but freedom from the Navy. I made it even farther than I had dreamed! But, it wouldn’t take long before I realized that I wasn’t free at all. That which bound and chained me was not outside of myself, but deep within.

    The journey continued, through hell and back. Within months, I went from wild enthusiasm to having no strength or desire to carry on. I could not understand what happened, how the wind went out of my sails so quickly. It soon became apparent that I had an addiction problem.

    This would be the start of another journey. I began it with a grim determination to beat addiction. I would apply the same iron will that I had used to make it through Nuclear Power School when they said I couldn’t possibly make it through it. I had marshalled all of my mental resources, focused on the goal, and made it happen.

    ‘Twas then that I learned that some things can’t be beat. Will power could only go so far. Victory could only be achieved through surrender. I had to lose the battle in order to win the war. This process would take a number of years for me to get through. A partial surrender brought a partial victory. I achieved total abstinence from all drugs and alcohol for over 3 years, maintaining my abstinence through daily attendance at meetings and tons of service work, helping others seeking recovery from addiction. In my entire journey, this was actually the most difficult, sustained period I would endure. Everyday was difficult, every little thing a battle to fight. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. This eventually wore me down, and I reached a point where I couldn’t sustain that effort any longer.

    This is when I finally reached complete surrender, and the war was finally over. It didn’t have to be as difficult as I had made it. It was actually incredibly easy – once I reached that total surrender. That’s when I finally achieved the freedom I thought I was walking into on the day of my discharge, 35 years ago today. So, I was right in my thinking at the time, that I was stepping into freedom. I just had no comprehension of how big, and how long, a step I was taking at the time. From the point of complete surrender, 28 + years ago, to this day, I have not struggled. I have eased into my own skin, and learned to fully live in the moment. All that I need, at any given moment, is provided to me at that moment, as long as I remain open to receiving it.

    Freedom is good. Peace is beautiful. I embrace it, and cherish it, each and every day. Today, I remember the first step I took towards it, 35 years ago. The journey has been much different than I envisioned it, on that day. While it got off to a slow start, it has gone well beyond what I was capable of even seeing from that vantage point.Photo: Courtesy of, from the movie Braveheart

    Lyrics at top of story “Solsbury Hill”, by Peter Gabriel
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