28 Jul The Role of Willingness in Recovery
By Elizabeth Rosselle
Willingness is one of the cornerstones of any solid addiction recovery program. In short, it involves being entirely ready and prepared to do something. And, while the concept of willingness may sound simple as it applies to everyday life, it can be surprisingly difficult for someone in active addiction to become willing enough to recover.
If you’re attempting to get sober and doing it for external reasons (i.e., a spouse ultimatum, legal trouble, family pressure, etc.), your chances of long-term success are slim. If, on the other hand, you’re entering into recovery because you truly want to get sober and you’re not being forced or coerced, you have a good shot at maintaining long-term sobriety. The latter implies that you possess the willingness to do what you need to do to get (and, hopefully, stay) sober. And, being willing has the power to carry you a long way.
Here are some of the reasons why willingness is such an important aspect of the recovery journey:
Changing requires dedication, patience, and work.
Real change requires time and work. Choosing to give up drugs or alcohol in the first place starts with a genuine willingness to devote some time and energy to a new way of doing things, so if you’re getting sober of your own volition, you already possess the key ingredient. And, if you’ve adopted this attitude, you’ve probably stopped fighting—you’ve taken the first step toward embracing positive change. You’re off to a great start.
The recovery journey generally requires giving up character defects.
Twelve-step and other similar recovery programs will ask you to examine your character defects. These defects of character tend to be ego-driven and include things like resentment, anger, self-condemnation, guilt, self-pity, self-justification, impatience, jealousy, and false pride, among others. While you might not initially think you possess any character defects, it’s highly unlikely that you have none whatsoever. Those of us who are addiction-prone almost always have character defects that have driven past bad behavior on some level. We must be willing to look at these and work toward giving them up if we want to achieve real relief in recovery.
Practicing rigorous honesty is very important for long-term sobriety.
For any die-hard addict or alcoholic, getting sober starts with admitting there’s a problem to begin with. So, it goes without saying that you must be honest with yourself about your addiction when you first enter into recovery. After all, you’re admitting that you have a problem in the first place, and this is a brave move. It’s also a big part of long-term sobriety if you want to maintain any level of serenity in your recovery.
Our secrets keep us sick, as it were. Ask nearly anyone who’s been sober for a long time that strikes you as a genuinely happy human being, and they’ll likely tell you that their life got better when they started being honest. This isn’t just in relation to drinking or using. We must be willing to reveal all the dark and icky stuff from our past that drags us down, provided it doesn’t cause us or others injury or harm. And, no, we don’t need to start running around and telling everyone in our lives every little secret we have the minute we get sober. But, as the baggage we’ve been holding onto starts to wear us down, and as we begin to learn who we can trust and rely on in our lives, we can decide when it’s time to reveal what needs to be revealed. This is what true vulnerability looks like, and it can be profoundly healing.
Good recovery requires looking inward.
You must be willing to take a good look at yourself and the internal drivers behind your addiction if you want to have real success in recovery. This can be really hard for addicts, as most of us spent our active drinking and using days avoiding our feelings or any type of thoughtful self-reflection. Sobriety tends to bring a lot of feelings up that we’re not used to experiencing sober, or that we’ve flat out never allowed ourselves to feel in the first place because we let alcohol or drugs beat us to the punch. Feeling our feelings and learning who we really are for the first time is scary, but it’s ultimately one of the most liberating things in the world to be able to do. And, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to maintain long-term sobriety when we’re able to know who we are, accept who we are, and love who we are down to every last little inch. Once we’ve achieved this, there’s nothing left to run or hide from.
Getting sober and staying sober involves a shift in perspective.
Obviously, if you’re not drunk, high, or hungover anymore, the world is going to start to look a little different on the surface, but that’s not entirely what the shift in perspective is about. Getting (and staying) sober means having the willingness to approach life not as something to be endured or hide from when things get tough, but rather as something to accept and embrace. Your outer world is always going to be a reflection of your inner world, and when you’re open to shifting your perspective, you’ll be surprised at how resilient you are. And, how more often than not, you have a choice in how you perceive and approach life. By opening the door to willingness, you have the opportunity to create a life that is truly something to be celebrated.
While there will be moments when life throws us a curve ball or two, willingness gives us the opportunity to open our minds and become more receptive to growth and change. And, when life becomes unmanageable enough, we usually find that we’re willing to try a new way.
Kembali Recovery Center can help
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, alcoholism, or other compulsive behaviors and/or process addictions, Kembali Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to speak with one of our counselors. Remember that you never have to do this alone.