How Can I Find Willingness?

Table of Contents

For alcoholics and addicts in recovery, whether they are new or long-timers, there are always new things to discover, explore, and learn. When we were active in our disease it is likely — for many of us at least — that we didn’t do a lot of growing or progressing. For many of us, the disease was in full control, and much of the progress we made was destructive. Now that we have found recovery, we can change direction. Jaywalker Lodge and the 12-Step program offer us countless opportunities to learn about ourselves, our disease, life, the world, and most importantly, our recovery. We can do things we never thought possible and have experiences that we never believed we could. The immense potential to live a fulfilling and joyful life in recovery abounds — and it is all made possible by willingness. This concept is new to most of us entering recovery, but for those who remain recovered, it is indispensable.

What Exactly Is Willingness?

That’s a darn good question. One dictionary defines it as “the quality of being happy to do something if it is needed.” The Big Book dictionary defines it as “readiness consisting of or proceeding from an exercise of free will, prepared in mind, attitude, or manner.” If that’s still a little vague, perhaps it’s because willingness is such a big concept in recovery. The 12-Steps literature lists the three indispensable things we need for recovery — honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. When we are willing to do something, we may not always be happy, and we may not always be ready or prepared. But with the guidance of our sponsor and the structure of the 12-Steps, it opens up the world for us if we are willing enough to try new things and take plenty of little leaps of faith along the way. Maybe we don’t understand why we need to write a 4th-Step. Okay, but can we become willing and do it even if we don’t understand why? Maybe we don’t see the point in being of service. But can we become willing to try our best to be of service whenever we are asked, despite how we feel about it? This is what willingness looks like in action, doing something that wasn’t our idea because it may just save our lives and help us help others.

Why Do We Need To Be Willing?

It’s an old saying that everything in the 12-Step program is a suggestion — a suggestion a lot like “we suggest you open up your parachute when you jump out of an airplane.” You don’t necessarily need to be willing, but wouldn’t it be strange to expect that we could change ourselves, change our lives, and maintain long-term recovery without doing or trying anything new? If we don’t become willing to follow through with the 12-Steps or at least try living a 12-Step program-based lifestyle, we can’t rightly expect the 12-Steps to work for us. But if we truly desire to get and stay recovered, to discover who we really are, and to learn how to live happy, meaningful lives, we may very well need to become willing to do some things we’ve never done before. We may even have to do some things we don’t quite understand. Because the proof is all around that the 12-Steps work for people, but they work best when worked by someone who is willing to work them. It is normal for alcoholics and addicts like us to cling stubbornly to our own ideas, forgetting that our best ideas got us here. Now we’re in the presence of the solution we’ve literally been dying for. It might go better for us if we become willing to let go of our ideas and try the ones in the program. Recovery literature describes willingness as “the key” that opens the door to a way of living that really works.

How Do I Become Willing?

We become willing the same way we become anything else — we make a decision and then we practice. For alcoholics and addicts, practice is usually a negative word that evokes “failure,” mistakes, and strenuous effort. But that’s not what practice really is. Practice is simply doing something we are unfamiliar with, learning how to improve at it, doing it again until we are good at it, and then doing it some more. Most good things take time and practice, and willingness is no different. We aren’t used to being willing — we’re used to doing it our way, even though our way usually doesn’t work. The 12-Step literature tells us that willingness does work. So it’s okay if we need some practice. It’s certainly going to be worth it. We begin practicing willingness by deciding to follow work the 12-Steps. That’s pretty much where everything starts.

Once we’ve made that decision, we get the opportunity to practice our willingness at every step along the way. We have to become willing to work each step, to learn about each step, to take it with our sponsor, and to practice it in our daily life. We are asked to become willing to go to meetings, be of service to others, and get engaged in life with our sober community and our friends and family. Opportunities to practice willingness are everywhere and every time we make an effort, we get a little bit more of it. If you’re still stuck in an unwilling place, take the time to pray, meditate, and talk to your sponsor or a recovered friend. Then try, just try, the next indicated action in your life. You may find that willingness comes every time we attempt to practice it.

Defiance is a chief characteristic of most alcoholics and addicts. Rebellion and stubbornness plague those of us who suffer from this disease, but finding willingness can change everything. If you earnestly desire to achieve long-term recovery, but cannot manage it on your own, Jaywalker Lodge is here to help. We’ll show you how to open your mind and heart to all that life in recovery has to offer.

Call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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