Why Willingness is Everything

I’m old school at heart where addiction recovery is concerned. I’m a proponent of harm reduction and Medication Assisted Treatment and lots of other measures, but in my heart of hearts, my hope is always that these are steps toward the freedom that addiction recovery provides.

I’ve learned over and over again that wanting it isn’t enough. Even needing it isn’t enough. It sounds a bit cold but I routinely ask people who are considering change, “What are you willing to do?” The limits of willingness determine what is possible. The three words that make my heart sing are:

“Whatever it takes.”

These words come from desperation. They come from failed contingencies and conditions on being clean and sober. It’s completely counterintuitive, but desperation is beautiful because it creates new possibilities and a renewed willingness to try.

Part of being “old school” is demanding accountability. I am willing to go to great lengths to support people I believe in, but I don’t support vague notions or good intentions. If it’s not a plan I can hold people accountable for, then it’s not going to work.

What this requires is getting down to the specifics of what we’re going to do and answering the who, what, where and when each step of the way. Notice that the “why” is missing from that list. “Why” is the most overrated question in the world. “How” is an infinitely better question. “How” is about taking action and showing up to do the things that need doing.

We may never know “why” of things. The good news is we don’t need to. We can pursue recovery out of necessity and from the desire to live and not simply survive or die. We can move out of the self-destructive patterns of our lives with no analysis whatsoever. We can get better for countless reasons. Ideally, we will come to a place where we do it for ourselves, but whatever motivates your start is great.

There’s no bad reason to get sober and there’s never been a person who regretted being in recovery. If we allow ourselves to have support from those who know more than we do, we can receive their hope, faith, and belief in us. This is often a slow process, but it will sustain us and fortify us.

If you are on the fence about being sober or other positive changes in your life, I hope you choose to invest in you. I know that we fear change and prefer to maintain status quo. I also know that staying the same is an illusion. We don’t. We decline. We suffer.

I have searched my whole career for things that increase willingness to change and have only found two: suffering and spiritual awakening. I love the adage that, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” Addiction gradually takes all of our choices away. Don’t wait.