Recovery literature generally describes willingness as being indispensable to achieving sobriety. Just what does this mean? It means that we are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve sobriety. It means letting go of many lifelong assumptions and beliefs in order to follow the new principles and guidelines we are learning in our recovery program.
This can be particularly difficult when we have to let go of a belief such as men don’t cry. I can reassure you that in my many years in recovery I have seen men cry copiously on occasion. And in public too! Some women may have also fallen into learned helplessness in order to get the attention they need. Both of these notions turn out to be unnecessary and not of much value when it comes to living an authentic life. Willing to realize this will help to facilitate the necessary change in order to eliminate these beliefs.
If using a 12 Step modality for recovery from addiction, willingness is key to working and applying the 12 steps to our life. This proposition may make us feel uneasy at first but we find as we progress in the program, it becomes easier to be willing to do what is necessary for change. Change in our behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes is necessary for the recovery process to become a working part of our lives.
Willing to learn different ways to express our emotions also takes willingness. We may have in the past expressed our anger by shouting and gesturing wildly. We learn in recovery to express our emotions in a more effective and real way. Some of us may feel that we were not heard as a child. This led us to believe that we had to be loud and demonstrative to be able to be heard. This kind of thinking involves an unlearning process that takes time. We see others in recovery sharing their angry emotions in a calm and effective manner and learn from this. We learn to be assertive in a calm and respectable manner instead of aggressively expressing ourselves. In this way, we come to learn that we are heard by the other person or people that we are communicating with. This helps us to keep our self-respect and relationships intact.
Generally, anger is a secondary emotion. We use anger to cover up the fact that we are really fearful or scared. We may be fearful of losing something we have, or of not getting something we want. In our addiction, it was much easier for us to argue and shout at you than to say simply that you hurt my feelings. In sobriety, we come to realize that at times we may feel vulnerable to others. This may be very scary at first but over time it becomes clear that being vulnerable is an emotion that we can handle. By keeping the conversation at the level of respect we find that it is ok to be vulnerable to others’ comments. Willingness to learn new ways of communication becomes paramount in our interactions with others.
We often read the phrase “willing to go to any lengths” in recovery literature. This simply means that we are willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve the desired result, which is freedom from addiction. In recovery, we learn the basic tools necessary to bring about recovery. Through the application and practice of the tools such as honesty and open-mindedness, we are able to obtain and then maintain recovery from addiction. And that is our desired result and end goal.