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  • Raija Itzchaki

I know you are ready, but are you WILLING?

To make any positive change in your life, you have to be ready and willing to make that change. When a person decides to seek help for their addiction, they are told that if they have these two things, they can leave active addiction behind and move toward recovery.

Ready is simple enough and if they've made the first step, such as treatment, they've got that one nailed. Willing is another story. Willingness is a word thrown around in the recovery community with the assumption that people truly understand its meaning. Willingness as it applies to change and recovery is the choice to surrender, to open your mind and let go of the idea that you somehow know how to do this on your own.....not just for a moment, not just for a few weeks or a few have to keep that willingness with you always. You can't and don't have to do this on your own. The wonderful thing about recovery is that there are so many amazing people ready and willing to help you if you will just let them.

Here's the irony: Recovery and change would be easy for simple minded people. Think about it. If I were a simple minded young lady deciding to change my life and someone was helping me, I would do anything they suggested without question; my path to a happier, drug/alcohol free life would be very easy. The problem is we are not simple minded!!! We are very, very intelligent...all of us, regardless of age, sex, socioeconomic status or educational level. We are so smart, we out-think ourselves. When a counselor/sponsor/mentor gives us a suggestion, we must first analyze it to see if it applies to us, question why it applies, and then find the loophole (or make one if we need to).

In the beginning stages of recovery, some people surrender and have the willingness for a little while. They feel great for the first 30 days, 90 days, or even a year or two. They take all the suggestions, at least on the surface. At some point along the road they stop being willing and start thinking that they have learned all they need to know, believing that they no longer need support and guidance. They are "cured". They can now do what they want which usually entails some sort of unhealthy behavior. Sooner or later, relapse occurs.

Now we have come back to the role of willingness. In order to get and remain clean and sober you must have the willingness to listen to all the things you don't want to hear, talk about all the things you don't want to talk about, and do all the things you don't want to do. Even when it hurts emotionally, you don't want to, you don't understand the reasoning, or you don't think it applies to it anyway. Many times we won't understand the "why" of something until we are much further down the road. Something that sounds perfectly logical to us at this moment, we will often later (maybe a year or two down the road) realize how much destruction it would've caused for us if we had actually acted on it. Don't ever get cocky and think that you can stop talking to others and getting their feedback. Our ability to twist and distort reality is what gets us into trouble.

I'm a very curious person and thus have had many conversations with personal friends, talked with clients, and have spoken with colleagues regarding the phenomena of the "one hit wonder". This term is applied to those individuals who go through treatment once and as of yet have not relapsed. My question was of course "What makes those individuals different from others who'd relapsed many times and now have quite a few years (5-25) clean"? There were so many similarities and only one difference I discovered. WILLINGNESS. Everyone I spoke to, whether they had only been to treatment once or 33 times told me that they finally got it when they surrendered their will and became willing to listen to people who cared, people who wanted to show them how to get and stay healthy; how to live and enjoy life without drugs and/or alcohol.

Willingness is the greatest gift you can give yourself; you now have the willingness to allow others to help you become the person you are meant to be; to find out who you are without drugs/alcohol. If you've been free from drugs/alcohol for a while then keep that same willingness and apply it equally to maintaining your recovery from substances and working on another aspect of yourself or your life you'd like to change.

Though not always to the same degree, we must recognize and be willing to see that our thoughts and ideas can always get in our own way. Life is not meant to be a solo journey.

Cathleen Coppola MSW, CAP

Every Act Must Be An Act of Integrity

Cathleen (Cat) Coppola is a Substance Abuse Counselor and a Primary Therapist at GreenLifeIOP. GreenLifeIOP is an outpatient Substance Abuse treatment center in Pembroke Pines, FL, providing both Intensive Outpatient (IOP) and Outpatient (OP) Programs to those suffering from substance use issues. If you or a loved one is suffering from drugs or alcohol, reach out for help at 954-968-9100.

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