willingness at the starting line

Willingness: Turning I Don’t Wanna Into I Will

How I find strength and willingness when I don’t want to do something? There are moments when the last thing I wanna do is the thing that is in front of me. That can range from taking out the trash, recording a podcast episode, taking a nap, or in my case, eating. But it’s in these moments that my greatest growth can occur – ok, maybe not when the trash weighs 100 lb., but certainly in most other situations. To be honest, when I get to take out the 100 lb. trash I think of it as weightlifting. Yes, I see the good in EVERYTHING, people. It takes a lot of practice!

One of the key principles in recovery from alcoholism is the idea of self-forgetting. “It is in self-forgetting that one finds.” That’s a part of the St. Fransis prayer. By shifting my focus from my own wants and needs to the needs of others, I’m way more willing.

  • I’m taking out the trash when I don’t wanna because 1) my boyfriend has been working for 11 hours and he deserves it, 2) I’ll take any easy opportunity I can to work on my building my strength.
  • I’m recording the podcast because 1) my recovery is my job now, 2) I may say the one single thing that somebody may need to save their life.
  • I’m taking a nap because 1) my brain is not going to get stronger and build bridges unless it gets rest, 2) my puppies love cuddle time.
  • I’m eating because 1) my brain needs nutrition, 2) other people are paying attention to my weight.

It’s about understanding what other people want and need rather than simply being understood that I don’t wanna and why. I talk a lot in my podcast about turning my wanter off. This is the stuff that goes through my mind when I turn that off. It’s what helps me do the next right thing. I suppose I’m replacing my wanter with a willer.

We also learn in sobriety to say yes. When I was drinking I didn’t commit to anything, so I’d either say no before I even considered saying yes or I’d say yes and back out later. In recovery, I learn how to say yes, and then the willingness comes after that. This is like smiling on the outside to elicit a smile on the inside. Similarly, once you have the willingness, the strength will follow. It seems to work in the opposite way one would hope. But this is how it works for me.

I say yes. Then I get the willingness. Then I get the strength.

When we embrace this mindset, it’s like jumping out of a plane and putting all our faith in the parachute. We’re saying, “Thy will be done, not mine.” I’m just saying, “yes, let’s just go. You drive. And, let’s see where we end up.”

The truth is my best thinking didn’t serve me well. It got drunk for the first half of my life and in denial after my stroke. But the beauty of recovery is that I can now say I can’t control people, places, and things. I have to show up for the miracle to occur. So just say yes. It all starts by saying yes.

I’ve learned to say, “I don’t wanna do this, but I will.”

And you know what happens when I’m willing? Strength follows. It’s easier to quit, to stay down, to avoid the challenges. It’s easier not to get up and use a grabber to reach for things. Yeah, that’s just sad, isn’t it? But you are more like to drop it. Just lean in, lean forward, and get up. Engage with your own life.

But, here’s the thing – just because we become willing, and the strength comes, it doesn’t mean the rest is easy. The strength is there to face the challenge, not necessarily to remove it.

The parts of my life that require me to learn and to adapt, are the parts that require willingness. It gets easier after I start. This might be why it’s harder to start going to the gym than to keep going once we’ve started. If I decide in the morning to commit to another day in my recovery lifestyle, the willingness to adhere to my way of life is there. The strength comes before my feet hit the floor, and those decisions throughout the day become second nature. I say yes to my lifestyle. The willingness follows, and the strength swells inside me.

So remember that even when you don’t wanna, you can still say yes. “I will” anyway. And the strength follows. It’s in those moments that real growth happens.