Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Here's the Thing...

Some people get into Al-Anon and seem to thrive right away. Others change little, and very slowly. The difference, it seems to me, comes down to one thing: willingness.

At my last Al-Anon birthday celebration, I was surprised to find that my sponsor didn’t see a lot of willingness in me when I came into the program.

In her introduction at the birthday meeting, she recalled that I said I couldn’t do this and I couldn’t do that, but over time I had done everything she had suggested—except go on a retreat—and she felt that was just a matter of time.

I had to admit what she said was true. I didn’t want to do anything that involved being away from home at night or overnight. That meant no night meetings, no Big Book studies, and no retreats.

I was determined not to let my recovery negatively affect my husband because I didn’t want any pushback. Today, I call this people pleasing. But that’s a topic for another post. And I've made progress but, well, there is the whole retreat thing.

So I can see how she might have seen this as one big “no” on my part.

But I did everything else. I attended the recommended number of meetings every week. I just went to day meetings. I also went to open AA meetings. I prayed on my knees, meditated and read Al-Anon literature every day. I called my sponsor at both prescribed and unscheduled times, and took her advice. I worked my steps as well and as diligently as I was able.

And I felt better.

So while my sponsor saw one big “no,” my insides felt like a giant “yes!”

It didn’t take long, maybe a few months, to feel real progress. I behaved differently. And people noticed.

And now, as a sponsor, I find that my sponsees who are doing best are the ones who are most willing.

When someone tells me they “aren’t there yet” or seem resistant for whatever reason, I tell them to pray for willingness.

I can’t control the pace of my recovery any more than I can control other people. But I can do the necessary groundwork. In my experience, the more I’m willing to do, the faster I’ll feel better.

In Al-Anon, there are no “shoulds” or “musts.” Willingness is the closest thing to a requirement in Al-Anon, and even that is optional.

Willingness isn’t something I can given anyone. All I can do is make suggestions, then “Let Go and Let God.”

There are many, many reasons we say "no" to recovery. At the end of the day, willingness comes down to making a choice. Do I want to remain stuck in the problem or do I want to live in the solution?

I know that if I do what I’ve always done, I’ll get what I’ve always gotten. I also know that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.

But I have to be willing to do the next right thing.

And that's entirely up to me.


  1. I printed your post out and will place it in my meditation book as I have learned, the hard way, that "willingness" is the key that unlocked the door to my recovery.

    I asked my sponsor how one finds willingness and she said to keep praying, keep coming back and keep working the program. I didn't listen and for the next seven years my son's addiction beat me into submission, into "willingness" and accepting Step One.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. For me gettting into al anon took finding the right meeting, there are so many to choose from in my area that it took several tries at different palces until i felt I could be at home there...Finally once I found the palce I knew it was a keeper and I began my process.

    Alanon is helpful if you are willing to give it a good go, but finding the right spot was key for me.

  3. Good one, and I particularly like your reminder that
    "pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional."
    I think it is good that you as a sponsor remember what you were feeling and how you were willing in your own way so that you can be a good sponsor.

  4. Just like the addict, we have to be ready and willing to put in the work for our own recovery, nobody can do it for us. At first I was very impatient about getting started on my steps and my recovery, just couldn't wait, filled with anticipation after years of resistance. Now, with the help of my sponsor, I know it will come to me just at the right time, God's time, not mine. Thanks:)

  5. thanks for the great share and thanks for your comment over on my side of the sphere. yeah, I'm in al-anon, but I haven't been in a while due to a few different circumstances. I am going to my weekly nar-anon which, while not exactly the same, is giving me a little bit of immunization to the world that I live in. I could use another meeting or two during the week, but I can't muster the courage to leave my son with strangers nor can I convince my family that I 'need' it, so I'm doing what I can.

    thanks for the heads up on the therapist thing, too.

  6. I was really willing and wanted what I saw many others had. I wish that each sponsee was like that. But I cannot make anyone do the deal.

  7. I want to live in the solution...the one thing I do like about AA/NA Alanon- etc.. is the numerous sayings that, although might sound trite, are very true. The best one I learned was HALT. I no longer make decisions if I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired. I am so happy that you have gotten to such a wonderful place in your life. Be blessed and be happy. You deserve it!

  8. Thank you Kathy for sharing. Taking in the info. Blessings.

  9. i definitely think we all have our own pace for learning and growing and getting involved in external programs for healing. trust can take time. and people feel resistance for all kinds of reasons. and i think the best thing to do is to continue to do what we can to work on ourselves in our own pace, and leave other people's paces to them.

  10. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. I love it. It is becoming my mantra. Thanks, Kathy M.!