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.