Willingness is one of the keys to my sobriety. In early recovery as much as today, I must maintain an open mind and a willingness to learn something new. Whether it is accepting a Higher Power into my life, letting character defects go, getting a sponsor, or listening to the experience of others, willingness is an essential quality of my spiritual growth.
When I was newly sober, willingness was one of the qualities that saved my life. Although I did not immediately want quality sobriety at first, I was willing to go to treatment. I did not see it as willingness at the time, but I had enough of an openness to consider an alternative to the way I was living. Unfortunately, the only reason I had this amount of willingness was because of where I was emotionally; I had become emotionally exhausted, confused, and completely afraid of life.
Attending twelve-step meetings, I had the slightest amount of willingness, and was able to listen to speakers and fellows share their experiences. With the little amount of willingness I did have, I heard enough to help me grow. I did not have the most open mind, nor the most willingness in the room, but I was reminded that I only needed a little to begin.
I heard repeatedly to get a sponsor, even if it was a temporary sponsor. I heard I needed to work the steps, help others, get commitments, and go to a meeting every day. All the cliche pieces of advice for newcomers, I took in. I had enough willingness to get a sponsor on my fourth day of sobriety. He told me he would be my sponsor one day at a time until I found a new one, and that I should call him the next day so we could start working together. With over 30 years of sobriety, I had enough willingness to believe in what this man was telling me. He is still my sponsor today, and we have grown extremely close over the past several years.
Being a newcomer, willingness is not an easy quality to come in contact with always. My ego was in the way, telling me that I could do it differently. Spending my whole life “knowing everything, always,” it was a dramatic shift to have it brought to my attention that I needed help. However, my sponsor asked me in my first 30 days one simple question, “Are you willing to just entertain the idea that maybe there is a different way for you to interact with life?” My answer was that I was, and this was and still is a great reminder to remain open-minded and willing.
Willingness also takes a crucial role in the development of my relationship with my Higher Power. When my perception of a Higher Power first began to develop, I had to have willingness to even consider the possibility of it. Raised in a Jewish family, I attended a Catholic high school before moving to rural Costa Rica, where Roman Catholicism was by far the most popular religion amongst the community. My religious views were cloudy at best, and I bashed any form of a “god” as weak, ignorant, and irresponsible. Not truly an atheist, I acted like one as a defense mechanism.
When I began attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was completely put off by the talk of a Higher Power or of God. However, I had the willingness to stay, and ignore what I did not need. As time went on, my willingness spread to this aspect of my recovery, and I considered the presence of a power greater than myself in my life. As many people getting sober, the rooms and meetings were my first sense of a Higher Power. I thought of love, the energy in the room, or of compassion as my god. It took a growth in willingness for me to even accept any of these into my life.
As my growth continued, I began praying and meditating as suggested by the program and my sponsor. Willingness was one of the most frequent things I prayed for (and continue to pray for). My relationship with the world grows with my willingness. As I have maintained an open mind with my faith, my sense of a power greater than myself has greatly changed. With willingness, I become open to change and do not get attached to one idea of a god that I have set in my mind.
As the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions says on page 34, ”There is only one key, and it is called willingness.”