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How To Be Willing: The “Willingness Illusion”

March 23, 2020 9:48 pm - Published by

The mere idea that a person should believe that you have to be “willing” to get sober and stay sober is anathema to every concept of human behavior and human disease models we know. What it means in treatment is that you be a compliant patient and do what you’re told. That you give up your personal autonomy in medical decisions because the doctor knows best, the therapists knows best, the BHT with a recovery tattoo and a hope dealer T-shirt knows what’s best for you. Often, they do, often they don’t. That’s just the reality of the human condition.

My Experience: Not Willing

In other disease and illness I’ve had in my life, I’ve had doctors, nurses, and therapists give me great advice, and I’ve had the same people give me catastrophically deadly suggestions and perform catastrophically deadly procedures. I’ve had a neurosurgeon help me with severe back pain, only to have that same neurosurgeon almost kill me on the operating table.

I’ve been given medications that the side effects were worse than any benefit, only to have the doctor prescribe a higher dose. I’ve had highly-regarded medical professionals insist that I take oxycontin over less addicting medications, only to become hopelessly addicted to it. Then I’ve been blamed by the next doctor for taking it as prescribed. I’ve also sued doctors and hospitals for malpractice and gross negligence and won.

So, by definition: I am unwilling to accept anything a doctor says as fact, let alone what a soft science psychologist or therapist says as fact. What is state of the art or best practice in addiction science is currently hotly debated by the best practitioners and addictionologists in the country.

Why would anyone be willing to undergo procedures and therapies in addiction when there is so much controversy on their success or evidence of success? And even when we agree on a therapy or protocol or procedure, the long-term success rate is so low. It’s like picking the best low performing stock or picking the least worst restaurant.

My Thoughts on Willingness

Why would anyone willingly declare that they are an addict or alcoholic when our American society treats addicts and alcoholics as degenerate losers?

In essence, when we talk about “willingness” in treatment, we are saying to the client/patient/guest “first, declare yourself a degenerate loser as seen by the average American, then do whatever we tell you regardless of common sense or personal medical autonomy, because our way may work half the time for half the people and if it doesn’t work it’s because you didn’t do some mysteriously nebulous thing we told you to do that we read somewhere at some time.” Comforting.

What person in their right mind would sign up for that? And then we expect people on drugs and alcohol to sign up for it?

What We Should Say

So, why not unwind this mess and just simply tell people the truth? Why not be the breath of fresh air in treatment and tell people this:
“you have a deadly disease sir, and your case is bad. We can treat you; it will take time, many things will not make sense to you right now and may not ever, a lot of things we try may not work for you. We’re going to try many things; we’ll keep what works and get rid of the rest. The overall success rate is low as your addiction is a progressive and constantly mutating disease.
People are very complex and so is your strain of this disease. But we’re here to help you do the work that will make you successfully sober long term. In order for this to work and for you to get healthy and be happier, we suggest you do these things the people like you did who stayed sober a very long time do.”

How about we try to do the things people who have been successfully sober a long time do, instead of concentrating on problems without solutions or wasting your time and money on things that have a questionable result. The road ahead will be rough at times, but we’ll be with you through it all. You may fail and stumble, but we’ll be here to catch your fall. Is that a good plan?

For the record, I was never willing to get sober. I fought it tooth and nail. I am unwilling to do things I consider dumb or religious or dangerous or only offered to the desperate. I think most of what we believe works or doesn’t is total garbage and is not backed up by medical science, logic, reason, or testing. I am an atheist in a spiritual fellowship that says I must pray. I am wholly distrustful of recovery advocates, hope dealers, evangelical recovery people, 90% of doctors with credentials in addiction medicine, big book thumpers, anyone with a recovery podcast, recovery rappers, Facebook recovery experts, Ibogaine dealers, mean Old Timers, newcomers on fire, Kratom-Kava-lunatics, people who think total abstinence is right for everyone, and anyone that thinks methadone is healthy for anyone to be on long term.

I am also successfully sober for 10 years from consistently doing the work and trying to do the next right thing daily.

So, I say to you: If you want to be sober, forget willingness and the dogma of recovery you hear. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Question everything, investigate everything, find what will work for you right now and be open to trying new things later. You’ll find out what is true or not all on your own. You’ll find out what works or not all on your own.

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