What Does Willingness Have To Do With Recovery?

Treatment is like a reboot, a reset so focus and growth set roots to change.

Pamela J. Nikodem, M.S.Ed Apr 24 · 6 min read Published on Medium


The space between two powerful words, wanting and willingness, is like a light beam, a fine balance between acceptance and action. Without a willingness to engage in effective methods to reduce cravings, negative effects, and anxiety, individuals in recovery will falter. Wanting is like wishing without a pebble to toss into the fountain of hopes and dreams.

Treatment is like a reboot, a reset so focus and growth set roots to change. For the tools to work, you have to be willing to implement them in good times as well as in tough times. The more you practice when life is easy or safe, the easier it is for your brain to recall them and put them to use when life is challenging. The willingness to embrace tools as a lifelong endeavor creates a toolbox of refuge. Your brain will remember when you need the ideas the most.


Once you stand before the fountain, you realize how much you want to throw in the pebble, and alas, you are standing empty-handed. Even if someone offers you a coin or a token to toss into the bubbling water, the coin lands to the bottom without any return.


To believe and to achieve recovery, one has to heal from the inside. The inside doesn’t heal by itself. Wanting to heal isn’t the same as adding nutrients into the body or feeding oneself with nutritious foods to maintain health.

Like the automatic recall the brain uses to remember memories, both good and bad, it also remembers when you used substances or activities, the reward aspect, and will resort to the quickest way possible to get the desired ‘survival effect.’ The brain doesn’t care if the substance or activity is deadly to a life of recovery. It searches in seconds, even milliseconds, to find the most recent experience in the memory banks, connects them to the hijacked amygdala and you are off to the races.

We use the same automatic recall to stop the cycle of addiction by practicing new ways to cope. The tools you learn in treatment are practiced often. The more you practice them, the more automatic they become, and the stronger your brain’s search for a healthy alternative to comfort and courage in recovery.

Gabor Maté shares a definition of addiction which continues to ring true. In his book, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, he states,“Addiction is any repeated behavior, substance-related or not, in which a person feels compelled to persist regardless of its negative impact to his life and the lives of others.”

Our addictions attach themselves to our innermost person. They become the all-focused directive of life. Relationships fade away, but addiction sticks. When we want to change, we have to be willing to let go of the things which destroyed us, our relationships and our careers, and grab onto the tools to help us move away from addiction and toward a life of sobriety from all addictive behaviors.

Instead of complaining about the nagging cravings and blaming use on triggers by people, places, or things, check out the underlying motive. Were you willing to step away from any of the relationships, places, and items which kept you tied to your addiction?

We can trace our steps and find out where we slipped way before the actual activity of using. Our brains are quicker than we think, and they definitely have to be trained in a newfound focus. The willingness to embrace tools as a lifelong endeavor creates a toolbox of refuge.

You can do this if you are willing to open the door, step through, and ask for help. And then, you have to be willing to take the want-to-change spirit and move toward recovery every single day like the holiday shopping catalog where you found the bike.

~Just a thought by Pamela


Thank you for pausing and reading.

About Me: Pamela J. Nikodem, M.S.Ed. immersed herself in studies surrounding relationships, domestic violence, and trauma. Her focus is to guide men and women into a place of peaceful assertiveness. ©2020

Photo by Unsplash, 2020

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