by John W.

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Except for those unfortunately rare moments when, after drinking “just the one,” I would decide not to drive somewhere and instead call a cab, I seemed always ready, willing and able to agree to have a drink. To say “OK, just one more,” or “Make it a short one.” Sadly, I was absolutely unwilling to hear any negative comments about there being anything wrong with the way I drank. Arrests, DUIs and my history of blackouts were in my view not an accurate reflection of the real me. I was unwilling to hear any suggestions I needed to do something about my drinking from cops, judges, therapists, my wife or our children.

Never have another drink? You have got to be joking.

The concept of willingness was a mental one which had great impact on my physical response. I physically was powerless over alcohol. I could not stop drinking. All those I loved were being affected. I was in denial about consequences and that wreckage was driving me to the edge of the abyss – the heat from hell was scorching my face. These were my wings of victory which carried me to A.A.’s doorstep, again. This last time it was for real, even though I did not yet fully appreciate the life and death I was confronting. When I opened the door to enter the Log Cabin for that 7:00 a.m. meeting, I was indeed willing. How that seed was to sprout into the principle of willingness was the miracle that awaited me, though my eyes were yet too blind to see it, my mind yet too dead set against it and my heart was yet still too frozen in numbness to embrace it. Never have another drink for the rest of my life? You have got to be joking.

Thankfully for me, in the life-saving fashion to which any sober A.A. can attest, the attractive warmth of that principle of willingness began to defrost my frozen spirit. I do not believe it did so because of anything I was doing, except attending meetings daily, since I continued to drink. Yet undaunted by the difficulty of its task and plied by the honesty of the A.A.s I met at those meetings, willingness began to creep into my waking consciousness. The more I attended meetings, even though I continued to drink and to avoid that fact by refusing to announce myself as a newcomer, the more I began to see those who had what I wanted. When willingness to be truthful about my drinking hit me physically and I spoke that embarrassing, damning and freeing truth, I started to change from that guy who had only been willing to come in through the door.

When I spoke that embarrassing, damning and freeing truth, I started to change

With this beachhead of willingness firmly established, I made the mental advance to be prepared to get a sponsor. All the smart guys and gals had one, swore by theirs, and confirmed they were indispensable. One or two even confided in me that a sponsor could be helpful despite my then-stated opinion that I was different, I really didn’t need a sponsor, I had the Big Book, I could read it, and I would get this program just fine by myself, thank you. How the principle of willingness overcame these pillboxes of arrogance, pride and stupidity only Steps 4 and 5 revealed.

photo captions available upon request to [email protected]

I had then reached the moment where taking this book down from our shelf, I reflected upon my status in this phase of development, to assess if I was truly being painstaking (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 75). Only upon reflection do I see now where physically putting my hand on the Big Book to take Step 6 finally melted my frozen soul and allowed the principle of willingness free and unfettered access to it.

While my spirit healed, it would be false to assert the door of willingness has not swung shut even once since then. But my soul has heard I am not to be discouraged as I seek spiritual progress, not perfection. So I am willing to be guided by this principle. I am willing to accept it as the tool to open the door to my daily reprieve, to my survival. As this sober day dawns I am grateful for the reality it shines on. The arch I am building to walk through is right there in front of me with each new day. My task is a plain and simple one: I need be willing to take my first step to start my sober journey today.

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