Dictionary definitions of the word willingness include being “cheerfully or eagerly compliant,” or point to something being “done, given freely or voluntarily.” How many people run to recovery, cheerfully and eagerly?
Usually, it’s more like, “Okay, I’m here, just don’t ask me to actually change – yet.” Willingness is something people have to journal their way to, or pray their way to, or talk their way to in therapy and 12-step meetings.
Yet people who arrive at the door of those rooms have already shown willingness, just to show up, go along with an intervention, or maybe abide with a court order. With time, support, and distance from your self-harming food behaviors, you will find more patience and willingness to be open to the process of recovery.
It takes a village to recover from an eating disorder. It’s important to realize you’re not alone, that there are always people to help. Either trained experts or other people who have gone through what you’re going through. Sometimes it’s only another food addict who can deliver the right message in the right way at the right time.
The opposite of willingness is willfulness, or resisting change and growth for the purpose of hanging onto to what’s safe and familiar – even if that is a place of disorder. It may be uncomfortable or painful but at least you know what to expect.
Resistance has its own rewards. Staying sick may warrant attention from others; you get to be a martyr or a victim, and you never have to risk failing if you’re not trying to get better.
What does it take to become willing, to go from resistance to willingness? In 12-step programs they call it the “gift of desperation” – when you’ve hit bottom and things are as bad as you can possibly imagine. The good news is you don’t necessarily have to get to a low bottom. You can learn from listening to other people’s experiences.
Whether it’s the agony of your own reality, or fear of other people’s stories about where you might be headed, that place of desperation is sometimes where you’ll be most open to constructive change.
In eating disorder recovery willingness shows up in many ways. Small changes here and there – maybe meditate during your lunch break, or clear out some of your ill-fitting clothes and wear something more fitted. Or you commit to following a food plan – without exception – and work with your therapist or sponsor to deal with any triggers that might challenge you.
As I said earlier, simply entering into the therapy and recovery process takes a big dose of willingness. The rest will come in time.