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Willpower vs. Willingness

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When I was in the food, deep in my addiction, I believed I was a weak person. If I truly wanted to stop the binges and the pattern of self-hatred and self-destruction, then I should be able to muster the willpower to get myself out of the depths of despair. But it never really worked that way.

I would be “good” for a while, and then think I should be able to treat myself, but every treat ended in a binge, with me feeling swollen, nauseated, guilty, and remorseful. Ashamed and exhausted, I would try to figure out why my willpower had failed me again. I definitely wanted to stop this cycle. I wanted to be free.

I eventually discovered, much to my relief, that “willpower” and “willingness” are two different things. Willpower did not and could not give me the willingness to succeed; wanting to do something was not the same as being fully willing to do something. I hadn’t been willing to do anything necessary to get healthy. My bingeing behavior was comfortable. Change was uncomfortable.

My addiction is an addiction of the body and the mind. If I eat a trigger food or a binge food, my body has a physical reaction that causes it to crave more and more. Then I mentally obsess about that food to the point of insanity. No amount of willpower can prevent this reaction. No amount of willpower can stop me from bingeing. I lost (or never really had) the ability to choose whether I would binge; I was compelled by my addiction to continue the self-destructive behavior.

Once I let go of this concept of willpower and became willing to do anything necessary, my recovery truly began. When I became willing, I was able to admit I did not have all the answers. I became open to letting go of old behaviors, beliefs, and patterns that kept me inside my addiction. I became open to learning new strategies and a new way of living. I began to live life on life’s terms, rather than trying to control everything. I became willing to change.

Today I know I must put my recovery first. I have to avoid people, places, and things that will pull me back into active addiction. I have ended relationships, stopped going to certain places, and stopped eating certain foods. I have let go of the toxic and opened myself up to the healing. These steps are so important to my recovery.

Today I realize that I cannot moderate my binge foods. I will never be a normal eater. I am like an alcoholic, a drug addict. The smallest taste of my drug of choice will send me back into a tailspin of active addiction, mental obsession, physical pain, and utter destruction. Today all I ask of myself is that I be willing to maintain my abstinence from my addiction.

— Mary D.

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