I believe it is our choices and not willpower that moves us past addictions, toxic relationships, or any other self-destructive behavior. Willpower – the ability to control oneself or one’s thoughts – certainly plays a part. But alone, willpower is only a temporary solution. Choice – the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities – is the workhorse of true change and growth.
Notice the word “act” in the definition of choice. Acting is what gives you power. You can have an ability (like willpower, for example) that you do not ACT upon. What good does it do you then? I’ll tell you: NONE. Utilizing choices – acting upon them – moves you from point A to point B faster than anything else.
I used to drink. A LOT. Almost every day and usually to the point of drunkenness. It was disgusting and toxic and a way to hide and to have a companion and all the other fucked up things that come from gulping down pain. I have willpower. Ask me about giving birth with no drugs to a 9-pound baby sometime. I know what willpower is about. But it wasn’t until I made the CHOICE to stop drinking that things came into focus for me. I have gotten up every day for four and a half years and CHOSEN to drink beverages other than alcohol. I CHOSE to let people know I was done drinking. Maybe willpower played a part in those early days. It probably did.
What I CHOSE to do next had nothing to do with willpower. I chose to feel my pain. I chose to look it right in its big, dark, scary eye and face it. It sucked. It fucking HURT. It broke me wide open and showed me I knew nothing. I had walked around in my alcohol armor, swallowing that pain for so long, I didn’t even realize it was eating me alive. But there it was – demanding to felt and experienced fully. There’s nothing quite so humbling as realizing you’ve been total asshole.
So now what? Do you think it was willpower that kept me going? I don’t. I chose to own my crap. I chose to get up every day and not drink alcohol THAT DAY. I chose to make a ton of apologies to people my drinking had affected. I chose to figure out how to make some pretty delicious mocktails because changing an unhealthy habit usually requires replacing it with a healthier option. I chose to tell everyone I knew that I’d stopped drinking and asked for their support. I chose to seek counseling and work through some heavy shit. THAT was super-fun (she said with her tongue in her cheek).
I got to the point I felt better without alcohol. I lost weight. I slept better. I made better choices. Overall, it has not been a loss, and I do not miss it. I have replaced that habit with a great enjoyment of coffee (which my daughter reminds me on the regular is a drug too), but even that “addiction” is a choice I make each day. And I know if I decide to, I can choose to switch to green tea or herbal tea or tea made of the tears of my enemies.
And it won’t be my willpower that takes me there.