This I Believe

Dharmashanti - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on March 22, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: change
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in willingness rather than willpower as the key to a blissful life.

I have always had a strong will. As a child, I gave my parents fits because I had my own way of doing things and wouldn’t let anyone deter me once I set my mind to something. In my early 20s, I hiked hundreds of miles solo on the Appalachian Trail, staring down blisters, dehydration, sweltering temperatures and the general aches of hauling 40 pounds of gear over one heart-pounding mountain after another.

But my fierce willpower was no match for my addictions. By my late 20’s, I was enslaved to alcohol, anonymous sex, and suicide-inducing relationships. I tried countless times to stop or at least curb my self-destruction. I would swear never to drink or use or sleep with a stranger again. But before I realized what I was doing, I was back in the euphoric hell that is addiction. I wouldn’t even see it coming. My willpower sat in the back of my mind, collecting dust, useless against this adversary.

Then early one July morning, I found myself in the emergency room at Phoenix Baptist Hospital having my stomach pumped and being forced to drink what I can only describe as a charcoal milkshake. The night before I had intentionally ingested three dozen aspirin and had chased it down with a half bottle of Irish whiskey. I had given up trying to fight this disease. I just wanted it to be over.

But during the eight hours that I lay on that emergency room bed, a change occurred. I became willing to see things differently. I became willing to admit I had a problem. I still had no idea what the problem was, but I was at least willing to acknowledge that my life was out of control, and that my stubborn way of “fixing” things was worthless.

I became willing to do whatever it took to find a solution to this mysterious problem. I became willing to go to as many AA and Al-Anon meetings as it took to stop using. It was willingness and not willpower that opened the door to my recovery.

Willingness showed me a power greater than myself and greater than my addictions. It opened up the truth of my dysfunctional history and attitudes. Willingness led me to make amends to those I had harmed. And in 1999, I even became willing to donate a kidney to a stranger, making me one of the first persons in the country to do so.

It has been almost 11 years since that morning at Phoenix Baptist Hospital. And every morning, I renew my willingness to see things differently and to let go of everything that isn’t love. Willpower is just a distant memory. Today it is willingness that sustains me and allows me to live a blissful life.