Several years ago, my wife said to me, “I’d spend my last dime on travel” and I was dumbstruck. Certainly if I were down to my last dime I wouldn’t spend it on travel. Certainly I’d spend it on food, or better yet, beer. This was before I’d gone off the rails – in fact well before I’d gone off the rails. But that was my thought.
In the interceding years there were many times when my wife suggested we go somewhere — a long weekend, a trip over a school break — and I was adamant that we could not possibly do it. I always used money as the excuse. And money was a problem at times — it’s hard to find extra cash when you’re blowing more than a car payment on booze in a month.
If I’m honest though, the money wasn’t really the problem, it was simply that I wasn’t willing.
We talk about willingness in the rooms a lot. We tell people who have trouble with the higher power thing that they only need to be willing to believe. We tell people that they need to be willing to do the work. We talk about being willing to get vulnerable, willing to ask for help. And all those things are important, but what I needed most was a willingness to engage in and live life. I needed to become willing to do the things that I previously had no will to do.
It took time, but after a while I found myself willing to do things that I never imagined I’d be doing. Willing to go on camping trips with my son’s Cub Scout pack. Willing to take trips to NY and NC to visit my wife’s family. Willing to spend the money to take my family away for the week of my son’s spring break. (It certainly helps that I can better manage my finances now that I’m not drinking my cash each week.)
Since I got sober we have taken many trips as a family. We’ve been to Maine as a family and visited friends. We went to Bethel Park, New York for the Stevie Winwood and Steely Dan show. We’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard for vacation. We’ve went to Shenandoah over spring break last year and we’re in Asheville, NC for Spring Break this year. In years past, most of these trips simply would not have happened because I was not willing to do them.
There were many reasons why I wasn’t willing, but the biggest one was because I wasn’t willing to not drink the way I wanted to. I wasn’t willing to embrace this life and fully engage with my family.
When I look back on things it’s easy to get angry with myself. It’s easy to find fault. But the thing is, I wasn’t free. When men and women aren’t free, their choices are limited. And very often they can’t make the best choice simply because they don’t have the freedom. In some sense, freedom brought willingness to my life.
I’m glad to be free.