Willingness is a term that is as often abused in the treatment of addiction and alcoholism as substance are abused in their respective diseases. We assign willingness and a lack of willingness to persons entering treatment like cattle identification numbers or a categorization, preemptively deciding who is going to make it or not. Addiction is a chronic relapsing and remitting disease of the mind. Without the proper commitment to recovery, there is slim chance one will continue to stay sober. Is this a grim portrait to be painted? Absolutely. That is what abuse of the word willingness does.
What it means to be Willing
Scientific research in the fields of neuroscience, the study of neurobiology in the brain, has countlessly proven that addiction is not a disease of willingness. Nor is it an issue of immorality or even of choice. Are all of those things involved in the process of addiction? Most certainly. However, they are not independent and external occurrences residing in the makeup of one’s personality. Meaning to say that addiction is not a personality disorder. It is a brain disorder. Making moral choices, having motivation, and making informed choices are all functions of the brain.
Drugs, alcohol, and other harmful substances affect the brain. Especially when taken in large quantities, substances change the way the brain works. It starts with a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Responsible for communicating pleasure, dopamine is overproduced when substances enter the bloodstream. Eventually, after enough repeated exposure in higher and higher amounts, dopamine starts shifting significant processes in the brain. Various areas of the brain are influenced by substance abuse, not just the reward center of the brain impacted by dopamine. Areas that interpret the world and make informed decisions, areas that evaluate how we want to respond.
Interpreting and responding to the world are cognitive functions. Cognition is significantly damaged by addiction. When a person acts unwilling or is criticized for lacking willingness, they are cognitively struggling to understand recovery. Spiritual concepts, therapeutic concepts, and emotional concepts can be incredibly difficult to grasp when there is real brain damage present. However, there is a catch. Willingness is always present. Willingness is always autonomous. Willingness simply takes time.
Aurora Recovery Center is willing to go the extra mile to help you recover from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our treatment programs are customized to the individual needs of each patient. We’re ready to work with you. Call 1-844-515-STOP for more information.