08/14/2014 05:28 pm ET Updated May 29, 2015

The Power of Willingness

Most will agree that I've worked a solid program. Over the years it wasn't unusual for people to ask why I seemed so happy all the time. My standard reply was that I'd been to hundreds of meetings and I've taken the 12 steps to the best of my ability. I wasn't smug about it but I did believe that I'd done the work and deserved the joy. Then, almost out of the blue, I found myself unable to get out of bed, overwhelmed by recurring thoughts of suicide and sudden crying tangents for reasons I couldn't specify. Every morning when I opened my eyes, my first thought was, Not Again! I didn't want to wake up. I had no earthly reason to wake up. This went on for weeks and I thought it would never end.

One day, I stumbled upon a Dick Cavett column wherein he characterized his bouts with depression as akin to having access to a magic wand that would cure his affliction but finding it too much trouble to pick up. That, for me, said it all.

I knew I needed help but making an appointment, taking a shower, putting on clothes and going to a doctor would require days of planning and would be overwhelming in any case. Besides, I was already on an antidepressant, so what good was that going to do?

Then I remembered something my sponsor told me on the first day of my sobriety. He said I could pray for willingness. He said that being willing to go to meetings, to work the steps and so on, wasn't a matter of mustering the will power -- or worse, the discipline. He said that by praying for willingness I would find myself doing these things automatically and with very little effort on my part at all.

Still I was skeptical. Prayer!? That implied participation in some form of religion and I wasn't open to that. My sponsor saw the smirk on my face and started to laugh.

"Look," he said, "I don't know what God is and frankly I don't give a shit. All I know is it works. I don't have to know how power steering works to know it makes it easier to steer my truck. What have you got to lose? Why not give it a try?"

It was the greatest piece of advice I've ever received.

A year ago, confined to bed and at the mercy of the black dog of depression, I again "prayed for the willingness" to take action, whatever that was revealed to be.

The next thing I remember was being online where I learned that depression had nothing to do the quality of my program but was a chemical imbalance in the brain, something that modern medicine has made great strides in addressing in recent years. Next, I called my doctor's office, told them I was suicidally depressed and needed to be seen immediately. A few hours later, the doctor was telling me about a powerful new medication for people with my condition. Did I want to give it a try? Yes, I said, of course.

That night and for the first time in months, I slept soundly. I woke up refreshed and feeling alive again. Over a period of days, a sense of positivity returned along with my sense of humor. I found myself yearning to get moving again so I started walking, just a few blocks at first but in a couple of weeks I was up to five miles a day. Then I bought a used bicycle, which took me within range of a gym, which I joined. Today I'm actually working out on a regular basis -- something I'd have considered impossible a year ago.

Thankfully, I got through it and I'm 12 years sober today. Am I over the depression? I can't make that claim, not yet. When I forget to take my medication that black dog begins barking again somewhere in the distance. But I'm infinitely better than I was.

I'm grateful to live in an age where there's programs and medication for people like me. They're available to anyone who needs them. But you're not going to hear me suggest that you "get help." That implies an act of will -- something that's out of the question when in the throws of depression. Instead, I suggest that you "pray for willingness" to whatever you consider your higher power to be, because sometimes the only thing standing between you and sanity are your own pre-conceived notions.

See Dean's autobiography, Going Sane, the story of a deejay facing his top ten addictions. Follow him at