There is an Aesop’s fable that is so resonant and relevant to recovery that I am compelled to share it and describe its significance. Now, people are always wondering how they know their loved one is ready change. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there are no hard and fast indications that signify readiness. However, The Robin and the Farmer provides insight that is quite useful.

The fable (in my words): There was a family of robins nesting in a Farmer’s corn field. The field had grown unruly and one day the Farmer realized that he need to harvest the corn and clean up the field. “It’s time to reap the field, I’d better get the word out to my friends so that they can help.”

One of the young robins overheard the farmer and became worried that they would soon have to move their nest. The young robin’s mother said, “Don’t worry, a man who looks to his friends for help will take his time about a thing. We don’t have to hurry to move.”

After another weeks or so, corn kernels began to over-ripen and fall to the ground. Upon seeing this, the Farmer realized that he could no longer await his friends for help with the harvest. “I can no longer wait, I will begin to harvest the corn and hire a crew of men to help me, right now.”

When she heard the Farmer, the Mother Robin said to her brood, “Come my children, we must leave at once, for the Farmer has stopped talking of his friend and has now taken matters into his own hand.”

When someone is simply toying with the idea of recovering from his or her Addiction, he or she will probably say things similar to what the Farmer did. The not-ready addict may say, “Once I get insurance, I’ll do to rehab,” or “if my husband can stay with me for a week, I’ll detox,” or, “If someone can help me find a rehab center, I’ll try to go.” However, in my experience, when someone is looking for external means to accomplish his or her goals, it shows that he or she can remain passive and not actively pursuing that which he or she claims to seek. Like the Farmer, as they await external “help,” people who wait on others for things, especially a not-ready addict, can remain in the status quo and not have to move forward.

However, when someone acts on his or her own behalf and initiates behaviors towards recovery, without relying on anyone else, then those self-initiated behaviors are pretty good evidence that the person is “ready” for recovery. Therefore, if you’re wondering if someone is “ready” to change, remember the Robin and the Farmer and measure that fable against the person’s actions.