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Addictions Anonymous, 20: Asking For Help

 article about asking for help

This article belongs to Addictions Anonymous column.

Humbly asked the help of others in the removal of our short comings and be resolved to work to remove these faults ourselves.

The first versions of this step talked about the removal of character defects, but often the removal service doesn't show up and the addict has to do the work. So, the version above places some responsibility on the group and ultimate responsibly on the addict. As far as I know, mystical higher powers do not cause addictions, remove defects or change character, so the use of God is a personal decision and is not suggested in this revised step.

 article about asking for help
Over and over, I hear recovering addicts say, "You can't do it alone." I think that's true for any firmly entrenched addiction, so you really have to give up some of your psychological privacy and - at least within a group or in therapy - open some doors and windows to let other see what's going in inside your head. Out there on the street you can be as private as you like as long as you always try to practice your character assets and never revert to living a lie. Explaining yourself to everyone in your life would probably only make you unpopular, expose you to controversy and serve no useful purpose.

Good work toward self-development can go on in a twelve step group where you can tell your story and ask for suggestions. And this reminds me to say that you will learn very little if all you hear is sympathy and praise. When you find people who will express a bit of constructive criticism or who disagree with you on important issues, listen carefully before you make a judgment. It takes patience and practice to be able to listen calmly to criticism, but this very important. Personally, I like it when people agree with me, but I learn very little from them. I learn from reasonable opposition and get new ideas that at first may seem strange.

If you seek out a professional counselor, that person may have excellent insight and advice. Toward the end of Part Three of this book I have included a chapter in finding a good therapist. Be a good shopper if you want mental health counseling, and find a counselor who works with addictions and is sympathetic to twelve step programs or at least to personality development.

Family, friends and business acquaintances can often give you good feedback even it they don't know what you talk about in group meetings. People who see you in action day after day can be helpful if you listen. It is good to be alert to learn how your behavior affects others even it it's not something that you need to change. We can't please everyone, but we can learn from most.

It is a group of fellow addicts, called a peer group, where you can get the best comments and suggestions. Once they know you they may see you far more accurately than you see yourself. It is not uncommon for a group to disagree on your particular character defects that need work. You can find a peer group in a step meeting and sometimes in group therapy, but therapy often is time limited.

Step Seven tells you to ask humbly. So, you don't demand help or challenge people to try to help. Asking for help is not humiliating, and to be humble is not to feel humiliated. Humble means to be ready to listen, ready to be grateful that others care enough to offer suggestions and advice. Arrogance is a big part of addiction, and humbleness is a big part of recovery and normal living.

The kind of help you are offered, of course, will be determined by who you ask for help. A psychiatrist will often suggest drugs such as anti-depressants. A psychologist is likely to administer tests and then want you to talk during therapy sessions, but he or she may give very little specific advice. A chiropractor may suggest spinal alignment. An herbalist will offer an array of vitamins and diet supplements. A medium or psychic will consult the stars while an acupuncturist will see the point, I'm sure. If you see a therapist it must be someone with experience and concern for addicts of all sorts. Only in a self-help group will you find active peers who can join you in searching for recovery. It doesn't even have to be a twelve step group as long as it concentrates on (1) addiction and (2) personality development.

One final and most important point: when you let others help you, you help them. They want to feel valuable, that they are carrying the message as suggested in Step Twelve. And this, perhaps, is the most important thing to gain from group membership. If you persistently ignore or argue with what you are told in group, the group may give up and stop trying, and then there you are all alone again.

- What is the difference between whining about problems and asking for help with problems?

- If you feel offended or angry when someone offers a comment, what is the best way to deal with those feelings?

- When it is your turn to help others, what do you sound like? Do you sound like a friend or like a preacher, parent or dictator?

- How would you handle your feelings when someone rejects or argues with advice you offer?

- Keeping your list of character defects in mind, can you offer help and advice to others without letting these defects intrude on your comments? Can you free yourself from your own feelings to make calm and helpful suggestions?

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