Most people do not like to ask for help.
If you look at the pool of recovering alcoholics and addicts, this seems to be even more true than the general population. There is some sort of pride issue going on when it comes to asking for help. We just don’t want to do it. We don’t want to appear weak. We don’t want to appear stupid.
Alcoholics do not like asking for help.
And yet that is exactly what needs to happen in order for recovery to occur.
Why you can’t do it alone
The alcoholic has typically struggled for years or even decades to “do it alone.”
What they are doing is trying to fix their own problem. They realize at some point that what everyone has been telling them all along is probably true (that they have a drinking or drug problem). So they attempt to take action and fix the problem. Of course they “love their drug of choice” so they are not just going to give it up without a fight. They want the best of both worlds.
And who wouldn’t? I am not saying that this is bad, or that it is wrong. It is human nature. We have our drug of choice and it seems (at the time) to be working well for us. Our drug does what we ask of it. It medicates our emotions and our feelings. It eases our pain when we ask it to. Our drug of choice becomes our best friend in life. No one just wants to voluntarily give that up. That would not make sense. It is human nature to hang on to your companion, your friend, your crutch.
No, the alcoholic or drug addict who is struggling with addiction is not going to be eager to give up their drug of choice. They will want to find the solution that satisfies the best of both worlds. Somehow keep using their drug of choice while also minimizing or eliminating the negative consequences. They may seek to moderate. Or they might try to cut down a bit. Or they might try to change their behavior so that the consequences are not as damaging to others (isolation).
This is what alcoholics and drug addicts do. They realize at some point that their addiction is a serious problem, and then they try to devise a way to hang on to that addiction. It is like they get this kung fu grip on their drug of choice and say to themselves: “I will do anything that is necessary in order to keep using my drug of choice and also straighten out my life at the same time. But I am not giving up my drug!”
And this is how the alcoholic gets trapped in a cycle. They try to fix their own problem and nothing is ever going to work. Or at least, no solution that depends on moderating is going to be useful to them, because the nature of the disease is that you cannot successfully moderate. The drink or drug takes over and you lose all control. Moderation might work in the short run, but in the long run you eventually lose control. This is where the saying comes from: “the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.” Alcohol and addictive drugs have a mind of their own. They control you once you pass a certain point. And for the struggling alcoholic, that point is one single drink! Put just one drink or drug in your body and you awaken the sleeping giant. That is why moderation fails.
But this is also a gift because it shows a clear path to success. Total abstinence from all mood and mind altering substances gives you a foundation on which you can build a new life. The problem is that the alcoholic or addict hears the idea of “total abstinence” and it crushes them from the inside out. They cannot even bare the thought of going without any form of self medicating. This is because they are hopelessly addicted and they don’t know any other way to live! They believe that they will be miserable if they are totally sober.
And the truth is that they will be miserable for a very short period of time.
But it will pass.
And it will pass quickly.
Go to rehab and you will find yourself laughing. Go check into a 28 day program and go through detox and I can assure you that before you check out you will have laughed, enjoyed yourself in some way, and got just a little bit closer to having “real fun.”
Stick it out for six months and you will actually have a day where you don’t even think about using drugs or alcohol. Does that sound like a fantasy? Do you consider that to be impossible? I sure did when someone told me that I could lose the obsession over drugs and alcohol. But then I took the plunge and went to rehab and somewhere before I hit six months sober I had witnessed this miracle. This miracle where I had somehow lost the obsession over drugs and booze. It was amazing.
I could not figure this out for myself. I had to have help in order to reach that point. I whole lot of help.
So my suggestion to you is that if you are struggling with addiction, you need to ASK FOR HELP.
I know it is hard. But this is the best path forward.
What it means to ask for help from others in recovery
One thing that the struggling alcoholic needs to learn is how to reach the point of surrender and ask for help.
Obviously you can’t just ask for help in the middle of your addiction and expect it to work a miracle.
It is all about timing.
The key is that you must first break through your denial.
You must surrender.
You must first surrender fully to the fact that you can no longer drink successfully.
This is necessary because if you do not surrender first then you will just spin your wheels in recovery.
I did this twice. I know other alcoholics who have done it as many as 20 times or more.
What am I talking about?
You ask for help but you fail to surrender fully. So you go through the motions of getting sober, but then you relapse.
Why did you relapse?
Simple. You did not surrender fully to your disease.
The key is in the depth of your commitment. And this will be based entirely on surrender.
If you surrender fully to the disease, if you surrender to the fact that drinking is no longer fun for you, if you surrender to the fact that you need serious help in order to change your life, then there is a chance that you can recover.
Some people who ask for help have not surrendered. They just want a break in some cases. They are sick and tired but they are not really ready to put it all on the line and do whatever it takes to make the really hard changes.
So someone might agree to go to rehab, but still not be in this state of total and complete surrender. Actually, it happens all the time. I should know, I went to three rehabs. Obviously I was not in a state of total surrender the first two times! The third time I went to rehab I was in a state of total and complete surrender though. And therefore I remained sober. Not because it was a better treatment center, but because I WAS READY. If you are not in a state of total and complete surrender then you are not ready to get sober.
So then, how do you know? How do you know when you have surrendered fully?
Because you will give up. You will stop caring. You won’t care about yourself or others any more. Everything will slide away from you. Suddenly you will realize this overwhelming burden of being sick and tired of it all and you just won’t care anymore. All of that energy that you used to summon to go chase the next drink or drug will be gone. It will fade away. And all of the fear and anxiety that you used to feel about sobriety and recovery will be gone as well. Those walls will come down. You will not be afraid of rehab or detox or AA meetings any more. You will simply accept them and be willing to accept whatever help that may be offered.
You will be saying: “I am sick and tired and I don’t know how to live anymore. I don’t know how to be happy. Please show me.”
And you won’t really care much about the outcomes. All of the caring will have been smashed out of you by now. This is rock bottom, this is real surrender. It is a moment of relief but it is also somewhat negative.
In fact it is a wonderful moment but it probably won’t feel that way at the time. You will look back one day and realize that it was the critical moment that led to your lifelong sobriety.
How to ask for help and then follow through on advice
So the complete guide to getting sober can be summarized as follows:
1) Break through denial.
3) Ask for help.
4) Massive action.
Notice that there is a whole lot of preparation in there.
Really, the last step, “massive action,” that is where all the recovery really happens, right? When you take massive action you go to rehab, you go to AA meetings, you go see a therapist, you take action every day to change your life. This is where all the magic happens. This is real recovery.
So what are the other 3 steps in there for? Why do we need those at all?
Because the amount of action that you need to take is massive. This changes everything. It is not a little commitment. Recovery from addiction is not a little project. It is not trivial. The effort required is truly massive.
I don’t know about other people, but getting clean and sober was definitely the most difficult and ambitious thing I had ever done in my entire life. Ever.
So that requires a bit of prep work. You can’t just make a casual effort and expect for sobriety to work out for you.
Heck, we have tried that, right? When the struggling alcoholic first realized that they might have a hint of a problem and they tried to cut back or moderate or fix it on their own. We tried, remember? We tried to fix our alcoholism. We tried to simply skip to that last step, the “taking action” step, and thus heal our own problem. It didn’t work.
And that is because we skipped the necessary prep work.
Denial is what keeps us stuck. When we make an attempt to cut back or to moderate, it always fails because “the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.” One drink is too many and a thousand is never enough. Once we take that first drink or drug it is “off to the races.”
Our denial tells us many lies. One of those lies is that we can be happy with a moderate buzz rather than getting hammered all the time. This is a lie. No alcoholic is ever happy with a moderate buzz in the long run.
Oh sure, you can probably remember an instance when you were pleasantly buzzed, not totally out of control yet but just happy, and the world was perfect. Every alcoholic can remember those moments. The good times. We all have those memories. This is how your denial works. Your brain focuses on those good times that were controlled and tries to convince you that you can replicate that. Your brain is trying to convince you that you could have that magic moment every single day. Every day.
Do you realize how ridiculous that is? Alcoholics who drink every day become miserable. They don’t moderate nicely and enjoy themselves.
There are two choices for the addict or alcoholic: You can enjoy your drink or drug intake, or you can control it. Choose one. You cannot have both. If you enjoy it, you lose control (eventually, not every time). If you control your drug intake, then you will not be enjoying yourself. Instead you have to pay attention to your consumption. Not fun.
The struggling alcoholic needs a way out of this cycle of madness.
They have tried to cut down. To moderate. To figure it out on their own. Nothing has worked.
They need help.
The only way to really ask for help is to throw up your hands and ask for help. Really surrender and ask for help. You have to be genuine. “Show me how to live.” This is how you ask for help.
Sure there are details to be worked out.
Those details do not really matter. They will take care of themselves once you reach the point of total and complete surrender.
Call a rehab center. Go to an AA meeting with a friend. See a counselor or therapist and ask them to get you into treatment. Tell friends and family that you trust that you need professional help. Keep doing these things until you get the help that you need.
These details are not as important as you think. There are different paths to sobriety but there is only one way for a person to surrender. You have to get the surrender part straight in your mind before you can succeed in sobriety.
The miracle that happens when you get out of your own way
I did an experiment when I finally surrendered.
I basically decided that my own ideas were total crap. I admitted that I did not know how to live. I admitted that I did not know how to make myself happy.
These were difficult things for me to admit to myself. I would like to believe that I know how to make my own self happy. But I didn’t. I was miserable.
So here was my experiment. I was in rehab, I had asked for help. And I decided to continue on with this theme. I would continue to ask for advice from other people.
And at the same time, I would ignore my own ideas about how to be happy. Because those ideas had failed me over and over again. So I was going to ignore my own ego.
I would take advice from others. I would take their suggestions. I would take action based on those suggestions. And I would ignore my own ideas.
This was my experiment, and to be honest I thought that it would fail. I thought that I would be even more miserable.
I did this during my first few weeks in sobriety.
Of course you can guess what happened. It was like a miracle. I was shocked to see that my life started getting better and better. And I was becoming happy. Without using drugs or alcohol. It was working.
I had to admit that recovery was working. I was becoming happier. Through no real effort of my own, because I was no longer “in control” of my own happiness. I had given up the reigns so to speak. I had conquered my ego and I was listening to others instead.
I really believe that this is the essence of what the 12 steps do when you first get into AA. The idea is to “turn your will and your life over” to something else. Anything else. The higher power, the direction of the group, to a sponsor, it doesn’t matter. So long as you get out of your own way, good things start to happen. Of course you must remain abstinent at this time for it to work out. But then it is a simple matter of taking directions. Following through. Positive action.
And they talk about “taking your will back” and screwing everything up. This generally leads to relapse. So we have to find a way that allows us to keep our ego in check. By listening to others, by taking suggestions, by following directions. These are simple and humble ideas that lead to real happiness.
Now here is the kicker:
I could never convince you with words that this is true. I can never convince you that you will become happy if you just get out of your own way and follow directions from other people. That is not something I could convince you of, because no one could convince me that this was true.
I just had to do it.
I had to take the leap of faith.
I had to start living it.
I had to ask for help and then follow directions for a few months. I had to check my ego and leave it outside for a while. I had to get humble and take some suggestions.
I had to realize that I no longer knew the secret to being happy. And therefore I was able to become teachable. And in doing so I found happiness again.
So I am telling you these things but I know that you either:
A) Already know them, or
B) Don’t really believe them!
But that is what happens when you reach the point of true surrender. You no longer care if it is true or not. You abandon all hope and decide to roll the dice anyway. You make a leap of faith and go to rehab, go to AA meetings, and see if it might actually make a difference this time.
This is how you ask for help. You reach bottom, then you stop caring (ego death), then you start following directions.
It is a little like being in the first grade again. Follow directions and things will get better. That is not meant to be insulting. Kill your ego and start following simple directions. Your life will get better.
What about you, have you been able to ask for help and turn your life around? How has that worked out in your life? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!