One of the biggest obstacles in the life of a person with substance use disorder is asking for help. Ironic, isn’t it? We are often the people who are the most desperate to receive help and who need it so much, but something in the way we see the world prevents us from making ourselves vulnerable. There’s fear, shame, pride, worry, denial… all kinds of reasons why it seems impossible to break out of the cycle of self-destruction.
Fear – I will be rejected and humiliated.
Shame – I should be able to help myself!
Pride – I don’t need anybody else.
Worry – What if I get help and I screw up again?
Denial – I’m fine, I don’t need help!
Paradoxically, as I’ve mentioned in the past, asking for help is an act of great courage. But it takes some cognitive re-framing of how we see help – not as something that injures our pride, for example, but rather as a way for us to get better and therefore allow those around us get better. Because this is the crux of getting better as an addict – it’s not just you! It’s never just YOU. It’s everyone around you. Your loved ones, strangers affected by your addiction (the police, the doctors, social workers, etc.), your community. No person with addiction is alone no matter how isolated and isolating in his condition. So one way to see receiving help is seeing it as if the help received was given to all those people around us as well. When you ask for help, you’re asking for help for your child or your spouse as well. And, if you think about it even more abstractly, you’re asking for help for others like you that you yourself will one day be able to support.
It’s a beautiful cycle. Nothing brings me more joy in my journey of sobriety than the ability to be there for others. As someone in throes of my addiction, I wasn’t of much use to people who loved me (or to strangers). Sure, I was a father and a husband and provided and kept my family, but I was never really there – I always checked out even when sitting at the dinner table, pretending to be human for a few hours. All I wanted was to be on my own with my addiction. I didn’t want to be in my reality, I didn’t want to be in my own skin.
Once I received and accepted help, that’s when I started to get better. And once I started to get better, the people around me started to get better too. And it all blossomed. And it keeps blossoming. It’s a huge gift to be able to be in a position where I am able to not only provide for those I love but to also be present for them and to live with them in reality.
I don’t know you, reader, and I don’t know what your struggles are but I can tell you with certainty that once you accept that you have a problem and once you consider getting help for it, you are starting a ripple effect of healing. Everybody deserves to live and to be happy and sane and that includes you and those around you. And the best thing about it all is that one day you will be able to give back.
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