Improve Your Health by Asking for and Providing Help
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Don’t hesitate to ask for help, especially when grappling with addiction
I am never surprised when a client balks at my suggestion that he or she ask for help with a particular problem. In a society that prizes autonomy and downplays our interdependence, we are bombarded by messages telling us we should handle things ourselves; yet when a person requests help for something practical, the benefits for both the person asking and the person giving far exceed whatever kind of specific favor is being imparted. This is true in general, and it’s especially true for people grappling with addiction.
In the course of a recent workday in which I saw several clients, two, in particular, stood out. The first, whom I saw in the morning, was a young mother who had been urged to go to a recovery support group at a church near her home. Although her own mother had offered to watch her children, my client had no means of transportation to get to the church. She had names and numbers of other women who attend the recovery support group, but she insisted she did not feel comfortable calling any of them to ask for a ride to the group. “Everybody has their own problems; nobody wants to take on someone else’s,” she said. “Besides, when someone helps you, you end up owing them something, and I don’t like to owe people.”
Why some Solo Moms are hesitant to ask for help
We talked about this issue at length. Although the young woman’s resistance to asking for a ride may partly be a result of not wholeheartedly wanting to go to the meeting, I believe a large factor was her aversion to “owing” people. She seemed highly skeptical that someone might sincerely want to help another person. My client also doubted herself, believing she did not have any right to make such a request for assistance.
How helping others can help how you feel about yourself
The same afternoon, I met with another client. This client, a resident at a residential program for women in recovery, arrived to her session looking uncharacteristically joyous. Before I had a chance to ask her about her obvious good mood, she said she had just been to an uplifting 12-step meeting. “I probably wouldn’t have even gone, except there’s a new woman who doesn’t drive but needs to go to meetings, and she asked me to give her a ride.”
“So you’re happy that you were at this great meeting?” I asked.
“No. I mean, yes. But that’s not mainly what I’m feeling good about. I’m mainly feeling good that she asked me. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s just about having a car, and it doesn’t make me this hero or anything. But you have to understand—for years, I was the person who’d make you want to go in the other direction if you saw me coming. My life was such a train wreck, people didn’t want to be anywhere near me. So the idea of having something to offer somebody, even if it’s just my car, is pretty amazing.”
People helping one another is a major part of how recovery works. If you ask me, it’s a major part of how life works. This is not to say that asking for help is never hard, but so much good can come out of asking for help—it just takes a leap of faith. Addiction is a disease of isolation, but we are not alone. We need one another in large and small ways, and our interconnection helps us grow.
Susan Lemere, ESME’s Addiction Resource Guide, is a Solo Mom of two, as well as a therapist, a writer, and an artist coach.
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