Three Simple Words That Are Not So Simple…

“I Need Help.” “Can You Help?” “Please Help Me.”  These phrases are not complicated, and contain some of the most basic words in the English language. Yet we struggle daily to string them together and to utter them out loud to another person. For people struggling with a mental health disorder and/or the disease of addiction, we can find it increasingly difficult to ask others for help with our issues. Shit, I am so arrogant and stubborn, that I could be lying bloodied in a ditch, unable to walk, and I would tell a passerby that I am fine; I got this. Some people say it’s a male thing that I refuse to stop and ask for directions, that I won’t read the instruction pamphlet on furniture I have to assemble, and that I certainly never would directly ask for help with my anxiety or alcoholism. It could be a male thing, but really it’s just an ego thing. I don’t want anyone to know I have a weakness; I want everyone to think I have this thing called “life” under control!

The truth is that I am not weak, but I also am far from having this thing called “life” under anything even resembling control. Being vulnerable and asking someone for help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is the very opposite. Socrates figured this out ages ago, “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.” This should not be a scary thought, but instead an empowering thought. As someone suffering from alcoholism and a general anxiety disorder, I take a great deal of comfort in realizing that it is OK to know nothing. I have no idea why I am an alcoholic, or why I have general anxiety disorder, but by asking for help from others who suffer the same illnesses and diseases, then I can start to learn more about combating them. I certainly don’t think I know nothing. Come on; I am an arrogant, alcoholic, male – I obviously believe I know something. Hell, just by having the audacity to write this blog, and assume people will read it, means that I think I have something worth saying.

However, when it comes to dealing with my issues of anxiety and alcoholism the truth is that I really don’t know anything. More importantly, I was too stubborn, arrogant, and unwilling to admit this and to ask for help. Thus I have put myself in the position I am in. If I had asked for help with my anxiety issues 10 years ago, maybe I never would have self-medicated with alcohol and maybe I wouldn’t be an alcoholic. Then again, maybe I would be – either way I don’t care and it doesn’t matter. I am whom I am, and I should really start to get used to it. After all, I have to be me for the rest of my life! When I finally admitted defeat, and surrendered to the fact that I cannot deal with everything on my own, I felt a huge burden lifted off of my shoulders. Anyone who is in therapy, taking medicine, going to AA or NA or any other support group, has taken the first step in asking for help.

It is OK not to be able to handle everything on our own, and we need to do a better job of recognizing that. Doesn’t it seem silly that I would be able to ask my wife to fold a load of laundry because I have to run out to the store, but that I wouldn’t call my sponsor when I was craving a beer or shot of vodka? Well if it does seem crazy, that’s because it is. Everyone has a gift to share, and when we ask for help then we give that person the opportunity to share these gifts.

Sports have always been a major part of my life, so I will leave you with a basketball analogy that many coaches have imparted on their teams: When you hold your fingers apart and smack someone on the arm it makes a lot less of an impression that when you bring the five fingers together in a fist and punch. Seems a bit brutal, but the analogy is there. We can accomplish a lot more together than we ever can alone.

Ask someone for help today. You will be helping them as much as they are helping you.

-A.S.