One of the most damaging things about addiction is how it alienates us from those who care about us the most. It’s difficult enough admitting we have a problem for ourselves, let alone those around us. We may go through cycles of guilt and despair, determination and denial, almost ready to reach out but somehow never quite doing it.
The climb to recovery is not a journey to be taken alone. Asking for help is essential to breaking those cycles and genuinely moving a better direction. And yet… it can seem so difficult! How do we reach out, even when we don’t feel like we can?
1. Stop focusing on blame, guilt, regret, etc.
There will be plenty of time to feel whatever you feel once you’re getting help and working through your recovery. Right now, all that self-hate and doubt is just getting in the way. We live in a society still trying to break free of a shame-driven past; not everything we believe about ourselves is based on reality so much as our collective cultural baggage.
You may not be able to turn those thoughts and feelings completely off, but you can make the decision to ignore them for two minutes – long enough to reach out. Who could you call if you weren’t overwhelmed with those feelings for a few moments?
2. Let someone else be the “good guy.”
One of the excuses we make when we should be asking for help is that our partner won’t understand, or our family will be so disappointed, or our friends don’t need to be burdened by us. That mindset doesn’t really give the people around us enough credit. Most people want to help, especially if they know what’s needed. Most people want to be useful and to do right by those around them. Wouldn’t you do it for them?
You’ve probably helped someone move, listened while they talked through a big decision, or fed their dog while they were out of town. If sobriety starts with asking someone to make a few calls or drive you to an appointment, is that really asking so much in return?
3. Try someone professional.
If coming clean with those closest to you seems impossible, try someone outside your immediate circle. Talk to your family doctor, even if that’s not what the appointment was originally scheduled to be about. Tell your chiropractor, or lawyer, or pastor, or dentist. Talk to the nurse or even the receptionist. Maybe your workplace benefits include some sort of helpline or referral service.
I promise you, most people get it. They read the research. Primary care folks, especially, have heard it all. They don’t judge. In fact, they want to help; that’s why they became doctors and nurses.
4. Try someone far away.
This is the age of social media and long-distance communication. It might be easier to start with a friend who no longer lives in the area or a family member you don’t see as often. Even reaching out to a “virtual friend” is better than not reaching out, although it’s harder to predict how involved they’re willing or able to be.
Who could you message right now?
5. Seek help online.
If you do a search for “addiction recovery” or “help getting sober” or any variation thereof, you’ll be inundated with more results than you can possibly use. Some will be promoted links (paid ads) – and that’s OK, as long as they’re legitimate organizations. If your search engine does its job, many of the real results will be close to where you live or work – and that’s even better.
Pick one. Open the link. Click the ‘Chat Now’ button or find the phone number which is most likely in a large font near the top of the page. This is what they do. If they can’t help you directly, they can probably help connect you with someone who can.
6. Put it in writing.
Sometimes an email or handwritten note sets us free when speaking face-to-face just feels impossible. If you start writing and a dozen pages of confessions and fears and hopes and apologies pour out, that’s completely fine. It’s also OK if you grab an index card and barely manage “I can’t stop ___________. I need your help.”
Hit send. Tape it to their mirror or laptop. Drop it in the mail. You don’t need to redo it or edit it; you need to share it.
7. Send them this article.
If you can’t think of any other way to say it, cut N paste the link to this page and tweet it, email it, message it. No need to elaborate. You did it.
If you’re receiving this from someone, they need you. Thanks for stepping up.