By David S.
Last week we talked about being free from faulty emotional dependencies, and how to recognize if this addict behavior has continued to hang around in our lives of sobriety.
Being independent is without adoubt the most empowering thing many of us experience when we recover.
Independence and self-sufficiency are wonderful. Notice they say, “Happy, joyous, and…”
That’s right – “free.”
But a few people said to me since that was published, “You can’t mean that you have to live in isolation without help!”
I even had some serious doubts at one point. But, then it became apparent what I needed to write about this week.
Responsibility and Accepting Help — Relationships ARE Important
Of course you can’t live completely independently, without connection with others – few of us would find that “happy” or “joyous.”
We all need other people in our lives, we need relationships, and we need support, at least some of the time.
Most of us need friends.
We need our brothers and sisters in recovery and the impartial and confidential relationships with our sponsors.
We need coworkers.
We need God.
What we have here is one of those areas that is neither black nor white, neither all nor nothing.
That’s why we call it spiritual balance.
Responsibility and Accepting Help – The Steps
When we talk about Spiritual Principles, the first place I look is the Steps. Trust and accepting help are no different.
Step 1 – Admitting I need help, that I cannot do this alone.
Step 2 – Admitting that God is probably my only hope, accepting that I cannot do this alone.
Step 3 – Made a decision to allow God to help me, and, in fact, to depend upon him.
Step 5 – I need God and another human being to get on the right side of my alcoholism or addiction. I have to have actual help to get critical phase of my recovery done.
Step 6 and 7 – I’m not going to be training myself out of these character defects, I need God’s help.
Steps 8 and 9 – I need other people in my life, so I’d better go make things right with them or they are going to stay away from me from now on. It’s going to get cold out there.
It’s up to me to ask them what it will take to mend those relationships, and this is a form of asking for help, too, isn’t it?
Responsibility and Accepting Help – We Ask for What We Need
As I mentioned, I had a serious moment of doubt and reflection about last week’s topic.
God has an awesome sense of humor.
As soon as I had sent that last blog post on emotional independence and self-sufficiency out into the void to be published, God said, “Right, but…”
He drove me into a situation that was both personally frustrating and beyond my professional skill level.
There I was in self-pity, “I’ve just talked about how great it is to be independent, and 2 hours later, I’m stuck without my coworkers. Awesome.”
I had no choice but to admit I was in over my head and that I would need assistance from my teammates.
I felt a sense of damaged pride and guilt. I felt self-pity.
But, talking it over with someone who gets this Spiritual Program (a huge part of Step 10), she helped me realize that I was part of a team.
I had done everything I felt I could do, and it was time to let others with more experience guide or step in.
Responsibility and Accepting Help — To Do Otherwise Would Be Self-Willed
There were definitely some things inside such as fear and pride holding me back, but being relatively new in my current role, that was not unusual. It might have even been arrogant and reckless to push the situation further without consulting others.
I could have created even more headache, work, and trouble for a lot of people by forcing the situation, allowing my pride to hinder my better judgement.
That would have been selfish and self-willed.
I needed that support, both professional knowledge and as an employee still growing.
I also needed my friend to give me some feedback about whether I was spiritually sick and seeking unhealthy validation and approval.
Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. WE DISCUSS THEM WITH SOMEONE IMMEDIATELY and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 84)
Responsibility and Accepting Help – There’s a Difference
There is something qualitatively different in asking someone else to do for you what you could do for yourself and admitting you need help or support.
There is a difference in asking a friend for honest feedback and gossiping to get someone on your side or to agree with you.
Something is different about asking someone for advice to help you make an important decision compared to roping someone into deciding for you (and then resenting them when it goes wrong. See?)
Companionship and support are qualitatively different from dependence.
Responsibility and Accepting Help — THAT Frustrating Child
Do you know anyone who is constantly refusing help, pushing people away, puffing their chest out, thumbing their nose, and going out to conquer the world?
And then they’re crawling back, whipped, begging to be rescued?
Over and over, never learning their lesson?
Nothing wrong with taking a daring challenge and stretching our wings, to be sure. We have to step out and test our limits from time to time.
But, in extremes, this is another form of self-will — seeking our own agenda in a reckless way, then imposing on others to save us…
That cannot possibly be spiritually sound.
Responsibility and Accepting Help Without Dumping Responsibility
When we asked for help with our alcoholism or addiction and someone offered to be our sponsors, which person was responsible for our personal recoveries?
We, ourselves, were.
Who was responsible if we lied on our 4th and 5th Steps and failed to clean house?
“Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is that they never completed their housecleaning. They took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only THOUGHT they had lost their egoism and fear; they only THOUGHT they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until the had told someone else all their life story.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 73)
Who was responsible if I really wasn’t sure I was an alcoholic to begin with?
I was, I suppose. It surely wasn’t doing any good for friends or family to push that on me.
You see, in the end I asked for help… But the responsibility was still all mine.
I asked for support, but the fault and blame went nowhere else. There was nobody to be angry at.
It was on me, but I would need some support to accomplish the task at hand.
Asking for Help — It Can Be Humbling
Every once in awhile I need to be taken down a peg or two, as my mom used to say.
In the above situation I found myself in, I’d been having a great streak at work and maybe it was time for me to find out what I DIDN’T know. Perhaps God saw it was time for me to be humbled.
I don’t know.
I do know that selfishness comes in 2 forms, one involves sucking people in and the other is about venturing too far out there alone.
Finding Spiritual Balance — Living in Lighter Shades of Gray
When I get lazy or self-pitying, I want people to do things for me that I ought to be doing myself, and there is nothing spiritually fit about that.
On the other hand, when I become arrogant and self-willed, I don’t want help from anyone no matter what the circumstances.
Selfishness lies in wait on both ends of the spectrum, and it is my job to stay in the balanced middle ground.
We pray and meditate for just this reason.
Asking for Help — Driven Back to the One Who Loves Me
I have found — almost without fail — that in the days or weeks before things go wrong, I had been drifting further and further from God.
My relationship with Him had become distant.
Then things get hard, and I find myself in a more serious situation.
I suddenly realize I’m all alone, even among a crowd of people, and I have little chance to stay sober or survive out there for long on my own.
I quickly find myself back on my knees, just where I belong — experiencing humility, accepting the limits of my own humanity and imperfections, and asking again to be restored to sanity.
“Hey, God. Sorry. It’s been awhile. I’m home.”
We find the home fire still burning.
David S. is an alumnus of the SONTX Residential Program and served as a house manager. He is celebrating sobriety running the streets of Dallas.