For those who enjoy superhero movies, 2016 is going to be a pretty big year. Fox is releasing Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse. Warner Bros is releasing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Marvel is releasing Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange. Many of these movies involve heroes fighting each other, but almost all of them (even those named after a single hero) have one other important thing in common: teamwork. Why? Because even men and women with superpowers must sometimes learn the importance of asking for help.
Addicts and alcoholics do not have superpowers. We cannot bend steel, summon lightning from a magic hammer, or open portals to new and strange dimensions. We are not gods, aliens, or magicians—even if we felt like each of these at various times throughout our periods of active addiction. Yet we still act as if we can control the world around us if we simply force ourselves upon our reality, attempting to will our desires into being. We fail to realize that we are not supermen. And even if we were, the supers don’t always win.
This is not to say that asking for help is important simply because it will get you what you want. At times, it may not. Even with all the help in the world, various things may stand in our way. Often, the problem will simply be that our expectations of the world and of ourselves were a little too great. But while asking for help may not always get us what we want, it will help get us through. It will help us lean on those we love—and who love us—in order to become just a little bit stronger. And as long as we throw our lots in with the right people, we will find that asking for help is much better for us than hiding away in our Fortress of Solitude.
The Pain of Fighting Our Battles Alone
Every superhero who maintains a secret identity does so for at least one of two reasons. The first is that they fear getting caught will put themselves at risk, especially if the public perceives them to be a vigilante. The second is that they worry exposing themselves to the world will cause villains to target those they love. In many ways, addicts and alcoholics are averse to asking for help on very similar grounds.
We may not be vigilantes, but many of us have done things during our addictions for which we are not proud. Our actions sometimes have long-standing consequences that will continue to affect us long after we have entered recovery. We may fear that if we ask those we love for help with our legal issues or other concerns, we will risk losing them. We will push them away, and they will no longer love us once our mask has been removed. Some of us may even fear that, without our masks of lies and deceit, there is simply nothing there. We are blank underneath, and we don’t want anyone to see it.
But many of us fear more than simply losing those we love upon telling the truth. There is also great concern that learning the truth about our past sins may hurt those for whom we care the most. In a great sense, we worry that they will be hurt by villains. The difference between us and the superheroes is that in our case, we perceive these villains to be none other than ourselves.
Ask anyone who truly cares for you, and they will tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. There are many reasons for which addiction may be called a family disease, but one of them is that our families feel a sense of empathy when they watch us hurting ourselves. They may go through a lot of pain watching us relapse or struggle with our legal problems, but imagine how much pain we will put them through if they watch us go through it alone. More than that, we will enact a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our fears of losing them will come to fruition as we become the architects of our own isolation through our penchant for shutting people out and refusing to let them see how we are feeling on the inside.
Naturally, this will serve to heighten our own pain as well. Between the anguish we cause ourselves and the heartache we cause to those who can’t stand to see us hurting, asking for help is not a choice. It’s an obligation. And while it might not seem like it at first, learning to reach out and admit that you can’t manage your life on your own is one of the most heroic things you will ever do.
Asking for Help From the Right People
If you really want to go about this the right way, then you must be sure that you are asking for help from the right people. Many of us will find, when we view our situations objectively, that we already have a strong support network of people who want to see us lead happy and fulfilling lives. We have friends and family who care deeply for us. If any of these people have addictions themselves, then they probably shouldn’t be at the top of our list. But the others are people with whom we should always be willing and able to share our grief, our loss, or whatever else might be posing a challenge to us.
Of course, one of the most important people you meet in recovery will inevitably be your sponsor. Whenever you have a situation in which asking for help is a definitive necessity, your sponsor should probably be your first call. And if they cannot answer for any reason, then you should be prepared. When you go to a meeting and are moved by something that someone has said, go out of your way to get their number afterward. Embrace the First Tradition as fully as you can. You just never know when you might need it.
Asking for help is not always easy, but remember that the person who helps you does not have to be someone with whom you have a personal relationship. There are many professionals and other figures of authority who will be happy to speak with you when you are in your hour of need and require the counsel of someone a bit wiser, not to mention more objective. If you are religious, then you might seek out a priest or other person of religious authority. If you have the money, you might even try speaking with a therapist. Some clinics and universities even offer community counseling on a sliding pay scale, so do not base your decision solely on money. Do some research and see where you can go to find the help you need. Then make sure you actually go, before an emotional disturbance arises from whatever has sent you looking for help in the first place.
The Many Benefits of Asking for Help
Hopefully, the benefits of asking for help have already been made clear to you. Not only will you stand a far better chance at dealing with your personal problems when there are others who support you in your efforts, but you may even grow closer to these people in the process. You will learn to let people in and show them your more vulnerable side. Perhaps this is something that scares you, but it really shouldn’t be. If anything, you should be far more frightened at the concept of dealing with your problems alone.
When you embrace the practice of asking for help, you will find that loneliness ceases to be a major concern in your life. Not only will you grow to be more mindful regarding both the quantity and quality of relationships in your life, but you will also find that these relationships become more meaningful over time. When you have shared your strife with a person, the two of you will be able to connect on an entirely new level. Even if you are seeking help from a priest, therapist, or some other sort of qualified professional, you will find your respect for this person growing as you continue to confide in them more and more.
You may have worried that sharing your problems with people you love would hurt them, would saddle them with your own baggage. Even if this is true, the burden is always a bit lighter when there are multiple people to help carry it. You will feel a great weight lifted from your shoulders when you decide that you don’t want to be alone with your problems anymore. And once you have truly begun to realize how much this is doing to mitigate your stress, asking for help will become much, much easier.
It’s okay not to be a superhero. Nobody is. And you shouldn’t treat the people in your support system like sidekicks, either. There is a give and take involved. You must not be selfish, and must accept that asking for help is—if you have any integrity—an offer to give it in the future, should your friends or family ever need someone at their side. But for now, simply rejoice that you are no longer isolated with your negative emotions. You are able to share your anger, depression, and character defects with people who will be there to support you until you are able to move past them.
You may not be a superhero, but asking for help when you need it may come to be your superpower. And with a super collection of friends and family by your side, you will feel stronger than ever. All you need is the courage to ask.