Categories
Adolescence Recovery Self-Care Wellness

3 Things in the Way of Asking for Help

Help!
Help! (Photo credit: Rainier N.)

Is asking for help a challenge for you or someone you love?

 

We often create more suffering as a result of our desire to control the outcome of a situation versus lessoning our suffering by asking for help. Frequently for those in recovery, whether from substance abuse, mental illness, or a combination thereof, asking for help is a learned skill. It’s something that is derived from doing step work, working with a therapist, and going to process groups. Sometimes asking for help requires that we confront the very thing we are struggling with: ego.

 

What does not asking for help look like?

 

1. Loss of Control. Assuming that one will lose control of a situation if they ask for help will inevitably create higher levels of stress. The fact is, we cannot do everything ourselves, at least not efficiently or without risk to our mental health. In our efforts to be in control, we end up feeling out of control and overwhelmed.

Ask yourself: “Would I rather do several things that are mediocre or one or two that are phenomenal?”  Or “Would it be better for me to do a little bit less but with more awareness and less stress and more effectively?”  I have honestly found that slowing down and asking for help increases one’s efficiency and lowers stress.

 

2. Fear.  Fear is another component in one’s unwillingness to ask for help. It could be a fear of not being good enough, a fear of being viewed as less than, or a fear of failure. We can turn our backs on fear or we can face it. In order to healing and evolve in our recovery, the only way out of this mess is through it. Think of it this way, the shadow on a wall is far larger than the person or thing making the shadow. That shadow tantamount to your fear: far larger than what is creating it. Asking for help is liberating. You are good enough; you are not a failure.

 

3. Perfectionism. “It has to be perfect!” “If I don’t do it, then it won’t be done ‘right.'” Does this sound familiar? You know how to do what needs to be done, and you can do it “right,” or faster than anyone else, right? Wrong. This sense that something won’t be done correctly unless we do it ourselves is a lie we tell ourselves to justify our inability or fear of asking for help. I am a perfectionist, and I can tell you, this character defect gets in my way more often than not. It is the “shadow” I work with when I struggle with asking for help. What I have started to learn is that perfection is in everything: it is in the flaws, the nicks, and the wrinkles. Embracing that has enabled me to ask for help.

Whether you are the control freak, in fear, or a perfectionist or a combination of all three, take this opportunity to pause and take some steps toward change. There is no reason you should have to do everything on your own, or from fear of judgment. With each new venture is an opportunity to do it with less suffering, and less drama.

Remember:

1: It’s ok to “not know.”

2: Perfection is a perspective.

3. Letting go is liberating.

4. Asking for help leads to self-care.

5. You cannot do this alone.

Categories
Feelings Mental Health Recovery

Failure: A Stepping Stone to Success

© Wikipedia

Failure doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It can also be viewed as a stepping-stone to success, be it personal or professional.  In school, for example, failing a test shows us what we don’t know and what we need to study. Sure, the grade is bad, but the opportunity to learn is alive! The need to be right all the time is debilitating – it prevents us from being teachable and from learning new things. Interestingly, failure is what allows us to grow. If you never allow yourself to fail, you limit your ability to expand beyond your safety zone.

 

When I was growing up, I was told repeatedly that I would be a failure. I thought those words were a death sentence but I know now that is far from the truth. Those words are actually something I used as the impetus to succeed and overcome difficulty. As I got older, got sober, and expanded my comfort zone, I learned something: failure was tantamount to opportunity. It was something that could be used to try again with vim and vigor. I learned that it’s ok to be wrong and it’s ok to fail.

  • Thomas Edison failed 1000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb.
  • J.K. Rowling suffered from depression, poverty, and countless struggles before her success with the Harry Potter series.
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high-school basketball team but went on to be one of the greatest basketball players in the world.
  • Elvis Presley was fired after one performance at the Grand Ol Opry, and told he should “go back to driving a truck.”
  • Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

 

All of these people were regular folks chasing a dream. They experienced failure and setbacks, but they kept trying. When we enter recovery, we are scared and often convinced of our failure. We are scared to succeed, scared to fail, scared to change, and scared to try again, but we have to keep trying. Take that fear and kick it in the pants. You can do anything you set your mind to, you just have to try and try again.

 

I’ll leave you with this bit from Star Trek. Captain Kirk was so afraid of failure, he rigged the computer program during the Kobayashi Maru – a no-win exercise to see how people dealt with failure. Rigging a win isn’t a real win and defies the real lesson we need to learn: failure is part of finding success.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery

Facing Our Fears & Meeting Our Grief

It takes more strength to feel your feelings than it does to hide them. As counterintuitive as it may seem, I’ve found this to be true. Because we encounter so much anxiety and depression in our lives and in our recovery, it ‘s appropriate to also notice the element of grief which often acts as the undercurrent and silent driving force. If there’s a history of abuse or abandonment, neglect, or bullying, there is grief. If a parent suffers from a mental illness and/or addiction, there is grief. If there’s social anxiety, there is grief. It’s a pervasive feeling, and one which we often ignore or pass off as a phase, something that happens in passing. But in recovery, be it from addiction or mental illness or both, we need to address it.

How do we face our fears—especially when they are paralyzing? How do we defy this part of being human which urges us to avoid pain at all costs? We eat to feel better, drink and smoke to feel better, have sex to feel better, live on our phones to feel better, surf the Internet to feel better, ad infinitum. We do whatever it takes to go as far as possible from that nagging pain in our guts. With the addictive personality, this behavior is even more pronounced. If there’s a mental illness co-occurring but not acknowledged, the desire to resist the fear and feelings might be even greater. It can get pretty darn lonely, especially when one’s ego and fear kick in, coupled with a refusal to ask for help.

Certainly, there is an imperative to face these fears and the grief associated with them, but we can’t do it all at once. Since it requires us to look deeply within, I have found it far more beneficial to do in pieces. Even in a therapeutic environment, one doesn’t address every single issue at once. The trouble is, addicts and alcoholics don’t like to do anything in pieces. It’s usually all or nothing. It takes a new outlook and a commitment to slowing down to start to change that perspective. But it is possible.  Keep in mind, alcoholism and addiction are oftentimes symptoms of a much greater problem. The question is, are we brave enough to determine what that problem is?  If it’s a mental illness, do we have the courage to take care of it appropriately?

Instead of attempting to lift a tree to see its roots, try lifting one leaf at a time. Eventually, when it’s time to lift the tree, it may not be as heavy.

 

Categories
Feelings Recovery

From Anger to Compassion

“Anger is like a hot stone. When you pick it up to hold or throw at someone, you get burned.”Ancient Proverb

Anger is an emotion most often legitimized by righteousness: anger at our assailant, anger at the hit-and-run driver, anger at our victimization, anger at our addiction. Justifiable anger certainly makes sense in some ways, but when we begin to examine our anger from a neutral position, finally seeing its source, our perceptions begin to change.  Working with anger has been a key part of my own recovery. Anger would consume me when I was a teen, and it continued to do so well into my early sobriety. At that time, the justification felt authentic. I responded to most things by getting angry: Scared? Anger. Stressed? Anger. You can see where I’m going with this. Like drugs and alcohol, the anger stopped working. It was one more thing I was addicted to. I liked my justification.

I’ve learned that anger is fear’s way of not showing its wide-eyed terror; it’s hurt’s way of shielding a broken heart and hurt feelings; it’s loneliness trying to appear courageous. Anger, despite its deeply embedded hooks, is merely a mask. In reality, it is a secondary emotion. Granted, everyone gets angry, however, what we choose to do with our anger will ultimately choose its outcome.  Because anger exhibits itself in our body’s “fight or flight” response, employing some self-awareness can be especially helpful.  For example, pay attention to your body’s physical reactions. You can ask yourself questions like: What’s happening with my breathing—is it faster? Is it shallow?  Is my stomach tight?  Am I afraid?  Stopping when the anger starts allows us to take care of the anger. It allows our anger the space it needs to dissipate, rather than being fed by the fires of our reactions. Buddhism suggests we observe our anger and send it compassion. In fact, they say compassion is the antidote to anger, which is a wonderful way of addressing anger. I rather like what Lama Surya Das has to say:

“I believe that anger is just an emotion. We needn’t be afraid of it or judge it too harshly. Emotions occur quickly; moods linger longer. These temporary states of mind are conditioned, and therefore can be reconditioned. Through self-discipline and practice, negativity can be transformed into positivity and freedom and self-mastery achieved.”

The truth is, feeding the fuel of anger only breeds more anger. Learning how to sit with the uncomfortable sensations that come with rage teaches us that those intense emotions will pass. It provides us with an opportunity to transform an emotion that has the potential of destroying us.

Here’s a story typically attributed to a Native American elder which explains this better than I ever could:

A grandfather imparting a life lesson to his grandson tells him, ‘I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is vengeful, fearful, envious, resentful, deceitful. The other wolf is loving, compassionate, generous, truthful, and serene.’ The grandson asks which wolf will win the fight. The grandfather answers, ‘The one I feed.’”

Which emotion will you feed?

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Recovery

Fear and Loathing in Sobriety

It’s not every day that we voluntarily pay money to walk in to a place of horror and experientially tread through our fears. However, this past Saturday, we hosted our annual Knott’s Scary Farm event, wherein we did just that. Truth be told, it’s a popular event! I’m not sure if it’s a teen thing or a personality thing, but some folks just love to be scared! The thing is, we’re all scared of something, right? For this event, it might simply be things jumping out at you, for others it could be coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, and for some, it’s monsters in general. The tagline at Knott’s Scary Farm is “All You Fear is Here,” and boy, do they keep their promise. They have a foggy Ghost Town, where you can barely see your hand in front of your face, and is home to growling monsters, including the notorious Sliders (monsters and clowns that literally slide on their knees and hands out of nowhere to scare you!); they have CarnEVIL, where clowns and vaudevillians haunt your walk; and then there’s Necropolis, the city of the undead, filled with vamps galore. There’s sure to be at least one thing at this metropolis of fear that will make your blood run cold.

So, how do you deal with your fears when you’re there? If running and screaming makes the monsters chase you, then what would happen if you turn and face them? Our minds feed into our fears, making them appear to be intangible and often times providing us with a sense of unmanageability. In sobriety, addressing our fears can be a challenge and one we invariably shut the door on–fear of the fear, if you will. We drank, used, starved, stuffed, cut, punched, et cetera, as a means of chasing our fears away, but the truth is, they never really went anywhere.  So, when these clowns (yes, I have an epic clown fear) came bursting into our personal space, I decided not to run, or scream, but to turn and face them. Some of the kids even began mimicking their movements and growls, and each time, the clowns or monsters inevitably took their “scare” elsewhere. In fact, some even had conversations with us. Granted, they were still frightening to look at, and having them come sliding out of nowhere was still an effective fright tool, but disempowering their ferocity made them significantly less scary and made the fear manageable. Yes, that’s right, manageable!

This type of situation presents us with a wonderful metaphor for confronting our fears, though. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned during my sobriety is that if I shine light into the dark corners and look at the very thing that is frightening, I discover the shadows are just that: shadows. No, it doesn’t invalidate the genuine fears that exist, but it certainly shrinks their size and makes them a little easier to manage. In the case of Knott’s Scary Farm, fortunately, we don’t have to face bloody clowns and monsters on a daily basis, but if or when we do, being mindful of how we respond and monitoring our reactions will hopefully make us less of a target. It can also make for some interesting albeit peculiar conversations with the creatures of the night!