The Art of Asking for Help
“We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” –The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Step 3
Besides turning yourself over to the care of God (or whatever name you call your Higher Power as you understand it), effective recovery from addiction requires committing yourself first to the care of a professional detox center, then to long-term therapy and peer support. Trying to tough out withdrawal on your own can have all sorts of unpleasant consequences, not the least of which is, you’ll have almost no resources to guard against relapse.
So if you have an addiction disorder, the first thing to do is:
SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE
Human nature hates to admit there are things we can’t handle: offer someone your seat on the bus, and you may be answered with an indignant, “You think I’m too weak to stand up?” Don’t take that attitude toward your drug problem. Even if you’re a “high functioning” addict, meaning the drug use hasn’t visibly affected your performance at work or in everyday life, the chances of serious problems increase every day you continue in denial. A dent in your pride today is better than a DUI charge, lost job or life-threatening illness next year.
FIND THE RIGHT TREATMENT CENTER
Check what treatment facilities are on network with your health insurance provider. Ask your doctor or a peer support network for referrals. You can also look up the online “Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator” hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (samhsa.gov).
It’s a good idea to choose a place convenient to your home location. Before making the final decision, visit the center in person, talk with an actual service provider, and request a tour of the grounds. Reject any option that shows the following red flags:
- Has no online presence, or a website that seems interested only in selling its services (reputable centers consider it part of their mission to provide useful general information)
- Fails to listen to or answer your questions
- Seems more interested in your (or your insurance company’s) available assets than in explaining detox procedures
- Seems overly secretive or evasive
Concerns about client privacy are legitimate, but there are disreputable centers with things to hide. If you can, bring along a discerning friend when you visit a center: a second opinion can help you differentiate between legitimate “bad vibes” and simple nervousness.
HAVE A SUPPORT NETWORK
Besides helping you choose the right treatment center, your loved ones should stay in touch during treatment and support you actively during long-term recovery. While you’ll meet new support partners during treatment—and you should stay active with peer support afterwards—those closest to you have special concerns about the problems your addiction has caused and what they can do to help. Get them to join you in therapy and in making a relapse prevention plan if at all possible.
Although it does happen that families are no help in recovery or even actively sabotage it, don’t automatically assume that yours would never understand. If they initially resist becoming involved—or if they don’t even know about your addiction yet—talk to your therapist about ways to approach them.
Of course, you may not be ready to advertise the fact of your addiction disorder far and wide. People you probably should tell include:
- Members of your own household
- Anyone in your extended family whom you’re close to
- Your intimate friends
- Your immediate supervisor at work, if you’ll need medical leave
- Your regular doctor(s)
With other people, use your own best judgment. If someone invites you out for a drink, or asks why they don’t see you at the bar anymore, you can always say a simple “No, thank you” or offer a vague “I’ve been busy.” (Do have a plan in place for what you’ll do if someone gets pushy.)
P.S. IF YOU WERE ON THE RECEIVING END OF AN INTERVENTION
It’s possible that asking for help wasn’t your idea: you were effectively backed into a corner by a family intervention that made it impossible to keep denying your addiction and had as good as decided for you where you’d get treatment. At the time, you probably went off to detox with some hurt feelings and resentment, and maybe some angry words. Now that you’re doing better, however, why not swallow your pride once more and write some letters thanking your loved ones for caring enough to help you when you couldn’t help yourself?