Ask Dru: I don’t know how to ask for help
I’m stuck. I’ve been struggling with drinking since lockdown started, and recently it’s got out of control. I want to cut down, but it’s difficult. I feel like I might need help, but a big part of me holds back from asking. Surely I can sort this out myself? I don’t know how to ask for help. Any ideas about how to begin? Susie
When we’re facing an overwhelming challenge, and especially a problem that we deal with every day, it’s easy to feel isolated inside it. Being so entangled in our difficulties, we can’t see beyond them. So we end up believing that we are the only ones facing these problems. Nobody else can understand what we are going through, surely? And if people knew how complicated we really were, they’d probably run away anyway, right? We would run away from ourselves, if we could.
Feeling alone inside our problems actually makes them worse. We can find ourselves drinking to cope with the fact that we can’t cope with our drinking. It’s so easy to fall into a downward spiral of isolation.
You’re not alone
The most corrosive myth of self-help culture is that change is solely down to us. We elevate individualism, bravery and personal endeavour. And we frame recovery as an act of singular persistence.
It is true that each of us will have to make choices, day-by-day, that nobody else will see. But drinking problems are not, and never have been, just individual problems. We all live in a society that makes our drug of choice widely available. Alcohol is woven into the life of our communities, into our celebrations and commiserations. Our difficulties with drinking are often the product of our interpersonal history and present relationships. And drinking can be a rational choice in the face of a society that is stacked against us.
The part of you that holds back from asking for assistance is conditioned by the myth of self-help culture. So see that myth for what it is. It is profoundly unfair that those who struggle most are isolated most. You cannot change your drinking on your own, and you were never meant to.
You cannot change your drinking on your own, and you were never meant to.
Learning how to ask for help is a powerful way to work against the damaging myth of individualism. The truth is that we need each other. Human lives are not meant to be lived in isolation, but together. That’s why communities like Club Soda Together exist. Connecting with others shifts our perspective. We see that our problems are not unique. We learn from other people’s trial and error. We lean into each other’s wisdom. We share in each other’s successes. We celebrate change together.
How to ask for help
First of all, consider who you can ask for help. Is there a friend, neighbour, colleague or family member you trust and respect? Perhaps there’s someone you know through an online community like Club Soda? Or do you need more specialist professional support, from a coach, counsellor or therapist? You may generate a list of the types of people who may be able to help you. And you may need all of them. So think of asking for help as an ongoing activity, rather than a one-off exercise. No single conversation, relationship, course or community holds all the answers.
No single conversation, relationship, course or community holds all the answers.
Once you’ve worked out who to ask for help, you’ll want to consider how to ask for help. Here are three simple tips:
- Be specific. It can be hard to articulate your needs clearly, and it’s OK if you don’t get it right the first time. But rather than a generalised cry of “help me!”, try to be specific in your request for assistance. Many people are willing to share their time and experience with you, but an open-ended commitment can be off-putting. So consider what might help you right now. Would it help if someone listened to you? Or offered advice? Or shared their experience? Or distracted you with stupid internet memes? Or talked to you about nothing at all? All of these are legitimate requests for help.
- Don’t apologise. The myth of self-help has conditioned us to believe that asking for support is a sign of failure. So we often dress up our requests for help with an apology. Don’t begin with “I’m sorry to ask, but…” or “I’m sorry to bother you, but…” Asking for help is a courageous, and nothing to apologise for. Don’t be afraid to get to the point.
- Offer support to others. Be open to requests for assistance from others. Help isn’t a one-way street but a gathering place. One way to overcome isolation is to offer support to others in the same situation. So be the help that you’d want to receive. Supporting others can give us deep insights into our own challenges, and it strengthens the bonds of community that we share.
I hope that helps. And if it doesn’t, do ask someone else. Remember, none of us has all the answers. But we do together.
Dru Jaeger supports people who want to cut down or stop drinking. Community is an important part of Club Soda’s courses, and they all offer a chance to connect with others. Discover Club Soda’s courses.