Accepting Help is an Action by Karen VanDenBerg

step 12 magazine

There’s nothing wrong with needing help. It’s not a sign of weakness or inadequacy to reach out to someone for help. Yet, so many of us really struggle with showing that vulnerable side of ourselves. We seem to prefer struggling through difficult situations with stubborn tenacity rather than accepting help even when it’s offered. “I can do this,” we say to ourselves.

I have a dear friend who survived late stage cancer. A single mom with three teenagers, she was carrying the weight of her struggle “strong and brave.” Friends, family and neighbors offered to help but she declined. She was the person who always went to the bedside of sick friends, ran errands for them, cooked meals for them and never missed a beat. But she was uncomfortable accepting the same kind of help she had given so freely many times before.

One day, a neighbor came to her door with a casserole. This neighbor had coordinated a number of friends to bring meals over for her and her family every day until she was well. My friend attempted to discourage the help. “Don’t you DARE deny us the privilege of helping you out. We can feed your family so you don’t have to think about it. Your job now is to get well and we want to help. It makes us feel good to give back and it’s selfish of you to deny us this.” When it was presented as a way for my friend to help THEM by allowing them to help her, she surrendered. And she was grateful for the help. In fact, she didn’t’ even know how much she needed help until she received it.

I’m tall and am often asked to reach something on the top shelf at the supermarket. I’m always happy to help. I feel a glow deep inside whenever I help someone, no matter how simple or complex the act might be. I have to remind myself that accepting help from others gives them the same gift—a warmth in the soul. We need each other.

Help is available in many depths and dimensions. Whether we are physically challenged, emotionally spent, sick, confused, or lonely, we can find help if we’re willing to reach out. There is someone, somewhere holding the lifeline—prepared to help. We only need to accept it when it’s offered, even if we don’t know we need it.

In recovery, most of us have experienced that terrifying feeling of helplessness. We try “every imaginable remedy” to stop whatever dysfunctional behavior we are powerless over. Often, only in despair, are we willing to accept help. Physically, spiritually, and emotionally, we humbly take hold of the lifeline. Once we do, the helper and the helped become stronger. We accomplish more together than separately.

I should embrace my vulnerability. I believe that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Weakness is a sign of humanness. Asking for help acknowledges our humanity and validates the desire to be our best possible selves.

Reaching out for and accepting help is an action. A great New Year’s resolution would be to have one day a month committed to asking for help. It could be help with an emotional struggle that requires a friendly ear. It could be help with a physical task like stacking boxes in the garage. It could be seeking advice for financial planning, a job reference, or an errand. Maybe if I’m able to make this part of my regular routine, I’ll be more willing to ask for help and support for the big things that will inevitably come my way. In turn, I resolve to continue to help where help is needed because it feels good to my soul.

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