Help! I need somebody…



My neighbor T. asked for my help last week. Her partner was away on a business trip, and in order to make two early morning appointments, she needed me to give their two kids a ride to school on Tuesday and Thursday. No problemo, I said.

T. told me that when her partner learned T. had asked for my help, she said, “Uh-oh, now we’re going to owe her.”

I could empathize completely. I don’t like debts hanging over my head, either. As it turned out, though, I also needed a favor: “T., could you give my girls a ride on Wednesday morning? There’s a 7:00 meeting I want to go to. And that way, we can call it even.”

Boom. Done.

I’ve always had a hard time asking for help. As I noted above, I didn’t/don’t like the feeling of being beholden to someone. I know that many people offer help with no expectation of receiving something in return, yet I can’t help but be wary and worried that no matter what is said, I’m still expected to reciprocate, and that I might not be able to do my part when the time comes. It was actually somewhat of a relief to hear that my neighbor’s partner, a wise and wonderful woman whom I adore, seemed to have her own little hang-up about help — just like me.

I do know that eventually I’ll be able to offer my help without reservation to my fellow AA’s, giving out my phone number as easily as I agreed to shuttle the neighbor’s kids to school last week. It may take a while, though. Last week’s favor felt like nothing major. Committing to being there when an alcoholic calls for help seems so much bigger to me, and I’d hate to overpromise and underdeliver.

Another thing that’s kept me from seeking help in the past is my consummate control freakiness. (If that’s not a term, consider it coined.) In my oh-so-brilliant brain, I tend to think that I, and only I, am The One Who Can Do It All. I feel I can’t depend on others, can’t trust anyone to help. Pretty damn arrogant, eh?

Now, after being in the AA program for four months, I’ve learned that it’s okay to want help. To need help. To ask for help. After all, that’s what AA is there for. It took me a while to realize this. I was astonished at my first few meetings — once people learned that I was a newcomer — how many phone numbers were written down on slips of paper and pressed into my hands. I didn’t really believe that these complete strangers were really willing to answer my call “anytime,” as they claimed.

I put that offer to the test when I went on my girls’ trip to NYC, back in November. I did a “trial run” before I left, and called one of the AA women. She answered promptly, and I told her it was my “practice call.” I just wanted to get comfortable with calling someone – before I actually needed help. Turns out I didn’t need to call anyone on that trip, but it was so good to know I could have.

I’ve also gotten more comfortable with asking another someone/something for help: my Higher Power. It doesn’t come naturally yet, but I imagine that with a bit more practice, it will become a reflex.

On Friday, I’m going to take a “Third Step Hike” with my sponsor. We’re going to a hilly little state park near town, a place that I love for its beauty and serenity, and I’m going to offer up my troubles and turn my life over to my yet-to-be-defined Higher Power. I like that we’re making somewhat of a ceremony of it – taking that step in a meaningful, memorable way. I’m hoping the experience will stay with me,  a constant reminder that help is out there….I just have to ask for it.

When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way.
But now those days are gone, I’m not so self-assured
And so I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors…

Help! – The Beatles

8 Responses to “Help! I need somebody…”

  1. I love the idea of a Third Step hike. I live in a gorgeous region of the country with beautifully scenic hills. That is something that I should do, too!

    Your post has helped me in that I have often wondered why some people aren’t willing to accept my help. I now believe that it is because they think that they are indebted to me once they accept it. They shouldn’t feel that way, of course, but then again, who am I to tell someone how to feel? This clears some things up for me.

  2. Nice post

    It’s no secret that a friend is someone who lets you help.


  3. 3 eve

    dear C.
    I just found your blog today after the comment you posted on the latest NYT “Proof” column. I, too, am 4 months sober and in AA. I’m looking forward to reading about your journey. Thank you for having the courage to post it online. You rock.


  4. 4 The Other Bill

    It’ll be 4 years soon since my last drink, but have gotten away from AA unfortunately. Meetings here are just depressing, not hopeful like they were when I started attending in Dallas. However, the tools I learned are valuable in so many ways, once clarity takes hold.
    I always wondered what’d I’d be like sober before I got here. Would I still be funny? Would any one still like me? What would I do with all the time I’m not spending in bars?
    Turns out if I just make my own bed (ie- that which I can control as well as actually make my bed every single day) and leave the rest to that oh-so-elusive Higher Power, things do turn out ok. Not necessarily how I wanted or planned no matter how much controlling I tried to shoe-horn into a situation, and even sometimes badly, but that’s still ok as long as I did what I could.
    I am still funny, even funnier. I do have friends, not just drinking buddies. And it turns out I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to, now that I’m not wasting it in some bar.

    keep coming back…

  5. 5 BeachBum

    Hi C., I too found your post in your perceptive comments to the NYT blog. After 22 years it is still good for me to keep it green, and to reach out for experiences — like the 3rd step hike — that will keep me open to the awe and mystery of the world outside of myself. I’ve started walking the dog to a nearby park instead of just up and down the street. Not only is the walk of over a mile good for us both, but the 5 minutes at the park watching the herons fishing in the canal and the occasional otter playing helps bring a little joy and perspective to the rest of life. Keep coming back!


  6. God Bless AA. It’s a tight nit community where anyone who needs motivation can seek the support they need. The kind of “help me to help you” support. Don’t be self-conscious about doing favors or asking for them – real friends don’t keep lists of who owes who what.

  7. 8 C

    Thanks to all for such kind and encouraging comments. That last one, with a link from radufilip, I couldn’t translate – I couldn’t figure out what language it was. But trying Romanian and Portuguese on Babelfish gave me enough of a hint to determine it was something about politicians…Can anyone give me any helpful hints?

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