The Answer to Every Social Problem

The answers are in our neighborhoods, our towns, our churches, our civic organizations and our community centers. Before you think me Polly Anna, read on:

I haven’t known neighbors since I was a kid. I’ve always viewed that as something we collectively and tragically lost along the way. For the past year, the familiar strangers who live near and around my home have watched me hobble around on a walker, on crutches, and on a prosthetic leg.

There have been countless offers to help from those who watched me struggle. I’m saddened to admit that I turned away nearly all of them.

I have a vivid memory of falling on my front lawn shortly after leaving the hospital. Two women stopped, concerned, offering to help get me on my feet (er, foot) again. Somehow I managed to smile, thank them and idiotically assure them that I was fine, thank you.

I crawled up my front steps until I could lift myself up.

Fuck that metaphor. I hate watching people try to do what I tried to do.

I was too uncomfortable to let them help. It has been the biggest obstacle to my recovery. I was largely insistent that I do as much as I can by myself – even things I should never have tried to do alone.

I justified it as being independent. In truth it was just discomfort and fear. I hurt the people who love me the most by not allowing them to do more for me. I robbed others of the opportunity to practice random acts of kindness.

I remain incredibly blessed – my Higher Power saves me from my ego. My recovery has been facilitated by countless people who love me. Letting them help was possible because I believed that I was worthy and deserving of their support.

Even still, I had to keep at the very forefront of my thoughts, It makes them happy to help me. I don’t have to feel bad about this!

Its as my friends in AA and NA say, “It helps me to help you.”

The biggest difference between my recovery and most of my brothers and sisters seeking freedom from addiction is that the affects of my illness are not easily hidden. It’s not just my missing limb, it’s everything else I’m visibly incapable of. I’m often offered rides for example because I can’t yet drive.

I swear to God, this morning a complete stranger mowed my lawn because his family noticed an amputee with overgrown grass. This beautiful man explained that I’d be doing him a service by allowing him to help. He shared that he lives with a disease that limits his mobility and eventually will paralyze him completely.

He smiled and explained that today was a good day and he was overjoyed to be able to get around (message from my HP, “Grateful for anything today, Jim?”). Before I could offer, he explained that he would not accept any money from me. He only asked that I pay it forward if I can. (In spades, my friend).

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.