Overcoming the Fear of Reaching Out in Recovery

I’ve heard from lots of folks that they don’t really get how the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) works. Given how different interactions in AA are (amazingly) from the rest of the world, it’s understandable.

People in AA tend to be incredibly genuine, brutally honest and wonderfully supportive. Most earnestly seek to be of service to others based in the belief that, “The only way to keep it is to give it away.”

The idea that we can simply show up at a place we’ve never been, talk with people we’ve never met, and be well received in asking for help with very personal struggles is a lot to wrap your head around, but it’s all true.

I don’t happen to be an alcoholic, but I can tell you that in the dozens of meetings I’ve attended as a guest, people are remarkably welcoming and kind.

There’s a lot of things about recovery from addiction that are counter intuitive. The best way I can explain it to folks seeking sobriety is:

What you think is strong is actually weak and what you think is weak is actually strong.

Somewhere between the shame of what we’ve become and the fear of letting others know us as we are, the idea of asking for help seems like a terrible course of action.

We’re still a society that praises rugged individualism. We declare our independent natures instead of admitting that deep down we’re like scared little kids. Most of us are the best kind of hypocrites – we enjoy helping others but we won’t allow others to do for us.

When we’re afraid we can easily come up with a hundred compelling reasons not to do what’s suggested to us.

I encourage folks to consider two things:

– What do you have to lose by attending some meetings and simply listening with an open mind?

– Maybe the program that’s worked for millions of others can work for you?

To understand “How it works” is as simple as reading pages 58-71 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s a chapter entitled, “How It Works.” (Google it)

See why I love the Keep It Simple System (K.I.S.S.)?

Show up to some meetings (Google “AA meetings (name of your town)”)
Show up 10 minutes early and stay at least 10 minutes late. Hold your head high and accept every greeting given to you. In many meetings the chairperson will ask “Is anyone available as a temporary sponsor?”

Seek one of these people out. You’re not making a lifelong commitment, you’re seeking a guide to get you started.

In many meetings, the question will be asked, “Is anyone having a hard time not drinking today?” Put your hand up and simply introduce yourself (by first name only) and ask for anyone who might be willing to help to speak with you after the meeting.

Accept phone numbers from people who offer them. Call them. It’s okay that this is awkward and scary to do. The person on the other end remembers well what it was like for them when they were in your shoes.

Attend more meetings. Seek out folks you hear talking about solutions and what works/worked for them. Learn from these folks. They are living proof of the adage that, “If you really want to learn something, teach it.”

Stay out of your head. Accept support and suggestions. Ask for what you need. Make plans one day at a time for what you’re going to do to not drink.

Its okay that this seems insurmountable. Millions of others didn’t think they could do it either. One day at a time, lives change. Just believe that we believe it’s possible for you.

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.