“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
- Step 7 from the Al-Anon Family Groups
"I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world."
- Leigh Standley
My previous approach to problems that I would have: pretend there isn’t a problem, avoid the problem, cover up the problem, do my best to not let on that there ever was a problem.
My previous approach to everyone else’s problems: declare their problem, or sometimes not, and work diligently to help them to fix it with all sorts of “helpful” suggestions and ideas, even if they didn’t ask for my help, especially if their problem was making me uncomfortable in some way.
I came by these approaches honestly. Being a family member impacted by someone else’s disease of alcoholism and addiction lead to some coping skills that seemed useful in the moment, but proved otherwise in the long-term.
I had a need for perfection. I thought that if I could be perfect, I could make everything else okay. And, even if I couldn’t fix the overall problem, my perfection – my acting in a way that would not upset anyone around me – offered me protection. That protection allowed me to not have to fully accept what was happening in my world.
I also was a “Swooper”. I wanted to swoop in and save those I loved – often before they admitted to any issues themselves. I thought that if I could take care of them, they would be okay. And, if they were okay, I could be okay. My personal motto was “I’ve got this.”
I had no concept of humility. I thought I had learned somewhere along the way that I was responsible for someone else’s well-being; even more responsible than they were. I really thought that I was going to be able to figure it all out, to find THE solution, to share the right words, to do the right thing – that this was my job and there was no one more qualified than me. I would do anything that I needed to do – except ask for help.
I hadn’t learned how to ask for help. I saw it as a sign of weakness. If I hadn’t figured it (whatever “it” might be in the moment) out it was because I hadn’t tried hard enough. If I worked diligently and selflessly, I should be able to do this. It’s what any loving person would do!
Of course, I would try my hardest, and since the disease of addiction isn’t logical, I would get nowhere. I would fall short. I would feel inadequate. Or, maybe worse, I would feel frustrated – and demand a change!
In family recovery we learn that we can humbly ask: for help, for what we need, for more information, for guidance. Asking for help was not an easy process for me. I had to overcome feelings of guilt for asking. I had to learn that I was worth the help. I had to be willing to not do this gracefully, at first, so that I could get some practice. I had to check in with the others I knew in recovery for their encouragement and affirmation. In short, I needed help asking for and accepting help!
My need to help others wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I feel good when being of service to others. But, a question I learned to ask in recovery is “what’s my motivation for doing what I’m doing?” If my motivation is love and kindness – and there are no strings attached – that’s a great motivation to have! But, sometimes, my motivation is to get others to do something in return (also known as “manipulation”). Or, to make myself look good by stepping in as a “savior” so that I feel important. Or, to take care of an issue that I don’t want to watch someone go through, because it’s too painful for me.
When I can step back and just show up as a loving person in someone’s world, humility takes over naturally. When I can remember how good it feels to be helpful to others, it makes it easier for me to allow myself to receive the help I need. When I humbly ask – when I don’t have to have all of the answers in advance – it creates space for something new to come my way. And, in that space, I can sit back and watch my Higher Power surprise me.