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Grapevine : April 2011
As I grew older, I developed a feeling that seems common to alco- holics: I felt as if I'd been skipped over when the directions on how to live had been handed out. I had no idea that anyone else felt so inept and drank in part to hide my insecu- rities, even from myself. I developed a veneer of confidence that was easily scratched. When challenged, I would attack, a trait that didn't endear me to anyone, especially employers. I failed at many things, and became more defensive and insistent, even as I was being told to clear my desk, that I was still right. Iwish I could say that all this changed when I got sober, that the experience of asking God and my husband for help on the night I hit bottom taught me to ask for help freely. Instead, I am still coming to understand the importance of this humbling action. I recently woke up to the fact that I'd have had a much better chance of finishing my doctoral dissertation if I'd simply asked a librarian for help. I thought I was somehow supposed to know how to find the journals I needed, so I didn't ask, didn't find and, ultimately, didn't finish. I didn't ask my professors for help, either, not even my advisor. For some now- obscure reason, I thought it was im- portant to go to them with answers rather than questions. I was very fond of self-help books, believing against all evidence that I could read them and get the help I needed without having to re- veal my ignorance to another person. Sometimes I found useful ideas, but I now know that when I try to get help secretly, my ego is in charge. When I reach out to another person, a real live human being, I am "right- sizing" myself. I may or may not get the answer to a specific problem, but I will always be assured that I am not alone. Asking for help, therefore, is not just a path to humility; it is a path to a connection with my fellows and with God. I have never felt that connection more strongly than I did last year, when I was serving a six-month term as chair of my regular Sunday night speaker/discussion meeting. I had heard many complaints from "regu- lars" about people who shared at great length from the floor, so on two occasions I gently interrupted people who had talked for over five minutes, asking them to bring their shares to a close so that others would have an opportunity to speak. After the meet- ing, I went up to each of them, apolo- gized for having to stop them during the meeting, and introduced them to people whose stories were similar to theirs and to whom they might wish to talk in private. Although I believed I was carry- ing out the will of the group in stop- ping over-long shares, I found myself feeling miserable about what I had 20 April 2011