How to Ask for Help in Your Recovery When Everyones Struggling

Asking for help is critically important when you’re having a hard time with recovery, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Plus, the pandemic has just about everyone struggling in some way, making the task of asking for help even more daunting.

If you’re hesitant to reach out because you’re wondering how you can ask someone for support when they’re likely struggling as well, you’re not alone. Asking for help is harder right now, but there are ways to make it easier.

If you’re considering suicide or have thoughts of harming yourself, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 800-662-HELP (4357).

The 24/7 hotline will connect you with mental health resources in your area. Trained specialists can also help you find your state’s resources for treatment if you don’t have health insurance.

Why is it so hard to ask for help, especially right now?

Fear, shame, and guilt often make it difficult to reach out to others. What if you’re rejected? What will they think of your needing to leaning on them again? Shouldn’t you be able to handle this on your own by now?

“Unfortunately, a lot of people who’ve experienced long-term recovery are struggling right now,” says Adam D. Scioli, DO, FASAM, FAPA, associate medical director and psychiatrist at Caron Treatment Centers.

“But giving yourself permission to ask for help is important,” Scioli continues.

“It’s not a moral failing. It’s not a weakness or something you can exert your will over and overcome. Addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing, remitting, potentially fatal disease process that requires help and support.”

Add a pandemic into the mix, and now there’s another layer of fear, shame, and guilt to overcome. What if your request for help is too overwhelming for them right now? What if they think you’re being selfish or ignoring the challenges they’re experiencing?

Plus, recovery is typically a “we” program, not an “I” program. Pre-pandemic, you could meet a friend for coffee, attend a meeting, or invite someone over.

But now, those options are limited or nonexistent, and it feels like that essential “we” component is missing. Guilt plus isolation isn’t a great combo when you’re in crisis.

Maintaining relationships can make it easier to ask for help

“Social isolation can make people feel more alone with all of their worries, fears, and sadness,” says Christine Crawford, MD, associate medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“However, it is important for people to find creative ways to remain connected to others in order to protect their mental health.”

Having and maintaining a broad support network filled with trusted, reliable friends and family isn’t just important — it’s essential. But when you’re not feeling particularly great, picking up the phone might be the last thing you want to do.

Try thinking of it this way, though: Asking for help is much less awkward when you’re in regular communication. When you continue to pick up the phone for casual conversations, it’ll be a lot easier to ask for help when you’re really struggling, and it may even be a seamless part of your chat.

“Before anyone leaves our treatment center, I encourage them to keep talking to people,” says Victoria Metz, a certified recovery coach at Arms Acres and the founder of Run4Recovery.

“When you keep talking to people, the likelihood of you talking to them when you need help increases. Routine is key for people with a substance or alcohol use disorder.”

What does help look like right now?

Scioli adds that you can also visit a crisis response center or local emergency department in a pinch. There, you’ll speak with someone in person and they can help you figure out next steps.

Asking for help is different now, too

Since help looks different right now, how you ask for it is also different.

Instead of waiting for someone to decide what they can do and how often they can do it, try to determine what it is you need and be specific in your request.

For example, ask if you can call them once a week or meet in a local park for a walk every Saturday morning.

“When you ask for help, you need to be prepared to hear, ‘I’m sorry, I do care, and I’d love to be in a position to help, but I’m kind of tapped out,” Scioli cautions.

“Although it can be really difficult to hear that after you’ve finally mustered up the courage to ask, they’re giving you an honest answer, and that’s a good thing. It’s better that they don’t promise something that they can’t deliver.”

If you do receive a “no,” remember that it’s not about you, and don’t cross them off your friend list. Instead, keep in touch and ask someone else.

How to make it easier to ask for (and receive) help

There’s no sugarcoating it: Asking for help is hard, especially right now. Here are a few ways to make it a little bit easier.

Stay in touch with multiple people

Make it a habit to keep in touch with at least 10 people,” Metz advises. “That way, if you really need to speak with someone, it’s likely that at least one person will answer and be available to talk.”

Don’t have 10 super close friends? Most people don’t, but family members, neighbors, an acquaintances you’d like to know better all count, too. You also don’t necessarily have to discuss your recovery with all of these people — simply maintaining some line of communication can be a big help.

And you never know, you may just find that they’re in a similar boat and need support, too.

Arrange support for exactly when you need it

Is there a specific time of day or week that’s hardest for you? Make sure you have support at those times.

“I encourage you to say, ‘I’ve noticed that I start to get in my head and engage in a lot of negative self-talk at 2: 00 every afternoon,” Scioli recommends. “Would it be OK if I reached out to you tomorrow at that time to see if it would help me?’”

Take the time to help yourself

There’s nothing wrong with leaning on others for help, but your own company can be a surprising source of support.

If you aren’t very comfortable being alone, aim to create a daily solitude plan (there’s really never been a better time to do this). You can read a book, watch a movie, exercise, take a bubble bath, begin a gratitude practice — whatever it is, make it a special activity that you do alone.

“Having a healthy routine around solitude and cultivating a better relationship with yourself is self-love and self-compassion,” says Spiegelman. “And when you get to know yourself more, you’ll feel happier and be freer.”

Develop a routine (and stick to it)

“Establishing daytime structure and routine is incredibly important during these uncertain times when it feels like so very little is in our control,” says Crawford.

“Identifying areas of your life in which you do have control can reduce the anxiety that comes along with uncertainty. Set up a daily schedule which incorporates time for self-care, socializing, and work-related duties.”

Make a list

Inevitably, there will be times when no one’s free to chat (or you just really don’t feel like talking to someone you know).

Make a list of virtual meetings or hotlines you can rely on when these moments strike.

These groups are all offering virtual meetings:

  • SMART Recovery
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • LifeRing
  • In The Rooms

The following hotlines can also offer support:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness: 800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • SAMHSA: 800-662-HELP (4357)
Read this next

Your smartphone doesn't have to be a source of endless anxiety.

Life can have its ups and downs. But how can you tell if it's normal — or something more?

Depression can be debilitating for those that experience it. But there are many effective treatments available that can help you manage your symptoms.

Don't face mental health challenges alone. Instead, learn how to get the support you need to thrive.

Concerned about meth withdrawal? Find out how long it lasts, what can help you feel better, and when it’s time to seek professional care.

In the last 18 months telemedicine has been used for much more than simple check-ins with the primary care physician, it's now being used to help with…

An expert breaks down the many factors that contributed to the current overdose crisis and what it will take to break the trend.

Harm reduction is more than a "common sense" approach. It's a movement designed to protect the health, safety, and agency of people who use drugs.

Caffeine is found in many migraine drugs, but too much caffeine can also be a trigger. How is this possible?

Read more on: skin