Asking for Help

I recently opened my iPhone and accidentally bumped the Siri button. Although she is generally trying to help me, Siri and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship. I even changed her voice and regional accent settings to a British dialect hoping I’d have more patience with her. So far, we are discovering that it is as easy to get annoyed with a dignified woman with a British accent as it was a pleasant-sounding American.

Be that as it may, the question that popped up on my phone’s screen in that moment was the usual, “What can I help you with?” I’ve seen this question launched multiple times before but for whatever reason this time the words seemed to beckon me to do some serious thinking.

I realized that this is the first question that I ask people who come into my office for their initial introductory meeting with me. I want to know why they are here, or at least why they think they are here. I want to know what help looks like to them, or at least how they might define the word in the context of their present pain. I want to know their goals, their questions, and their expectations. Most of all, I want to know how I can fit in to what they have decided to make themselves vulnerable enough to discover about themselves by making an appointment. “What can I help you with?” is a very profound question to hear and one that opens up an opportunity for the recipient to experience an invitation to courage, or a complete shutting down depending on how the question is delivered to them.

Helping Others

I shared with a class I was teaching recently that the whole purpose of the 12-step chronology was to lead us to service. When we who are in recovery walk through “step work” we encounter a number of subjects that seem very focused on ourselves, our past, our self-centered fear, and our own “inventory.” Ultimately, by step twelve the objective is to be able to lift our eyes off of ourselves and move into a role of serving others, giving back, and taking a message of hope beyond our own story and circumstances to those around us who are hurting. Many would even say that it is in living out this twelfth step that we experience the true essence and lifestyle of sobriety that most keeps us on our path of recovery.

As we begin to engage the pain of others we become more than casual observers in their lives. We are now empathetic witnesses to their stories. When we ask with deep sincerity, “What can I help you with?” we are opening a door that for many has never been accessed. Those who have lived behind the curtain of their own shame or adopted a narrative of apathy from others which they recite to themselves daily drink up these words of compassionate listening like water in a desert. With great courage they may dare to honestly give us an answer back.

  • Author — Last Edited: October 23, 2019
    Photo of David Hampton
    David Hampton
    David Hampton has lived in the Greater Nashville, Tennessee area since 1988, where he enjoyed two staff writing deals with major Nashville music labels. David served as the Director of Worship Arts at Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN for nearly two decades. David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker (represented by and the author of two books, Our Authentic Selves: Reflections On What We Believe and What We Wish We Believed (Lighthouse Publishing), as well as his most recent book, After the Miracle: Illusions Along the Path to Restoration (Morgan James New York). David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast available on iTunes and Spotify, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. As a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), David works closely with Nashville area treatment centers, nonprofit recovery organizations, and consulting with faith-based groups trying to bridge the gap between the recovery communities and faith-based organizations who wish to understand addiction.

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