“It’s not your job to convince the world that you’re deserving of your blessings. Your only job is to be open to receive them.” – Yasmine Cheyenne

Tis’ the Season of Receiving

By Jared Henry

It’s hard to believe that a new year is already upon us, and hopefully, with it, a renewed sense of hope and optimism that will follow us as we navigate the year ahead. For the past two months, we’ve been engrossed in the season of giving, and now, with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc., fading out of sight in our rearview mirror, we brace for the challenges and goals on the road before us in the days and months to come. Like many, if not all of you – I’m exhausted. We’ve all just been through yet another pandemic-fueled holiday season, doing our best to make it unique and memorable in ways that we can. Pandemic or not, it’s easy for us during this season to extend ourselves beyond our mental, emotional, or financial capacity to show affection and gratitude towards the people we love. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the spirit of giving – the making, the buying, the wrapping, the sending, the thank you cards – we often don’t allow ourselves to see the spirit of receiving, or more specifically, give ourselves time to acknowledge the love behind a gift. In this case, I’m not necessarily talking about how happy you are that you got the purse you’ve been thinking about for months or the tech gadget you’ve been eyeing in your shopping cart wish list.  Instead, I believe more emphasis should be placed on the little sticker that we glance over to make sure we know whom to thank after unwrapping – the personalized “To:  From:” label set carefully in a corner that carries the true weight of what receiving means.

Receive the gift of love

There was a time in my life before recovery when any time I received a gift, there was a subconscious thought process that some of you reading this may find relatable. First, I would look to see who the gift was from to set my selfish expectations appropriately.  If it were from a family member, I would automatically lose sight of the true power of the gift, as my internal dialogue was something along the lines of: “They probably felt obligated to send me a gift, I hope the gift I got them is of comparable value.” If it was from someone unexpected, my thought was, “They shouldn’t have. I didn’t think to get them anything, and now I’ve probably upset them.”  In this process, the spirit of receiving was lost on me. For whatever reason, my ability to accept a gift was entirely overshadowed by a feeling that I was undeserving of a gift, a subsequent feeling of guilt for them having gone through the trouble of the gifting process for someone like me and thus, to accept a gift for what it meant, rather than what was inside.

In my opinion, the ability to truly receive a gift is lost on many due to this thought process, as the intention behind the exchange has been coerced by the mental blocks that prevent us from accepting a gift’s true meaning. When was the last time you received a gift and just said, “Thank you,” without it being preempted by dismissive language? (“You shouldn’t have,” “You didn’t have to do that!”, “I can’t believe you did that,” “You didn’t have to go through all that trouble,” etc.,). While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying any of those things, as they essentially are just reiterating gratitude with a sense of humility, I believe these are unintentional ways to divert the emphasis of a gift from oneself back to the giver. In doing so, we rob ourselves of the acceptance of receiving, not of a gift, but the intention and love the giver is trying to communicate in a tangible way.

If we are to accept a gift truly, then we must be willing to learn to recognize the spirit of receiving and allow ourselves to acknowledge the meaning and intention behind what’s wrapped within a pretty box and bow – that we are loved, we are important, we bring joy to the lives of others, and that we are worthy of receiving – whether it be a gift, affection, or, where I’m ultimately going with this – help. 

Giving and receiving

If I were to replace the words “gift” and “giving” in the text above with “help” or “helping,” the message would remain true. Just as we may feel undeserving, guilty, etc., of receiving a gift, this same feeling can prevent us from accepting help when we need it most. When Herren Project first reached out their hand to provide me with the means to live a successful life in recovery, I declined multiple times, mainly using the same (ir)rationalization and negative self-talk I described when receiving a gift. Undoubtedly, there were other factors – my pride, not actually wanting to be sober, amongst a few others, which certainly played a role in my resistance. Still, ultimately, it was my inability to accept the gift of help from the people who knew the importance of “me” long before I could see it for myself. I, along with every person who has or is struggling with addiction, am/are deserving of receiving help, even if we have to ask for it.  The problem with addiction in this context is that there’s no season, holiday, or event where we all go around asking others if they need help (though perhaps we should start one!), so it’s crucial to know that – yes, you ARE deserving of help, you ARE important and people DO love you! If a family member or loved one has grown concerned enough to ask if you need help, please know that it does not come from a place of being critical, judgmental, or any other lie we tell ourselves to discredit our worth, but rather a place of love, affection, and the intimate knowledge of living life the way we were meant to – using our gifts, our personalities, and our talents in healthy, impactful, and enriching ways so that others can receive our gifts that addiction hides from the world. 

You Are Loved

As I mentioned before, there are a variety of reasons people struggling with addiction have a hard time asking for or accepting help from others. It could be a sense of pride – that accepting help would be an admittance of weakness, a cause for embarrassment, or it would shatter the facade that everything is ok. Or perhaps there is a deep-seated fear of relinquishing control to the process of addiction treatment or fear of the unknown. If you are a person with low-self esteem, which I believe all of us have experienced in some form in our lives, the idea that accepting help would be an imposition on others and the subsequent discomfort of this projection is enough for anyone to internalize the mental and emotional struggles associated with addiction at the risk of being a burden. But perhaps most commonly, many people don’t believe they need help, whether they’re unaware of the severity of their substance use, they’ve convinced themselves through irrational justification that they have things under control, or they dissociate enough to ignore the glaring signs of the impact their addiction is having in their life and the lives of those around them. No matter what is holding someone back from accepting help, I believe the reasons above and those not mentioned are all preceded by fear. Humans are afraid of things that are out of their control, especially when it comes to how we are perceived.

A prevailing example of this is the psychological aspects of social media. With social media, we have complete control of the image we wish others to see us as, from the clothes we wear to the people we surround ourselves with. The ability to fine-tune our desired appearance gives us a sense of control that we are so afraid to lose. When accepting help, that sense of perceptional control is lost, leaving us petrified of the possibilities that accepting help would entail and the impact it would have on our rigorously curated image. 

When we think back on how we react to receiving a gift or the reluctance we may face when accepting the help of others, it’s important to understand that any adverse emotional tendencies are entirely made up in our minds. There’s a hard truth that we must all accept — how we are perceived, the love our families have for us, the reaction people may have if they were to learn about our addiction — we’ve never had and never will have control of other’s thoughts, feelings, or actions. The adorable picture of your dog you posted on social media may make one person’s day and at the same time annoy another person for being bombarded by pets every time they look at their feed. This is a silly example, but the same can be said when the word gets out that so-and-so entered a rehab facility. The news may elicit a snarky remark from your aunt, while the courage and strength it took for you to accept help inspired your cousin to seek help for his addiction that no one knew about. In both instances, there was no possibility to control either response and thus, making all of the time spent being anxious about these uncertainties wasted energy since we never had that perceptional power in the first place. There is profound freedom found in the acceptance of not having to control the thoughts or perceptions of others, and it can make accepting or reaching out for help so much easier.

Receive Help

So why is accepting help so important? To be candid — there is no road in active addiction that does not lead to pain, suffering, or death. I know this from experience, and anyone who has struggled, is struggling, or intimately knows someone with substance use disorder can attest to this inevitability. In 2021 alone, more than 100,000 people lost their lives to drug overdoses, while another 95,000+ died from alcoholism. These numbers are terrifying, and it pains me to think how many of these victims could have avoided the ultimate price of addiction if they had received help before it was too late. I know all too well how convincing those voices inside can be when they tell you things like, “You’re not good enough. You’re too far gone. You don’t have a problem. You’re not like those people who go to rehab.” The moment I realized those voices were lying was the moment I picked up the phone and started packing my bag to accept the greatest gift I have ever received — a fulfilling life in recovery full of purpose, happiness, and freedom. Now that the season of giving has passed let’s allow ourselves to embrace the spirit of receiving, especially those who are in need of the gift of help, hope, and love because you are worthy, and you do deserve it. 

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol? Are you ready to ask for help?

Our Herren Project Recovery Team is available to help. Fill out the inquiry form or call 1 (401) 243-8590 ext 1.