How to ask for help when you’re struggling in recovery

by Health

Recovery is challenging and confronting and full of ups and downs, wins and setbacks.  But the key to full recovery lies in staying committed, doing the work, and getting back up again whenever you fall. However, you don’t have to do it alone. In times where you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, defeated, or you just want to throw in the towel, ask for help. Whether it’s from your family, friends and loved ones, or a team of health professions or psychologists, never be afraid to reach out and ask for support. Speaking up shows strength, commitment and vulnerability. It’s not weak to ask for help – it’s powerful. So don’t condemn yourself to a lonely recovery journey, reach out and ask for help whenever you’re struggling. Here’s how.

1. Recognise that asking for help shows courage.

Like we just mentioned, being able to ask for help takes immense strength and bravery. After all, you’re being completely vulnerable, honest and authentic – and that’s not always an easy thing to do!

But for some reason, society often teaches us to view vulnerability as a sign of weakness. This is not true, in any sense. Being vulnerable requires you to have the strength of character to allow others to see you for who you really are. That’s all there is to it. There’s no shame or weakness in that. In being vulnerable and asking for help, you give yourself the opportunity to really deepen your connections with those around you. After all, you’re connecting on a far deeper level than ever before, and you’re learning to depend on others, and truly trust and believe in the people around you.

This is so freeing and empowering. In recognising that asking for help is a strength, you suddenly empower yourself to seek the support you need. You don’t feel like you have to do it alone. You don’t need to accept the feelings of drowning, of being isolated and misunderstood, of feeling like you simply can’t continue on your road to recovery. Instead, you get to lean on people who love you. You get to ask for the motivation and encouragement you need to keep fighting for the life you deserve! What could be more worthwhile than that?

And guess what? People actually like it when you ask them for help… They like feeling trusted, reliable, and as though they can offer you support and whatever else you may need. So that voice in your head telling you you can’t ask for help, impose on others, be a burden? That voice is a liar! It’s not only rewarding for you when you ask for help, it’s also rewarding for the person you’re asking!

2. Start with a loved one you trust.

Deciding who you’re going to seek support from is essential in recovery. Ideally, you want to start by talking to someone you love, respect and trust. Someone you know will hear you (not just listen to you), and will support you in whatever way you need. 

Think about your closest family members, friends or your partner, and ask yourself the following questions: Are they reliable? Do we share a close bond? Do I trust them? Are they kind and understanding? Are they likely to hear me out, and want to show me the support I’m looking for?

These questions can help you determine who the best person to reach out to initially may be. Choosing someone who you feel safe to be vulnerable and open with, and who you know will support rather than judge you is so important. Because you deserve help and care, so seek it from someone who has the capacity to give this to you.

When you approach your chosen person, ask them if they have the capacity to hear you and support you right now. If the answer is no, consider asking someone else for help instead. But if the answer is yes, you’ve now created a safe and open space, and a dialogue based on trust and care.

And it’s important to note, if you reach out to someone and they can’t offer you this support, it’s not a reflection on you. It doesn’t mean you should give up on finding someone who can help you. It doesn’t mean you’re too much to deal with, or you’re beyond help. It just means the person you asked wasn’t the right one for the job, or didn’t have the capacity or empathy in that moment to give you what you needed. And that’s okay! Just try someone new, who offers you that security and love you need, and don’t give up on finding that support person!

3. Tell people how to help you.

Sometimes, you don’t need someone to “fix” your problems. You just need someone to sit with you, and empathise with whatever you’re going through. Sometimes you need someone to hold space for you and just show up. Whatever it is that you need in the moment, don’t be afraid to articulate it. Help others to help you.

When you’re sharing what you’re working through and struggling with, feel able and empowered to tell your support person exactly what you need from them. Whether you need support in an acute moment, or you’re after ongoing accountability and advice, all you can do is ask. Don’t ever feel like you’re a burden, or you’re asking for too much. By being truly honest and articulating what you need, you’re inviting your support person to rise to the occasion, or to tell you they can’t meet a particular need – in which case, you can find someone who can!

Being completely honest and feeling able to ask for help is so important in recovery. There is never any shame in asking for your needs to be met. You deserve this, always.

4. The cherry on top: find a team of supportive health professionals.

In recovery, you really need a team of dedicated, experienced health professionals who are educated and experienced in exactly what you’re going through. Given the intricacies and individuality of every recovery journey, it can be challenging for those with no experience to understand exactly what you’re going through, and to know what you need.

But by seeking out professionals in the recovery space who have the knowledge, understanding, empathy and tools to help you achieve full recovery, you equip yourself to navigate this path as best you possibly can. 

In finding the right people – whether you’re looking for a health coach, a psychologist, a dietitian or nutritionist, a trainer, whoever it may be, you’re helping yourself! You’re recognising that you do need help on this journey – almost everyone does – and that’s okay! And you’re going a step further and seeking the help you deserve.

The more you can surround yourself with the knowledge and support of people who get you, and know the best ways to help you, the more you’re able to push through the tougher moments on this recovery journey. Because there will be hard times. But in asking for help, you can absolutely get through each and every one of them, and achieve the full recovery you so deserve.

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Sarah King is an Exercise Physiologist and Health Coach specialising in helping women reconnect with their bodies and improve their relationship with food and exercise.

Through her 1:1 Health Coaching Sessions clients learn to nourish their bodies without guilt, move for joy, improve body image and self worth, plus recover from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and get their period pack if it’s gone missing.

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Sarah King

Sarah King

Hi future friends, I’m Sarah King, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and health coach.

Science, not trends is the foundation of my approach. By nourishing the body and mind with scientific facts we can build foundations for a life of realness, not just wellness.