Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to give advice than to receive it? I had a conversation with someone in which they admitted that they were struggling, and I was listening to them. A person I had reached out to many times before in my dark moments, a person who had sat and listened to me, provided empathy and support, and was there for me. That’s the beauty of accountability and sponsorship. This particular day, they had reached out to me. During that conversation, one particular statement they said stuck out to me: “I hate being on this side of the conversation.” Hearing this from this person, this vulnerable, outspoken person, I would never have expected to have heard it. However, I did not even have to ask “why.” I already knew the why.
Giving advice internally produces within us a level of power, of understanding, of coming from a place of stability. When we give advice, we are telling someone about something that hopefully we already know about, where we’ve been, and what we know. When someone asks us a question that we know the answer to, there is a level of confidence in being able to answer that question correctly, to avoid appearing incompetent to others. On the flip side, receiving advice can internally produce within us a sense of helplessness, of powerlessness, a fear of misunderstanding and instability. It is this fear of appearing incompetent, helpless, and powerless which often keeps us from reaching out and asking for help. (When I am talking about advice, I am not talking about fixing someone. I’m more talking along the lines of guidance and support, much as we do as accountability partners and sponsors. We ask the difficult questions, make sure they are on track, and provide support and guidance when needed. Just wanted to clarify.)
So when my friend said that they hated being on that side of the conversation, I completely understood. Many times in my recovery I have been afraid to reach out for help. I have been afraid to admit that I am stuck, that I am emotionally drained, that I need someone to help me break the cycle of insanity that I have found myself in yet again. After being so used to being the one to provide guidance and support, I oftentimes fail to realize when I need to be on the other side of the conversation.
I have had to really work on learning to be open to the support and guidance that others have had for me instead of pretending to be a know-it-all, to know what I am doing in my recovery. I mean, if I really knew what I was doing I wouldn’t be stuck in the insanity cycle would I? If I knew what I was doing then I would in fact be playing God and we all know how dangerous that can be. Therefore, I had to learn to open up to others, to actively listen to their words of guidance and support. That meant I had to TRUST them. After years and years of hurt and pain, I did not want to trust anyone else. Being able to trust others is easier said than done. Actually practicing the advice we are given is easier said than done. Even following the 12 steps on a daily basis is easier said than done.
“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
If I continue to provide advice yet refuse to accept it myself, then I am not working my recovery. To be a leader, one must learn to be a follower, and thus I must also continue to listen to advice and accept discipline so that I may be counted among the wise. As Nate has said before, I cannot ask someone to do what I myself am unwilling to do. Regardless of my own plans, my own self-advice, my own level of stubbornness, the Lord’s purpose is going to prevail as He has promised. If I am to be more like Christ, then I need to continue to listen to advice and accept discipline, not fight it. Working recovery is hard, so very hard at times. Yet it’s the daily persistence that keeps me coming back, the daily reminder that hardship is the pathway to peace just as the Serenity Prayer says. This is my recovery.
Yes, recovery is easier said than done. But…isn’t a better life worth a little struggle?
Thank you for letting me share.
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor