By Joyce and Barry Vissell
The first three steps of the twelve-step program for recovery from addiction have to do with asking for help; knowing that we are powerless without help from a higher power; and trusting that this higher power can restore our lives greater than we could even imagine. I have seen these twelve steps work miracles in the lives of many people.
What about people who are not struggling with addiction? I feel the twelve steps, especially the first three, can help everyone.
We recently met with a family group of 15 people who were going through a huge challenge, with very strong opposing views. The family was split in two by these views, and were in a lot of pain. There appeared to be no easy solution, and there was a possibility of multiple estrangements. In all of our 45 years of counseling people and leading groups, this was honestly the most complex and painful family situation we had ever encountered. I hardly ever feel nervous about a situation in our work, yet I began to feel nervous, and a bit fearful.
I realized I needed to turn the situation over completely to God, asking that this great power could come through Barry and me in ways that I could not even imagine. That is what happened! Once I really surrendered to my need for help in working with this broken family, the nervousness and fear left me. I did not really have a plan other than to trust in the Higher Power of Love. Though the time with them was very challenging, the end result was greater than I could have ever imagined. This family has a long road to go in healing, yet if they can continue to ask for help from a higher power, they will be even stronger than before.
Asking for help from our higher power is extremely powerful in our lives. Most people wait until there is an extremely challenging situation. There is the famous scene from the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which Jimmy Stewart’s character, George, is desperate and wants to take his life. While sitting in a bar he prays, “God, I am not a praying man but, if you can hear me, I need help.” Then help comes in the form of a strange angel named Clarence.
What if we began asking for help with smaller things in our life, to build up a momentum of faith that we can be helped in all ways when we ask? Most people feel that it is best to not bother asking for help for smaller things, as it is a waste of God’s energy. That view sees The Great Power of Love in such a limited way; that there is just so much energy, and so we’d better wait until it is life and death before asking for help. The truth is that the energy available to us is unlimited. We are loved so much that help is always available. I am not talking about asking for a brand new, shiny car, or to win the lottery. I am talking about real life issues; however small you think they are.
I recently had an experience with what could be considered a very small need for help. We were at the breakfast line at the retreat center we use in Hawaii to lead our week-long couple’s retreat. Before the retreat a woman volunteer asked us to give a talk to the community about relationships. At first we thought none of the volunteers would come, yet she assured us she would get other volunteers to come. We agreed and set up a time and space for one of the evenings. We then got involved with leading our retreat, and forgot about naming the talk. The morning of the talk came, and suddenly we realized we had not given the talk a name to place on the daily activities board. While in line at the dining area, Barry suggested that we call it an “Aloha Talk.” I didn’t like that title but couldn’t come up with something else.
Then I said, “I’m going to ask for help that someone will come and tell us exactly what to name the talk.” Barry looked doubtful, and responded, “Well I doubt that someone is going to come walking up and tell us, yet if they do we will go with their suggestion. We have to have something up on the bulletin board within a few minutes.” We agreed and continued in the line. I closed my eyes for a moment, and asked for help. Within one minute of my asking for help, the original woman volunteer that had invited us came around the corner carrying some hot water. She stopped when she saw us and said, “We are all so excited about the talk tonight. What are you going to name it?” Barry suggested the “Aloha Talk.” She grimaced and said, “Nobody would come to that! Why don’t you call it ’Creating Healthy Relationships’?” Then she continued on her way with the hot water. We stood a moment in awe at the divine answer to my small request for help.
Help does not always come immediately, as with the name of our talk, George Bailey getting a visit from his angel Clarence, or when we worked with that troubled family. But help will come at the perfect time, and it can go beyond your imagination. The important thing is to start asking for help, and knowing that our Creator wants to help us as we live our lives upon this earth.
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk to Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant to Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift. Call Toll-Free 800-766-0629 (locally 831-684-2299), or write to the Shared Heart Foundation, P.O. Box 2140, Aptos, CA 95001, for further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings, or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their website
at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.