When I first got sober, I was almost completely hopeless. I had arrived at a point in my life where I was emotionally and spiritually defunct. I felt empty on the inside, and I felt like I had nothing left to give to life. It was a terrible feeling, to say the least, and yet even in the throws of hitting bottom, a tiny piece of me still held onto the hope that things could change.
I’m not sure if I knew this at the time, but looking back now, I see it. I can see it in the actions that I took, like entering rehab, leaving my home in Virginia, and taking the suggestions that were given to me. I had hope that if I did these things, then I could change, and I was right.
Hope is what makes 12 Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous so attractive and successful. A person with even the tiniest amount of hope can arrive at a meeting, relate, and have that hope nurtured and grow into faith and a new life. Or at least that’s my story.
When I got to my first AA meeting down in South Florida, I was completely broken. My marriage was essentially over, I was now 1000 miles away from my children, and the majority of my family was done with me. I looked around the room, and I saw smiling happy faces, and I wanted that in my life. People seemed to have a levity about them that was appealing, and I had hope that if I did the things that I needed to do, I could have that too.
Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t completely enthralled with being sober, and I still didn’t really understand what being sober meant, but I knew on some level that if these people could change then I could too.
I met my sponsor, and my hope began to grow because I saw in her a woman who was just like me, yet she had overcome her difficulties. We would talk, and she would tell me stories about how she used to be and what she was like now, and I knew that it was possible for me to change. The more I went to meetings and talked with other alcoholics, the more my hope grew and when I actually started to see results in my life, I knew I was on the right path.
It started with little things like being able to fall asleep fairly easily and then actually staying asleep throughout the night. Imagine that! For so many years I had to pass out in order to fall asleep, and if I hadn’t drunk or drugged enough, then my mind would race endlessly as it rested on the pillow. These things started to change, and my mind quieted, and more often than not I felt peace. From these small little gifts, my hope grew more and more, and in time I actually began to envision a future for myself.
A lack of hope is essentially an inability to see a future for yourself. It is something that I am familiar with because at certain times in my life I have felt that way. I would look at my current life and be unable to see how I could continue on or how anything could possibly change. These feelings usually ended up in suicidal ideation, as the overwhelming feeling of despair was not easily contended with. I couldn’t envision a future where I didn’t feel terrible, and so because of this, it felt like ending it was just easier.
Not to minimize these feelings because they are very real and very difficult to handle, but looking back I now understand how misplaced they were. Through the things that I have learned in AA, I have seen that nothing in life is so final that all hope is lost. There is nothing in life that I can’t overcome, no matter how difficult it may be. At times I still fall into this pattern of thought, but I am usually able to pull myself out of this infinite loop of hopelessness a lot easier than I could in the past.
Not being able to envision a future is the reason why hope is the difference between success and failure. It doesn’t need to be a comprehensive sense of direction, but being able to see some type of future for yourself goes a long way in aiding the recovery process. I found for myself that being able to see that I could overcome my alcoholism allowed me to work towards the goals that were presented to me and it gave me the strength to push through when things got tough.
The times in sobriety where I struggled the most were usually the result of not having faith or hope that things that would work out. I would get caught up in a moment or the fear that something would not be okay, and in times like this, a drink or drug would begin to be a little more appealing. I cannot say for certain but I think that sometimes when people relapse, it is because they have lost their hope. They no longer believe that the 12 Steps will work for me or that possibly even God has forsaken them. Feeling this way, of course, a viable solution becomes drinking, and so it is important for me to remain hopeful even when it is difficult.
Sometimes I have to forcibly make myself hopeful and when I do this often, I start to feel better because I am no longer focusing on the negative things in my life. It is so easy to get caught up in problems, but when I can see past them and remember that there is nothing that I cannot overcome, my life improves.
So if are currently at a point where you feel hopeless, remember that looks can often be deceiving, and you may just be at a point where you are getting ready for a change. Have faith that things will work out, and step out on the bridge of hope no matter how afraid you may be.