Finding the Glimmers: Why Hope Matters in Addiction Recovery

Adult black woman, listening to her friend tell a funny story.

An article by Renee W.

As I sit down to write this article on hope, I can’t help but reflect on my own journey through addiction recovery. It’s been almost five years since I went to rehab for alcoholism and said the words, “I can’t do this on my own—I need help.”

Rehab helped me remove alcohol and drugs, but it left me with the common denominator to all my problems: me.

Navigating recovery means dealing with myself, and boy, that’s where the challenges start. Removing alcohol and drugs was only the beginning.

No one promises life in recovery will be easy because it’s not. It’s filled with highs, lows, and mediums, but one thing has remained constant: hope.

Hope isn’t just a vague notion or a fleeting feeling—it’s the very foundation on which recovery is built. The late psychologist C. Rick Snyder, PhD began researching hope in the 1980s and coined the term, “hope theory.” 

He defined hope as “the perceived ability to derive pathways to desired goals, and motivate oneself via agency thinking to use those pathways.”

That’s a fancy way of saying that hope allows us to imagine that this is not how my story ends. This is a chapter, and there is another chapter after this, and the remaining chapters may include a plot twist that I could have never imagined.

So why does hope matter so much in addiction recovery?

First, hope gives us a reason to keep fighting, even when the odds seem stacked against us.

 Addiction leaves us feeling hopeless and powerless, trapped in the seemingly endless cycle of destruction. I remember waking up every morning hungover and promising myself that I wouldn’t drink today. Even though I did not want to drink, on an average day, I was drinking by 11 AM, sometimes earlier. I would drink all day until I passed out, sleep restlessly, wake up drenched with sweat and hungover, and begin the cycle again.

Even at my rock bottom, when I felt like there was no way out and that I was destined to stay in the destructive cycle, somewhere deep inside, a tiny ember of hope flickered. It may have been dim at times, but it was still there. It was that spark that whispered that maybe there was a way out. The “maybe” was what kept me holding on.

Second, hope offers a vision of a fulfilling future.

I’m a realist, so you won’t hear me saying things like “bright” future or “amazing” future. I do, however, I say “fulfilling” future because hope paints a picture free from the shackles of substance abuse, a picture filled with possibility and potential.

For me, a fulfilling future not only means being free from addiction but a future filled with meaningful connections and personal growth. Since I’ve gotten sober, my life’s meaning has shifted tremendously. I no longer live to just “survive” each day. I pursue my passions with unwavering commitment and nurture the relationships that feed my soul.

I am no longer defined by past mistakes, and instead, I use the pain from those mistakes to help other people. I have clung to this vision during the darkest moments of recovery.

Third, hope fosters resilience.

young woman relaxed at heater with tablet in hand

One thing is for sure about the recovery journey: it is never linear.

I mistakenly thought that after I stopped drinking, life would be good, and I would make bounds of mental and emotional progress toward recovery. While I have made progress,  it didn’t happen in a straight line. It happened (and continues to happen) more like the proverb “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

There will be setbacks and challenges. There will be self-doubt. There will be fear. There will be pain.

The thing about hope, though? It gives me the strength to persevere, to pick myself up, and to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I’ve faced my fair share of setbacks in recovery—we all do. However, with each setback, hope comes along and reminds me that challenges are all part of the process, and instead of giving up, try instead asking, “what can I learn from this?”

How to find hope if you have no idea where to begin

You may be thinking, yeah, I hear you talking about hope, but you don’t understand. You don’t know what I’ve been through. There is no hope for me.

I have thought those same thoughts, believed those same statements. It’s hard to see a life beyond addiction, but the first step is knowing there can be one. Hope can be found.

I will tell you how I started finding (and continue finding) hope.

I listened to other people’s stories of hope.

There’s a profound beauty in simply listening to stories from others—a practice that often becomes a source of hope in itself. Whether it was from a support group, from a podcast, or scrolling through Instagram, I started paying attention to other people’s stories. I heard stories of others who had pulled themselves out of addiction and started living a life they could have never dreamed possible.

The skeptic in me thought that maybe these stories were simply outliers, that they could not actually be common. In reality, they may not be common, but they are possible. I started seeking out stories of others who were working through their addictions and living out their recoveries. I thought, if they can do it, why can’t I?  I started doing what they did, beginning with being honest with myself. Hope began to magnify.

I started thinking of the future, but not too much.

New change life project concept, today to do list

What I mean here is that I thought of the future as full of possibility. But how far in the future? Not too far. Specifically, I started focusing on the next 24 hours, a technique I learned in addiction recovery. I started planning the next 24 hours and avoided dwelling on much beyond that.

Why does this work? Because the next 24 hours are manageable. I can do (or not do) anything for 24 hours.

Thinking of the future in 24 hour chunks intensified my hope. Because before I knew it, years had gone by and I was still sober. I couldn’t believe it. I never even uttered the words “I want to stay sober for years.” That’s way too big. I will never think of life long term like that. Why? I only have today. I can stay sober today. 

I leaned on (and continue to lean on) a higher power.

Leaning on a  higher power changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly. Before getting sober, I may have believed in “powers greater than myself,” but I didn’t believe they could help me in any way. I have come to learn that hope comes from realizing that I can’t do this alone and someone or something greater than myself has to help me.

Whether it’s through spirituality, religion, or simply acknowledging the interconnectedness of humanity, there’s a profound comfort in surrendering to something beyond my understanding. When I need help, I turn to this higher power for guidance, solace, and strength. It’s through relinquishing my control and trusting in something larger than myself that I find hope.

Even research backs this up

Hope is such an abstract term, which makes it hard to research, but there are a few studies out there in the context of addiction recovery. For example, this study examined the role of hope and community in recovery. The sample included 229 participants spread across 42 Oxford House sober homes. The findings? Both hope and community were predictors in successful addiction recovery.

This should not be surprising.

Centres for Health and Healing can help

happy group in recovery

There is always hope.

It’s a phrase we hear a lot because it is true. No one is too far gone. Through its transformative power, hope offers us a way out of addiction. Hope offers us a better future. Hope is the glimmer that says this is not how my story has to end. I can choose an alternative ending. 

Maybe it’s you who is seeking help. Maybe it’s a loved one. Either way, know that Centres for Health and Healing is here for you. Our team offers compassionate, personalized care to support you on your recovery journey. From detoxification to aftercare support, we are here to offer you hope and show you that you can be free.

Take the first step by contacting us today to see how we can help.

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