Hope is a four-letter word.
Every day that I spend at my job, I am faced with constant reminders of so many different things. I am reminded of the pain and shame of addiction. I am reminded of the losses it causes people. I am reminded of the lack of self-control. The regret and the despair. The hopelessness and seemingly endless disappointment in oneself. I am reminded of the destruction and havoc it wreaks on families, relationships, jobs, economic status, legal standing, and self-worth. I am reminded of the absolute gut-wrenching heartache that is being a parent who struggles with addiction, watching yourself fail at parenting, and not being able to stop. I am reminded of the way it feels to have to share with a group of strangers the awful things you have done, and that have been done to you. I am reminded of the fear that treatment will not get through to you and the horror will continue unchecked. And worst of all, I am reminded of the final, ultimate cost that so many pay, and that their families pay, when addiction pulls another broken soul down with it.
But that is only part of it. I am reminded of the way it feels to finally have a clear head when it’s been a total clusterfuck for years. I am reminded of what it’s like to laugh, to REALLY laugh, from deep down in your belly, when a smile has been so hard to come by. I am reminded of the way it feels when you do have to share those awful things with a group of total strangers, and not only do they not judge you, they nod their heads with genuine understanding and empathy. I am reminded of the bonds that are formed that can only come from those who know the struggle.
I am reminded of the way it feels to let secrets out into the light that have been sitting heavy in your heart for so many sick and painful years, and how it feels like freedom.
I am reminded of the little fire of courage that begins to build up in a person that felt completely defeated. I am reminded of the tremendous bravery it takes to swallow your pride and admit that you cannot do it alone. I am reminded of the grit and the guts and the strength that is required to get through disgusting and physically exhausting detox days when you know that all you have to do to make it stop is walk out the doors and use. I am reminded of the way it feels to have your family members hug you so tight and look at you with hope and how it makes you cry tears of 8675467 different emotions when they tell you they are so proud of you.
I am reminded of the sheer stupidity and unfairness of stereotyping. The addicts and alcoholics that so many assume are selfish, heartless, inhuman creatures who are incapable of caring about others. That they are weak-willed hopeless cases who have done this to themselves by choice. That they are all just nameless losers who deserve judgment and ridicule.
Obviously, I don’t speak for all of them, and of course there are some people who truly seem to be cruel and remorseless and without care for themselves or others, but that is not exclusive to addicts…there are sober assholes too. For the most part though, I sit every day with amazing people.
With so many who are true empaths, which so often contributes to their sickness. With people who are so hypersensitive and worry so much about others. I can’t sneak a troubled mind or difficult day past them, they are the first to detect any unrest and inquire about how I’m doing when they are in so much pain themselves.
They are experts at detecting bullshit after years of dishing it out and call one another out, not out of cruelty or to shame them, but to help them see the error in their ways so that they can grow and get better. I see people who love fiercely, people who fight through IMMENSE physical, mental, and emotional pain to try and make a better life for themselves. People who realize that they have to start from the rubble at the bottom and rebuild their lives. People who want nothing so badly as they want to repair the fractured trust with their families. People who have fallen down so, so many times, but just keep getting back up.
I see moms and dads who have to make the decision to be away from their children so that they can get well and go home and be the parents they have never been able to be. I see people who started out just like anybody else, but due to some genetic bad wiring, or some horrendous childhood experiences, or some completely unknown force, have been handed one of the most difficult, lifelong battles a person can face. I see human beings.
My favorite reminder though is hope. Hope is four letter word in the beginning. It is something that other people have. It is something we covet in our addiction and don’t dare dream of ever having for ourselves. Substance abuse and self-defeating behaviors ripped it from us and assured us that it was not something that we deserved.
But then things start to happen. Our bodies start to slowly return to a semblance of normal functioning. Our minds still race, but not with such constant fury. We meet people in treatment and elsewhere in the recovering community who have years under their belts, and there is truly where we see hope. It IS possible. It CAN be done. People are out there laughing and smiling and fucking LIVING…people who were lower down than we were.
And suddenly, you see it in someone’s eyes. There is nothing else like it, seeing the light of hope return to the flat, hopeless, defeated eyes that you looked into in the beginning. There is nothing like seeing someone who was a shell of a person start to blossom with life again.
I am grateful today and every day for those reminders. I am grateful that the people I am trying my best to learn to help allow me to do so. I am grateful that I was able to pull myself out of that, black awful place and into the light, and that I can now take that and use it to help others find their way out too. I am honored to work with an amazing staff of people who work tirelessly and without losing their compassion and drive in what is all too often a losing battle.
It is in struggle that you find out who you truly are. It is in the scariest, most awful times, that you discover your own bravery. There is literally no point that is too far to come back from while you are still alive and breathing. And sometimes, the people who have been slammed down against rock bottom take those rocks and use them to create something absolutely beautiful.