Feeling hopelessness in recovery?
Keep your hope alive. As long as you continue to try, you have a good chance of meeting your goal. Never allow yourself to quit trying and hoping for the future.
I can talk in circles about why I drank. In fact, I do it all the time.
- I wasn’t happy in my marriage.
- My career wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do.
- My students weren’t working hard enough.
- I didn’t trust anyone.
- I lost my purpose.
And while all those were true, they were mostly just excuses to continue drinking. The real reason, what everything boils down to, is that I felt no hope.
If I had hope that any of that would have gotten better, I would have had a reason to work towards improving…
A reason to put forth an effort.
A goal that was worth working for.
I couldn’t see that, even though the possibility was always there. A lot of people feel that way while they are in active addiction. Many continue to feel that hopelessness in recovery.
The Day I Found Hope
I remember the first day I decided to quit drinking. I woke up feeling broken and lost. I was really scared. Then I got up and took my miserable hungover self down to my first meeting.
During the meeting, every part of me was crumpled up into this tightly balled wad of paper ready to be tossed in the trash, but slowly the corners of the paper were pulled away from the ball. And when I spoke, the story with all the pain written on that paper just came pouring out.
By the end of the meeting, the page sat flat on the table, still very wrinkled and creased, but things had been smoothed out just a little. I knew that if I had flung that paper toward the trash can, it would have floated back and forth a little, and maybe it would have fallen in.
It would have hit the rim and slid right on down the outside of that can.
Are you feeling like there’s still hopelessness in recovery? Here are five things you can do to get you back on the right track and help you maintain your sobriety.
1. Understand the Negative Thought Cycle
Often we think of the negative thought cycle as beginning with a trigger that develops into a bad mood which leads to more negative thoughts and results in a deeper bad mood. On the surface, that is how the cycle works, but there is something much more chemical going on underneath the surface.
When you have a negative thought, your brain produces cortisol, a chemical that leads to more negative thoughts and emotions which leads to more cortisol production, which leads to…
Unfortunately, it’s a never-ending cycle unless something happens to break it, or you take action and break it intentionally with an onslaught of positive thoughts that counteract the cortisol with dopamine, a chemical the brain releases that produces positive thoughts. At first, this will be difficult because continued alcohol abuse affects our brain’s natural ability to produce dopamine easily, but as you maintain your sobriety over time, your brain will return to a more normal state.
DO THIS: Create a list of things you are grateful for so that every time you find yourself slipping into hopelessness in recovery, you can read your list and easily generate positive thoughts. Additionally, practicing gratitude regularly puts you in a positive state throughout the day.
2. Argue with Yourself
Come on. In many ways, we all like to argue. Why not do it with the person that’s most likely to end up agreeing with you in the end? You. Besides, if you are like me, you probably do it anyway.
Look for reasons your feelings of hopelessness in recovery are wrong and combat them with opposite statements. When you find yourself saying I’ll never be able to stay sober, combat that with, “I can stay sober if I just take it one day at a time.”
It doesn’t just have to be about alcohol though. Our hopeless feelings about the various areas of our lives trigger us to want to drink, so next time you say, “I’ll never be loved,” argue with yourself.
Is that really true? Seriously. NEVER! That’s a little dramatic. Aren’t there people out there that love you now?
DO THIS: The best arguments include three things: ethos (ethics), pathos (emotions), and logos (logic). When you feel yourself having a negative thought, write down that thought then triple down on it with the three types of proof against it. For example:
If you would like a copy of this worksheet, you can download it here:
3. Make a List of Solutions
You can be a victim or a victor. I prefer victor. How do you do that? By facing your problems with solutions and taking action.
One thing that often gets me down is feeling like I am not able to have fun (a common concern for people new to sobriety), and I usually get this hopeless feeling. Rather than let it pull me down, I make a list of the things I can do that will produce change.
For example, I can take on a new hobby or learn a new skill, (photography, jewelry making, painting) join a league (baseball, bowling, etc.), or talk to a sober friend to find out what they do for fun.
DO THIS: Make a bucket list of new things you would like to try or learn and that can help you fight hopelessness in recovery. Don’t be shy. Put down everything, even things you could never imagine yourself doing. Then start doing the things on your list. Don’t worry if you aren’t good at them. No one is ever good at anything they’ve just begun to learn. Be willing to try it once. If you like it, you can keep doing it until you do become good at it. It’s never too late to start learning something new.
4. Talk to a Friend
Friends often talk to us with much kinder words than we ourselves would use. The next time you are feeling hopelessness in recovery, give a friend a call and tell them how you are feeling. If they support your recovery in positive ways, they will offer you the words you need to hear.
Alternatively, you can pretend you are your other friend. Let’s face it, this person might not be available at three in the morning. In times when you can’t call them, you can always pretend to be them using their voice and kind words when talking to yourself.
DO THIS: First, make a list of people you can call for support. Start by putting everyone you know on the list. Then refine the list crossing out all the names of people who have a glass half empty attitude towards life. Next list the remaining names in order from most supportive to simply positive. Finally, contact your top three supportive friends. Tell them what you are doing and how having their support can help. This way, next time you start feeling hopeless, you can reach for your list of people and go down the list.
5. Seek Professional Help
Sometimes we just need a little professional help to nudge us past a bout of depression. This doesn’t necessarily mean years of therapy. Nor does it mean a diagnosis of mental illness. It might just be consultation with someone who’s skilled at helping you see different perspectives and solutions.
There are several outlets available for professional help including therapists, hypnotists, or coaches. Take a look at what each of them entails and consider which one would be best for you.
DO THIS: Check out my “Work with Me” page to see what a coach can do for you. If you think you would benefit from the services of a sober coach, book a free consultation. There is no obligation past the call. It’s just an opportunity to see if my services and your needs are a compatible match.
However, if you are sitting on the fence about seeking professional help, you can join my free Facebook group instead. I am always offering positive words of encouragement as well as tips to help you stay sober and live in grace, hope, and recovery.
You Can Fight Hopelessness in Recovery
Hopelessness in recovery can distract you from your goal of maintaining sobriety and lead to relapse. After all, if you are feeling like there is no hope, then why bother trying.
The good news is that there is hope. Even if you have to do a little work to find it, it’s still there waiting just around the corner for you or at the click of a button.