Hope is a unique positive emotion in that it requires some level of adversity to exist. If there is nothing to struggle with, overcome, or endure, there is no need for hope. Hope helps people persevere through difficult times, giving them confidence in the idea that things will get better.
Because of the difficult experiences and emotions substance use can bring, hope can be especially beneficial to people recovering from addiction. Although at times it may be hard to stay hopeful, psychologists have found that hope can have a substantial impact on physical and mental wellbeing.
How Alcohol and Substance Use Lead to Hopelessness
Substance and alcohol use disorder can take a serious toll on people. Relapses, especially ones that follow repeated attempts to establish recovery, can make people feel frustrated, causing them to doubt that they will ever be able to move past their addiction. Losing jobs, places to live, relationships, and other things that are often lost due to addiction can also diminish someone’s sense of hope.
For those in early recovery, such as someone experiencing post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), life can seem especially dismal. This is because prolonged substance use creates chemical imbalance in the brain. When someone no longer has the chemical trigger to release the neurotransmitters that stabilize their mood, life can seem bleak. It takes time for the brain to recalibrate, and during that healing period, the individual is likely to feel not only physical discomfort, but mental and emotional discomfort as well.
Why Hope Matters in Recovery from Addiction
There are many ways in which hope can enhance someone’s life, from the way they look at the world, to their own self-image. Here are some of the ways hope can reinforce the recovery process:
- Hope Inspires Resilience: The unfortunate fact is that just because someone enters recovery, it doesn’t mean other difficult aspects of life will stop. The difficulties of life persist throughout recovery—and no one is immune to setbacks. Maintaining the belief that even when times are difficult, life without substances is still worth it can help someone stay on their recovery path. People find the courage to persist when they are determined to make a better future for themselves.
- Hope Spreads: Like other positive emotions, hope is contagious. When someone is surrounded by people who are hopeful, they tend to adopt a sense of hopefulness as well. Seeing friends and loved ones express courage and commitment to personal growth can inspire someone to do the same.
- Staying Grounded: Being hopeful is not about fixating on the future. In fact, hopeful people tend to stay rooted in the present, focusing on what is in front of them and refraining from dwelling on the past or worrying about what’s to come. Staying in the present and having gratitude for what one does have can keep them from getting anxious with anticipation.
- Setting Goals to Gain Momentum: In the recovery world, the goal-setting acronym SMART refers to Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Using these terms to set and achieve goals shows people that progress is possible. When someone sees the outcome of their work in achieving a goal, they are more willing to believe in themselves and have hope to achieve more goals in the future.
Embracing Hope in Daily Life
It’s not always easy to stay hopeful. Everyone feels low from time to time. For people with co-occurring disorders, this can be especially true. But by keeping these practices in mind and focusing on maintaining a hopeful mindset, difficulties that arise in recovery—and life in general—are that much more manageable.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or co-occurring disorders, call the New England Recovery Center today at 1-877-MyRehab.