Guiding principles in recovery: Hope

When it comes to addiction recovery, there is so much advice out there, on the internet and in treatment centres, that it all gets rather befuddling. It can happen that the ‘advice’ is presented as gospel truth i.e. you’re told in no uncertain terms that you must follow such-and-such a goal if you want sobriety. It also happens that some prescribed goals of recovery are just not a good fit for everyone, so you don’t do them and end up feeling demoralised, which really doesn’t help your state of mind (or recovery for that matter).

Thing is, with goals/ aspirations/ objectives, is that they just work better if they come from you. The more they resonate with you, the greater chance you have of pursuing them. Also, the word ‘goal’ implies a final destination, which is rarely the case in recovery activities. That’s why I prefer the term ‘guiding light’.

That’s why, when I came across a SAMHSA pamphlet recently titled “Ten Guiding Principles of Recovery”, I thought here’s the real thing. I intend to reflect on each of these principles over the coming weeks:

Number One: HOPE

In the helplessness of deep addiction, it’s unbelievable that a way out even exists. Truly, I can remember a time where I didn’t get through 30 minutes without thinking of drugs. Then a chance encounter inspired hope. I offered this office colleague, who I only just knew, a hearty swig from the bottle, and he said: “Nope, not for me, I’m an alcoholic. I was so bad that five years ago I crawled into this office and they sent me off to rehab. Now my life is way better (in short.)”

I was flabbergasted. Here was a guy who openly admitted to having been an alcoholic, who was now refusing a drink. How could this be? I had to know. So he told me in a quite matter of fact manner what I could do if I ever wanted to change, which in my case was access a primary care facility. Interestingly, I now noticed that I was OK in thinking of myself as an alcoholic.

So what had happened? I had caught a glimpse, through this colleague, of a better future. That’s it, that’s what was needed to catalyse my recovery, knowing that healing was at least possible. Here was someone like me who had overcome what I thought to be the insurmountable barrier of active addiction. And lived to tell the tale. Maybe, just maybe, I could do the same.

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