Hope can be thought of as the life inside you that gives energy to your highest potential and accelerates you forward through struggle. Even if you feel like you’re flailing through the pre-dawn sky like an eaglet pushed out of the nest too soon, hope swoops in to give you wings.  It is the emotion of your highest self, your ‘inner parent’ that guides you calmly, gently, and joyfully through the journey of recovery. 

It’s been shown scientifically that those who have hope also have the greatest chance for success in meeting their goals. In her summary of Dr. Jerome Groopman’s book The Anatomy of Hope, psychologist Dr. Suzanne Phillips says

“Groopman illuminates the way in which belief and expectation, cardinal components of hope, can block pain by releasing the brain’s endorphin and enkephalins — the body’s own version of morphine.”

Dr. Suzanne Phillips

The Science of Hope  

What is Hope Made of?

C.R. Snyder was the first to propose that hope has its own unique makeup and is much different than mere wishing. In  ‘Hope Theory:  Rainbows in the Mind‘ he highlighted how hope includes belief, motivation, a strategy to move you forward, and taking thoughtful action steps. Let’s take a look at some of the details behind these elements of hope. 

Genuine Interest in Change

The revelations Snyder had about hope first began when some of the people in one of his earlier studies on ‘making excuses’ explained after the research ended, they were motivated to find ways to achieve their positive goals. That’s when he first realized that hope was  “the other side of the coin”  of excuse-making. His new research on hope showed that it comes from the ‘thinking’ part of your brain, rather than from your emotional centers. 

Some people who meditate call this “the observer” mind, and it’s the part of you that’s curious about how to live a better life.  Hope is actually the foundation stone for quitting drugs and alcohol because it gives you the ability to think objectively about your life and then make the personal decision to change. 

The Belief that You Can Change

In ‘How Do I Know If I’m Ready for Addiction Treatment‘ we learn that people with no hope at all will say “I’m not the problem, you’re the problem”. They are still making excuses.  The most hopeful folks come with a much different attitude of  “I don’t care where we go, I just know I need help today.” They have a belief that things will get better, and they understand that they need help to make their future brighter.

While most people fall somewhere in the middle of this hope spectrum, only those who believe they can change are able to move into sobriety.  They have harnessed two of the magic ingredients inherent in hope: motivation to do the work and recognizing that they need assistance to restructure their life.

Finding Pathways to Achieving Your Goals

While belief and a willingness to change are two very important aspects of hope, finding a structured way forward is one of the main ways that hope differs from mere dreaming. That’s why hope is such an important part of addiction recovery.  What we know from years of treating addiction in our Traditional and Christian programs is that sobriety requires more than just self-belief and a decision to set aside alcohol and drugs.  Many people who struggle with addiction have experienced trauma, mental health issues, and unhealthy environments that feed their addiction.  

That’s why, when setting a goal of recovery,  a structured plan is key. The best programs provide you with custom-tailored assessments of your physical, mental, and spiritual needs, plus individualized plans to meet those needs and a compassionate, safe environment for sharing struggles and finding community guidance.

This helps build hope, and ensures that you optimize your success throughout your recovery journey.

Taking Action Steps Along Those Pathways

Hope studies call taking action steps ‘having agency’, and this is the final core element that makes up the consciousness of hope. It means taking small yet consistent steps along your pathway by switching your mindset from victim/victimizer to responsible, supported, and empowered. In recovery, several of the 12 Steps reflect this aspect of hope. Step 9, however, especially shows how important action is to mending relationships and healing negative emotions that weigh you down.  

Quantitative Psychologist and Hope Science specialist Chan Hellman says that his years of working with people in tough and traumatic situations showed him something quite inspiring: hope is not just a catalyst that helps you take action, but taking action actually breeds more hope! It’s an upward spiral of success.

The Life-Affirming Outcomes of Hope

You Gain Sobriety – Plus So Much More

Your highest potential, your dreams, and your toughest struggles aren’t mutually exclusive of each other.  In fact, they are intricately connected, with each requiring the other to survive. Your dreams need the wisdom and strength you gain from facing down your addiction in order to flourish.Likewise, the struggles you go through in your toughest hours are validated when you’re able to use your newfound strength and wisdom to work on your dreams.

Addiction recovery isn’t just about losing the drugs or alcohol, but also about gaining the inner resolve to take those leaps of faith that get you new opportunities and give you more hope. In other words, it’s the hero’s journey.

In the famous film The Wizard of Oz, the hero’s journey is portrayed by Dorothy in her trek to Oz, where she must go through the 12 Steps to complete her epic adventure. Sound familiar?

Just like with the movie’s heroine strength, the journey of recovery opens you up to a new sense of purpose, empowerment, and peace for you and your family. This means that even if you slip back into old habits, you’ve already experienced your own inner strength. You’re aware you can get back up again and, step-by-step, move back into sober living.

You have hope.

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

Anne Lamott

Contact us today to learn how we can help support you in building a lifetime of hope and sobriety.