8 Ways to Find Hope When You’re in Despair

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When I walked into my very first 12 step meeting, I sat in the back and had my head down the whole time.  I didn’t want to be there nor did I want to stop drinking and using.  I went there to get a court card signed for my 2nd DUI.  I remembered the gal who spoke and I related to everything she said. At the end of the meeting, I ran outta there quicker than you can say Alcoholic and drank two bottles of wine and continued on for the next week drinking.  But during that week, I had my moment of clarity, my own a-ha moment, where I realized (and mind you I was drunk and crying) that everything bad that had ever happened to me was because of my drinking and drugging. That was it for me and decided then that I may as well give this sobriety thing a shot.  But what really resonated with me was the HOPE; Hang On Pain Ends, that I heard at that meeting.  It was that meeting that got me to go back to a second meeting and that’s where I heard more hope and I related again with the speaker.  I got sober over 13 years ago – and not every day is rainbows and unicorns with smiley emoji’s.  I’ve had numerous instances where I wanted to say fuck it and grab a drink or snort a line.  Just because I’m sober, doesn’t mean my head doesn’t go there.  It does – a lot! But what I do for me is I play the tape through.  I know that if I go to an upscale ritzy restaurant bar that within hours I’ll be looking to score drugs from the skanky dive bar on the other side of town.  I know this because it’s what I did for over 20 years.  This use will then continue for hours and into the next day – without fail.  One of the hardest things about recovery is asking for help.  We think we know best and most likely we are in too much fear to ask anyone how they do it or what works for them.  I was thinking recently about what keeps me reaching out for help; vs reaching for the bottle or the drug.  Besides playing the tape through, these 8 things have helped me immensely!

  1. Meetings

For me meetings have been the backbone of my recovery.  That’s just how I got sober the AA way – 90 meetings in 90 days; I got a sponsor, worked the steps and connected with other alcoholics.  I know when I walk into a meeting someone else there has it much worse than I do. It’s then easy for me to have some gratitude for my situation and empathy for another.  I usually always leave a meeting feeling better than when I walked in.

  1. Treatment

One of the biggest ways to ask for help when you are feeling despair is going into Treatment. I personally have never been, however, I do bring a meeting into a Treatment facility once a month and I know it’s the weekly bright spot for patients that are in there.  Treatment is a great option for anyone needing hands on care and putting themselves first and foremost.  You are surrounded by people that want to help you and by other patients that are in the same boat as you are.  There are a lot of different treatment options available out there and researching which one is best for you is important.  Feel free to view my resources page on my blog at http://lastcallblog.me/resources/

  1. Going to see a Recovery movie or reading a Recovery Memoir

One of the first things I did when I got sober was watch a bunch of recovery movies (28 days, Clean and Sober, When a Man loves a Woman, Barfly, Leaving Las Vegas) and read some recovery Memoirs ( Dry, Drinking; A Love Story, Lit, Dharma Punx).  I wanted to see how others did this and how they got sober and how they found hope! I also wanted to see that it’s a mainstream problem and that others do share and talk about their addiction.  It helped me immensely and made me feel better as I wasn’t as ashamed that I too was an addict.

  1. Working with a sponsor or spiritual advisor

One of the first things I heard when I got sober was that I needed a sponsor.  I had no idea what that meant, and I was super scared to talk to anyone, let alone another woman and ask her for help.  But after a couple weeks, I did ask a woman to be my sponsor and she was exactly what I needed.  She and I did the steps in my first year and she was loving, supportive and wise and I was so happy that she said yes when I asked her.  I’ve gone through a few different sponsors through the years and each time it’s a process in building that relationship, and it’s been a stepping stone to a different level of recovery.   It’s been my touchstone and my barometer as to how I’m managing my sober life.  I couldn’t manage my sobriety without one.  Some people who aren’t in the 12 steps use a spiritual advisor or life coach and I say more power to you – whatever works for you. We are all on the same journey together, no matter how you do it, but asking for help is key.

  1. God Box

I’d been journaling before I got sober, so it was fairly easy for me to continue to do that a few times a week. I always felt better after banging on my keyboard complaining or hand writing in my journal to share my angst and my happiness.  I was also told early on to use a “god box”.  Which I found very useful and it’s just the exercise of writing something down that’s troubling you and putting it into a box.  This could be a small box, a shoebox, the box I just received from Amazon or a coffee can with a lid. I found this to be quite liberating and what usually happened is the problem worked itself out and life went on.

  1. Calling a Friend who’s sober

This is what I refer to as my “Bitch Buddies”.  It was suggested to me early on to have 5 women, besides my sponsor, that I can just call and bitch to about what’s annoying me.  These are usually woman I’m close to and who understand me.  It’s helpful to know that they too struggle and not all of us are crazy on the same day!

  1. Self-care

This one is imperative for me.  I need to make sure that I’m doing ok regardless of what’s happening around me, i.e., the drama of life.  I can easily find myself trying to control and manipulate others in my life to get what I want.  This is a huge red flag for me and I need to practice my self-care.  Self-care for me is meditating, going for a walk on the beach, hanging out with my dog, calling a friend, taking a bath or even going away alone for a couple days, whatever it is for me to not fall into my mode of wanting to fix or help others – that’s what I call self-care.

I hope some of the above ways to ask for help are useful to you as they have been to me.  I don’t take anything for granted in my life today and it’s all because I was that scared girl who thought there was no way out, but I reached out my hand and asked for help.

An avid reader of memoirs and non-fiction, Nancy Carr began writing short stories and essays in her free time a few years ago. By early 2005, she had compiled a 250 page manuscript for her memoir Last Call. Nancy enjoys a full time career in another industry (one that pays the bills). She currently lives in Southern California with her husband and their rescue dog, Lucy. To visit her blog, click here.

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  1. Thank you very much for sharing your 8 healthy coping skills. As a mental health therapist working in the field, I teach my clients everyday about the importance of these skills. It all starts with treatment where you learn and once you are done with treatment, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice. It sounds like this is what you did. I am glad they are working for you and thank you for being an inspiration!

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