The Absence of Hope


I took my last drink years ago on the patio of the Long Boat Key Club in Sarasota, Florida while listening to waves crash in the dark on the beach. The sky was dark but full of stars and stretched out to forever. For some reason, it struck me at that very moment that if I woke up again tomorrow—as I had on so many tomorrows before–and took another drink, my life would never get any better … and evidence suggested it was likely to get a whole lot worse.

I had already hit many bottoms: marital, legal, professional, financial, familial … but I’d never hit a spiritual bottom so low it trumpeted the complete and utter absence of hope. My life would never get any better, and it was likely to get a whole lot worse.

I smoked my last cigarette on another patio, one by the fire pit in my backyard, while listening to the rustle of dying grass in an Iowa farm field and staring at a chill cobalt sky. The clouds stretched out to forever. And the experience was the same. I remembered the patio at the Long Boat Key Club and thought, If I keep smoking “just one more” cigarette, my life will never get any better … and volumes of evidence suggest it will get a whole lot worse. Once again, that complete and utter absence of hope.

Drugs and alcohol get portrayed in many different lights: glamorous, dramatic, exciting, dangerous. But they rarely get portrayed as potentially signaling, for some of us, the complete and utter absence of hope. And as too many of us who have lost friends to addiction know, the absence of hope is likely the leading cause of suicide.

It isn’t hard for those of us who are addicts to know we are addicts and to know what it is we are addicted to. But for some of us, it’s almost impossible to take that first step in the direction of a solution.

I would implore any addict who knows he or she is an addict to step out of the darkness of denial and ask, “If I use again today, can my life possibly get any better?”

If the answer is an emphatic, No, take solace in knowing millions of us have discovered that, in the absence of addiction, there is always HOPE.

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