One of the most important motivators in life is hope for a future filled with happiness. Many young adults struggling with substance use disorder feel hopeless that life will have anything to offer them but more misery. Using substances can feel like a futile existence. Days are spent trying to get more drugs in order to feel better. The things someone must do in order to get more drugs are often ones in which the person would not engage if they did not feel desperate to get substances in their bodies and feel better. Once high, problems go away for awhile only to return after one has come down from the high. Often, the things one had to do in order to get the drugs cause shame and guilt that perpetuates the cycle of use: I had to steal from my mother’s purse last night in order to get another bag so I wouldn’t be sick. I’m a terrible son and my mother will never forgive me. I can’t deal with these feelings without being high. Thus the cycle continues.
Feelings of despair and hopelessness are pervasive in people with substance use disorder. Life holds no meaning or value other than getting more drugs to get high. All activities that may have once made a person happy are now clouded by the obsession to use drugs and the compulsion to get more of them. A person that may have been successful before their substance use disorder reached a level that was unmanageable may have thoughts such as, ‘my life will never be the way it used to be so I may as well keep using drugs’, ‘my life is already ruined so I may as well keep using drugs’, ‘I’m nothing without drugs.’
A person who was on the precipice of life and on their way to college may have thoughts like, ‘I’ll never amount to anything because I’m just a junkie so I may as well keep using drugs’, ‘I’ll have plenty of time to put my life back to together because I’m young,’ ‘I’ll use drugs for now and stop later on’. Many of these thoughts lead to feelings of hopelessness and the futility of life in general.
When a person comes to treatment, one of the main aspects on which to work is that of building a sense of hope for the future. There is little willingness to do the work it takes to stop using drugs, stay stopped, and learn how to live life without them if there is no hope for the future. The long term treatment model at SOBA New Jersey allows us to focus on achieving a balance between life and recovery so that one day the two may be synonymous. We work with people to expand upon their dreams, hopes, and ambitions, cultivate new interests, and revive old ones. We remind them what it was like to live and not merely exist in the world. We urge them to envision a life beyond their wildest dreams and then work with them to take each small step towards realizing that life.
Hope can be nurtured. If someone comes to treatment, no matter if their reason is because of a probation officer, child protective worker, parents, or of their own accord, there is a spark of hope in that person. If there weren’t, they wouldn’t be in treatment. This person’s hope can be held by the professionals who work at SOBA New Jersey and that tiny spark can be fanned into a flame that will guide them on their journey of recovery. As people see others of their same age recovering from the disease of addiction, this hope will become faith that they are not alone and that they too can live a life beyond their wildest dreams.