The Power of Hope
(original post November 8, 2013)
This afternoon, as I was sitting with my wife, we were “reviewing” the journey of the past four years. The journey started when I was made aware, beyond any doubt, that if I didn’t quit drinking, I would soon be dead. I quit drinking. I immediately became extremely ill from post-acute withdrawal (from alcohol abuse) and tolerance withdrawal (from 13 years of Klonopin use).
I fell apart mentally in many ways, and my ”adventure” took many very bizarre and painful twists and turns. The events of today (and much of the “healed” part of my journey) turned my mind to one particular day in my journey. That day was in January 2010 – only three months after I had quit drinking.
For several years, I had been the bookkeeper for the church. I had just forced myself somehow to complete and submit the W-2s for the church employees for the previous year, and I was now sitting in the pastor’s office sobbing and apologizing for having to resign. I was too mentally ill to go on. That would certainly be the end of my bookkeeping “career.” My hope to ever continue in that position was gone.
As I lived through the following week, I got sicker and sicker. Any hope that I would recover from whatever was going on inside me was dwindling by the hour. The following Saturday morning found me in a state of such deep despair that I prepared myself to take one final trip up the stairs to the bedroom and commit suicide. I had it all planned. I was ready.
Earlier in the morning, I had been emailing a friend from church (Jane) who was telling me that the Klonopin that I had up-dosed was causing my depression and that I needed to get off it. I had no idea how to do it. I felt doomed. So, I set out to end it all. I had no shred of hope.
As I sat on the sofa one last time contemplating my own demise, one of many voices in my head said to call Jane and tell her I was going to kill myself. Maybe she would suggest something I had not considered about my hopeless situation. It was the tiniest voice of all the voices  – barely audible. Somehow it was the most powerful voice simply because it was the voice of hope.
I called Jane, and she told me to call my doctor – more hope. And, by stepping on each “stepping stone” of hope as each presented itself, I ended up in the psych hospital under suicide watch for three weeks. While that was an intensely painful experience, they did not let me take my life (although it seemed like they were trying to do it for me). I am alive and extremely well nearly four years later.
In the ensuing months of my illness, I survived by reaching for and grasping any bit of hope I could get. At seven months off the Klonopin, I discovered the online forums. I printed out dozens of success stories and positive posts – anything I could get my hands on to give me even the tiniest iota of hope. I read those stories over and over every day. They were my lifeline –my way back to wellness.
When I was about 10 months off the Klonopin, I was ”told” (another story) that the reason for my suffering was “to give hope.” It was that same tiny voice that gave me hope the day I was going to take my life.
Today, as my thoughts returned to the day I relinquished the bookkeeping duties at the church, I thought about how it has gone completely full circle. At 22 months off the Klonopin, I was feeling very good, and my confidence in my cognitive abilities and mental/emotional strength had returned. I received a call asking me to return to the bookkeeping position I had left nearly three years earlier. Had they called a week earlier, I would have refused. In that one week, my confidence returned. I accepted the offer and have been the bookkeeper now for 16 months.
Our church has a “helping hands” program where people in need call for help with various sorts of financial needs – heating bills, rent assistance, food, and so on. In the last couple months, my wife has been taking those calls. Today she received a call from a woman who was in complete despair. She was sobbing. Her husband had recently lost his job, and they were two months behind on the rent. They were served an eviction notice. The sum of money was rather large, but my wife listened intently to her story. Just the fact that my wife listened gave the lady hope. My wife told me she could actually “feel” the woman’s hope grow out of the embers of despair. It touched my wife deeply.
It brought back to my mind those days when all I had was despair. Yet, there was that little voice of hope that kept me going forward. In withdrawal, it can be so very hard to hear that voice. That is why we have to keep seeking it – doing whatever we can to keep it from being lost or extinguished by our own confusion, fears and feelings and by the doubts, ignorance, and lack of compassion of others.
Hope is always there, but sometimes we have to look for it – usually in the form of words from someone else who is familiar with our suffering – either online, in person, or on the phone.
One of the best things is that it only takes “some” hope to continue walking the path of withdrawal because hope is very powerful. It can change a spirit of deep despair into a spirit of soaring “possibilities” in the fraction of a moment.
The best thing is that we give each other hope. It is meant to be shared….and once it is freely shared it takes on a life of its own.….and gets us to the healed side of withdrawal.