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Hope helps

April 01 2023
@ Marius Samavicius @ Marius Samavicius

On the importance of hope and belief in yourself when you are in recovery. By Mat Amp.

Anyone who reads this column regularly knows that recovery is a big issue for me. As a recovering addict so much of what I write about recovery references substance misuse, but addiction, mental health issues, domestic abuse, childhood trauma and homelessness are like one of those elastic band balls. These issues are tied together so tight, overlapping at numerous different points with many of them invisible. And like one of those elastic band balls, they can only be untangled together.

So, recovery isn’t straightforward and all of us have our own different elastic bands tangled in their own specific way. But I think there is one ingredient that is needed for the foundation of any recovery: Hope.

A mate of mine once said: “We’re born, and we spend the rest of our life trying to recover from it.” That’s pretty harsh but his life had been beyond bleak by just about anyone’s standards. It’s proper bleak like a quilt of trauma patches, knitted together by an evil old lady with long bony fingers and clackety-clack needles.

Of course, his outlook is the product of his many traumatic experiences since birth and his worldview is barbed fatalism at it’s finest. From the moment he was born, shitty things were going to happen to him and there was never going to be any escaping that absolute certainty. By accepting his fate in this way, it allowed him to find some peace at the end of a needle. There is nothing worse than struggling to get out of being a homeless addict when you really have no means to get started. It feels hopeless so it’s a lot less stressful to give up caring.

It is really difficult to follow through on that first decision to get help. We’re dealing with that overwhelming elastic band ball of issues whilst making the incredibly difficult decision to start caring about things again.

When the editor said this issue’s theme was ‘Hope springs’ my mind immediately went to recovery. Nowhere in life do you need hope more than in recovery. My recovery came in stages. I got the roof in a hostel – a shit roof but it got me off the street. I put the drugs down with the help of a script.

Eventually I started doing yoga, running and volunteering. Bit by bit things gradually got better but without hope I never would have started what has been an incredibly tough but immensely rewarding journey.

But when you’ve lived on the margins, outside of the rules and regulations of modern life, the whole concept of hope isn’t that alluring. When I envisage hope I think of skipping in the park with multi-coloured balloons on strings in the wholesome sunshine rather than snogging birds and smoking fags behind the bike shed and not giving a fuck. I hate the saying “hope spring eternal” and I’m sure whoever came up with that was an annoyingly cheery twat. Okay, I had to Google it. Apparently, it comes from Alexander Pope’s 1732 poem An Essay on Man. He wrote: “Hope springs eternal in every human breast.” Seeing as he’s known to be a satirist perhaps he was taking the piss.

But that’s my point. I love sarcasm, self-deprecation and find comfort in a brutalist type of humour that doesn’t apologise for the absolute slaughter of all sacred cows. What people often refer to as ‘gallows humour’ is how you get through the day when you find yourself without the comfort of a safe and secure home. When I turned my back on drugs I needed to believe that things would eventually get better, and in the face of a lot of proof to the contrary I turned to hope.

My life had been burnt to the ground, I was in a dysfunctional homeless hostel in Brixton, living with rip and run crack heads and repeat offenders. The first few months of recovery were a white-knuckle ride down the river of pain.

We live in an unforgiving world. My credit history was obliterated, I had no employment record to talk about and what I needed was some of Pope’s hope springing eternally from my bosom. At some point you just have to believe things will improve even when it feels hopeless and this is where faith comes in. You have to have faith. Oh fuck no… not in him, please. I mean in yourself. In fact, be weary of religion when you are feeling that vulnerable. If you’re gonna sign up for the Christian march then don’t let me stop you, but it’s better not to get involved in any relationships until you’re soundly on your own two feet and that includes with the Lord and his sidekick baby Jesus.

Recovery can be a long, stumbling journey. You don’t just arrive, all at once. For a long time, I was hyped on anxiety, fuelling my moods with coffee and tobacco and dragging myself to one N.A. meeting after another, listening to people bitch and moan about the shit they were going through.

Eventually, though, I started to thaw out and connect. Most people weren’t bitching and moaning. They were talking insightfully about experiences that they found incredibly difficult to deal with and I was being a total prick by dismissing them in the way I initially did. My hope got me through a lot of stuff that I didn’t initially enjoy until I did.

Hope doesn’t spring eternal in my breast. Some days I feel so fucking low and cynical I just want to pour petrol on the world and set it on fire. These days, however, I work through it and by doing that I work my way back to a place where there is a small brook of hope. I work my way upstream until I get to the river where I let the current take me to the ocean. You feel me. What I'm trying to say is that it takes work – but it does eventually pay off.

Road to recovery

As Mat details in his piece, the road to recovery is often a long and winding one, with plenty of bumps along the way. It helped Mat to view his recovery in stages, but every recovery starts the same: recognising your addiction and seeking help and support.
If you are struggling with addiction and want to recover, the following contacts can help:

  • UK Narcotics Anonymous (UKNA) is run by recovering drug addicts, it organises meetings across the UK and operates a helpline open every day from 10am – 12am on 0300 999 1212.
    Visit its website here: ukna.org
  • You can talk to Frank about drug use and advice on 0300 123 6600. The line is open 24/7. Visit the Talk to Frank website here:
    www.talktofrank.com

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