Yesterday was an especially hard day for me because, in addition to feeling really down and depressed, I took a spill on the ice and probably earned a mild concussion for my troubles. Like an alcoholic in recovery (since substance abuse is now considered a mental illness), I knew I needed to find a Zoom peer support meeting for people dealing with issues similar to my own. I certainly did not want to get to a meeting but I knew it would be a good idea. I felt neither patient nor particularly compassionate but with these meetings you take what you like and leave the rest.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has Zoom group meetings just about every night of the week and even a few afternoon ones here and there. They are well structured so it does not become a free for all. One of the tenets of the NAMI meetings is to never give up hope. It is number 12 of a list of 12 and they saved the best one for last. Hope is absolutely foundational and I needed that reinforced because I felt hope waning. Why is hope foundational? Hope provides a reason for recovery to begin with. Without hope that life can improve, there is virtually no reason to begin the journey to recovery.
I found myself frustrated that I am not further along the road to recovery and the frustrating turned to anger at myself. The meeting showed me what hope looks like when a senior citizen with paranoid schizophrenia celebrates 10 years of working at a job, a beautiful woman about my age gets married, and I can tell somebody that they’re not deficient for applying for Social Security Disability. Hope is when I realize that I am a good and handsome man. The meeting was not the best one I ever attended by far and I found the hour and a half to drag by but it was something I needed. I needed to be reminded that recovery cannot be rushed and that examples of hope abound.
Furthermore, I am reminded that recovery takes patience and stoicism. Sometimes recovery is simply moving one foot an inch or so in front of the other only to be knocked two inches. But whatever I do, I must continue to take steps forward. The one aspect I struggle with about hope is that it tends to intersect with faith and I am an avowed atheist. I take nothing on faith because my rational mind needs proof of something before I accept it. I have to remind myself that hope is simply a belief based on examples from other people, that life can and will improve. It is no guarantee of immediate or even near-term improvement, but it is a guarantee that eventually it will.