How Addiction Treatment Can Inspire Hope
When people have hope, they are less likely to engage in risky behavior such as gambling, drinking alcohol, and experimenting with drugs. Conversely, when people do not have hope, they feel as though they have nothing to lose. When hopelessness sets in, people are more likely to participate in activities they know to be dangerous.
How can inspiring hope be applied to helping people who struggle with addiction? To addiction treatment? Would it be helpful to assist recovering addicts in finding hope again?
Relative Deprivation and Hope
Each person who turns to drugs and alcohol has their underlying reasons for doing so. Troubles in the family, perceived failures in one’s career, being raised in a home where drug abuse or excessive alcohol consumption was a common feature, being the victim of abuse or trauma, struggling with self-image or self-worth, these are just some of the factors that can precipitate addiction.
To better understand what causes some people to take on self-destructive activities, a 2020 study examined the connection between relative feelings of hope/hopelessness and addictive behavior. The researchers stumbled across a finding that led them to understand why some people turn to drugs and alcohol and others do not. As it turns out, the feeling of hope may be one of the best tools for getting clean and staying clean.
The researchers began their study by examining those who struggle with relative deprivation, i.e., a feeling that other people have things better in life than they do. (Relative deprivation is often a precipitator for drinking and drug use.)
According to Shahriar Keshavarz, one of the study authors states that “Relative deprivation can trigger negative emotions, like anger and resentment, and it has been associated with poor coping strategies like risk taking, drinking, taking drugs, or gambling. But not everyone scoring high on measures of relative deprivation makes these poor life choices. We wanted to find out why some people seem to cope better, or even use the experience to their advantage to improve their own situation. There is a lot of evidence to show that remaining hopeful in the face of adversity can be advantageous, so we wanted to see if hope can help people feel happier with their lot and buffer against risky behaviors.”
The study had interesting results. According to Piers Fleming, another author and contributing researcher, “We looked at the people who scored high for relative deprivation, the ones that thought their situation in life was worse than those around them. And we looked at those who also scored high for hope. We found that the volunteers who scored high for hope were much less likely to take risks. Those who weren’t too hopeful were a lot more likely to take risks.”
What Does Hope Have to Do With Addiction?
The thesis is simple enough. Being hopeful leads to taking fewer risks. Hopelessness leads to more risk-taking.
If people who are more hopeful tend to take fewer risks, how can that observation be applied to addiction and treatment?
Encouraging hope in people who are unhappy with their life situation could protect them against harmful behavior. Is it possible that seeking help in addiction treatment also has the dual benefit of encouraging hope? Is it possible that seeking help, by itself, encourages hope?
A lack of hope is very dangerous for a struggling addict. Losing hope could precipitate an overdose, potentially a fatal one. Therefore, helping an addict give up drugs and alcohol would have the opposite, positive effect of also helping them find hope.
How One Student Found Hope Through the Narconon Program
Everyone experiences hope differently. For some, learning how to hope again comes from healing old wounds that were never properly addressed. For others, like Narconon graduate David, hope came from learning new tools that he could use to live a better, healthier life.
David was able to find hope again thanks to learning life skills that he felt he sorely lacked. He knew the skills he learned at Narconon would help him lead a drug-free, successful, and fulfilling life.
“I learned very powerful information on the Narconon program about how people act and the reasons why they act that way. I found a logical way to look at one’s survival...”
In David’s own words: “I learned very powerful information on the Narconon program about how people act and the reasons why they act that way. I found a logical way to look at one’s survival. These books lay out all the different dimensions of ethics, morals, good and bad, right and wrong, and integrity. This is the most brilliant way of going about helping broken people. Now that I have completed the Narconon program, I know how to make myself feel better rather than feeling hopeless and turning back to drugs. This program gives some real answers to some of the real hard questions in life.”
While everyone finds hope in a unique and special way, the simple fact of finding that hope seems to be an almost universal benefit of getting off drugs and alcohol.
Addiction Treatment—Learn How to Hope Again
Addiction treatment can help recovering addicts learn how to hope again. It’s important to recognize that treatment centers do not somehow promise or guarantee hope, but they do provide recovering addicts with the tools they need to create new hope.
When recovering addicts go through rehab, they go from hopeless to hopeful. This occurs because they learn the valuable tools that assist them in tackling the day-to-day problems and stumbling blocks that helped to set in the patterns of drug use or drinking. They become the masters of their destiny once again, and that’s something to be very hopeful about.