By Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.
The loneliness, isolation, and upheaval in our daily routines that we’ve endured during the COVID pandemic have exacerbated the addiction crisis in our nation and around the world. But there is hope, as Father Cedric Pisegna writes in his book, “There Is a Solution: Don’t Stay Stuck!”, in which he states that hope is an important first step to recovery. “First, have hope,” Father Cedric writes. “Simply believe you too can overcome your addiction. No matter the type of addiction, how long you have been mired in it, and how weak you may feel, yes, you too can recover. Hope means you believe something good is in your future. Never give up on hope. Hope is the medicine for the wounds of life.”
Consider for a moment how important the supernatural grace of hope has been in your own life whenever you set out to accomplish anything that seemed like an insurmountable challenge. We can’t take on monumental challenges without hope, and so we must remember this when coping with addiction or when dealing with others struggling with these problems. We must first instill hope that change can happen, and we must continually renew that hope until it becomes a more overwhelming habit than the addiction itself.
Let’s also remember that, while addictive behaviors were exacerbated during the pandemic, these problems aren’t new and there are well-established approaches to overcoming them. It’s important to remember the many success stories of those who have sought treatment and turned their lives around, such as Ivana Grahovac, whose story was featured in The Guardian newspaper. In her final semester of college, Ivana’s mother accompanied her to all her classes and around campus to ensure she graduated despite a debilitating heroin addiction. Ten years later, Ivana graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s degree and founded an organization to help college students overcome addiction.
Talking about the recovery process, Ivana said, “When I realized that I could wake up in the morning and have somewhere to go to counteract the old, negative, destructive, compulsive thoughts that would wake me up in the morning as I was in early recovery…I knew I could go to a positive meeting down the road, and when I started to wake up and not have those thoughts anymore, I started to have thoughts of hope, excitement, joy, ambition, and to help others.”
Father Pisegna points out that it is often suffering that drives us to seek God. He quotes Father Ed Dowling, the priest who provided instrumental counsel in the founding of AA, who said, “The tragedy of our lives is how deep must be our suffering before we learn the simple truths by which we can live.”
Father Pisegna also notes that we must learn to take advantage of the lessons to be learned from suffering, writing, “Pain opens us up and makes us susceptible to God’s work, God’s grace. Most expect to encounter God on the mountain, but God is more often found in the valley.” This profound realization reveals the truth that God is there for us in the darkest moments of our lives. It’s like the “Footprints in the Sand” poem in which a person realizes that sometimes, when they thought they were walking alone, God was carrying them.
Let’s cultivate the hope in ourselves and others to know God is carrying us in our darkest moments so that we can find a way through our suffering to a brighter future.
For a free copy of The Christophers’ FIGHTING DEPRESSION, FINDING HOPE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org