Is Hope Helpful or Hurtful?


“Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.”-President Snow, The Hunger Games

Why am I quoting the evil villain from The Hunger Games? Well because as evil as he may be, he has a point. How scary is hope? How beautiful is hope? How wonderfully, terribly, awesomely awful is hope? It can break your heart but it can also bring you back from the dead, emotionally speaking. Some people hold on to it forever and some people never pick it up. Both for the same reason, to avoid getting hurt. Each looking at the other with pity.

When there is addiction in the household or you love someone who is struggling with addiction, at some point you have hoped they would recover. Maybe you are still hoping. It’s a good and fragile place to be. Some people stay in this stage forever and they live by it. They never want to give up hope on someone they care about, no matter how many times that person has let them down.

This does not mean that the hopeful person is naïve. They just think there are better times ahead. They have faith. There is something to be said about that person. That person is strong. I admire them but I am not that person.

I am the other person. My hope died years ago. Hope is terrifying. I do not have any hope that my mom will get sober for a long period of time. I love her. I believe I love her as much as my sister does who has hope that my mom will “recover”. I just have gotten to the point to where hoping for that is too painful. The constant let downs, the disappointments, and that feeling that your heart is being sucked out through your spine…that’s the feeling I am not strong enough to withhold.

It’s peaceful for me to be in this stage. Her letdowns don’t surprise me. It doesn’t hurt as badly when she relapses. I don’t have any expectations so I can’t suffer any consequences, right? I don’t know. Sometimes I think I am the smarter person. I am in less pain, I am struggling with her addiction less, and I feel more distant from it. Does that make it the right way? Just because it’s the easy way, does that mean it’s right?

I struggle with this constantly. Would it be more beneficial to distance myself from my mom just because it hurts less? Is it fine just to expect her to do poorly? Am I adding fuel to the depression that is her fire? I don’t know. I strongly believe that I have no effect on her sobriety. She has to choose that for herself and I can be supportive without being hopeful. However, is the only reason I don’t have hope just because I am too weak?

Then I re-watched The Hunger Games, and this quote stuck out above me. The hope he was referring to, the people overpowering their sadistic leader, was desperately needed. They needed that fire. But when loving someone struggling from addiction, I believe President Snow is right. Hope is the only thing that can fight fear. Not just for the addict but for us too. However, we need to have realistic expectations for hope. It needs to be contained.

Hoping that our loved one will get sober and never relapse after going to one AA meeting is naïve. That kind of hope should be contained because it’s dangerous. That isn’t a good kind of hope. When we are new into the addiction and learning our way through it, I feel like this kind of hope is common. This is still our mom/sister/brother/grandfather/etc. We KNOW them we tell ourselves arrogantly. They will get sober. They won’t be another statistic. They are different from everyone else. These lies we tell ourselves to keep that hope alive is what will murder that hope down the road.

We should hope they get sober. We should hope they succeed. But we should know that it is going to be a long up/down hill battle. Some days will be easier than others. Some days will be the worst of our lives. I am working on this for me. I would be dumb to hope that my mom would never drink a drop again. That just isn’t realistic. I do hope that she finds peace and wants to fight for her sobriety. I do hope that she won’t ever give up fighting to get sober, no matter how many times she relapses. I do hope that she doesn’t ever hurt herself or someone else. These are my new hopes for her.

It’s a whole new perspective for me. I think it helps bring me out of the state of pessimism of having no hope while staying away from the naïve optimism that things will work out. I hope she stays safe. I hope she knows I love her. I have hope that she will one day see how much her family loves her, in spite of this terrible disease. These are my hopes. What are your hopes?

Thanks for reading! Subscribe if you are interested or please share this with someone you think may benefit from it.

-Grumpy Sunshine




6 Replies to “Is Hope Helpful or Hurtful?”

  1. I love that quote even though I’ve never seen the Hunger Games (I know, I know, shameful). You are in a good place. Love your Mom for who she is but hate the addiction. Your Mother gave you life and it’s up to you to live it. I had so many hopes and fears similar to yours. Especially about hurting themselves or others. My biggest fear was that one of my siblings would kill them. Then I’d hold onto the hope and dream that they would wake up one day- see the error of their ways and miraculously go into permanent sobriety. And we’d all be like the Brady Bunch. It’s the hope that keeps us going and prevents us from giving up. But in meantime we need to find our own happiness and learn to accept the fact that fairy tales don’t always come true. Good words (as usual) Grumpy Sunshine. I would love to pass this particular post along to a friend of mine but she wouldn’t see the correlation. She is nowhere near acceptance.

    1. Your comments are so accurate! Acceptance is the scariest place for some people to be. Hopefully your friend will get there in her own time and hopefully it won’t be a painful acceptance. Thank you for reading!

    2. Miss Lady,
      I just read your blog on Hope (Helpful/Hurtful). There is sometimes a thin line between helpful and hurtful. Feeling less pain, distancing yourself from this addiction is not about being right. It is about preserving your sanity and well-being. This doesn’t mean you are the smartest person in the family, it just means you are the healthiest in your dysfunctional family.
      You know that you are powerless over this disease, but never, ever give up on hope. You cannot sustain hopefulness on your own. Hurtfulness and Helplessness are inspired by outside forces.. Hopefulness is inspired by internal forces.

      1. Thanks for reading! I always enjoy your feedback

  2. Thank you for sharing this. My sister sent this to me this morning and I’m grateful she did. My older sister, older brother and I were also raised by an alcoholic father and our mother has a lot of unresolved trauma which led to a very sporadic childhood for all of us. I’m going to bookmark this and read it any time I start to feel the things you talked about here.

    Having realistic expectations is truly key.
    I think everyone wants to feel better but so many don’t have the resources to get them there.
    I hope you stay grounded in your realistic expectations of hope.
    Thanks again. <3

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. It’s such a comfort to know that people can relate. I’ll be thinking about you and your family!

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