How to Overcome the Feeling of Hopelessness

overcome hopelessness

Feeling hopeless is something that almost every alcoholic or addict will experience at least once in their life. It is a feeling that can be infectious to every part of a person’s being. But, fortunately, there are many ways to overcome feelings of hopelessness. Allow us to help you manage these emotions and find your way to a happy and hope-filled life.

How Feeling Hopeless Affects Your Life

While feeling hopeless, an individual’s health can suffer as they no longer care about exercising, maintaining healthy eating habits, getting the proper amount of rest, and so forth. It can affect their relationships as they slip into a depression, seeing only futility in their attempts to reach out to friends. It can affect their jobs as they no longer care about what the future holds.

Hopelessness can also increase the severity of a person’s alcoholism or drug addiction as he or she begins to see no point in attempting to moderate. Individuals may drink or use drugs excessively and frequently in an attempt to avoid their pain. Feelings of hopelessness can even lead to suicidal thoughts as the person suffering might see no other possible way of getting out from under the weight of their feelings.

It is really less of a feeling than it is an overall pervasive state, like a black hole for the spirit, drawing any joy into its gravitational pull and obliterating it. Although many alcoholics and addicts are familiar with feeling hopeless, it can still be very confusing to experience. It can even be difficult to discern exactly why a person experiences this emotion.

Psychology Professors Anthony Scioli and Henry Biller wrote a book, Hope in the Age of Anxiety, where they discuss just this. In the book, Scioli and Biller state that there are 9 different types of hopelessness and they offer solutions for how a person can overcome such feelings.

The 9 Types Of Hopelessness 

Scioli and Biller write that the 9 forms of hopelessness stem from a disruption of one of the basic needs that a person requires in order to feel hope.

Alienation

This form stems from a feeling that the individual believes that they are different from other people and that they have been exiled in a sense, deemed no longer worthy of love or support. The alienated tend to feel this way because they cannot see a future in which they are not cut off from others which, in turn, causes them to close themselves off, resulting in further alienation.

Forsakenness

Forsakenness is similar to alienation except that the person experiencing this form believes they have been abandoned at their greatest time of need.

Uninspired

Feeling uninspired can cause similar despair in people, especially if they are in a job that does not fulfill their need to create. Likewise, creative individuals who experience writer’s blocker or some other form of creative un-inspiration can begin to feel despair, thinking that they will never get their creativity back.

Powerlessness

This category is interesting because it can be both the greatest liability and asset for the alcoholic or addict. An active alcoholic or addict who struggles with their powerlessness, in regards to drinking or using drugs, will forever struggle with their addiction, but once the totality of their powerlessness becomes apparent to them, and they accept it, it becomes the bedrock on which their recovery is built.

Oppression

Feeling any form of oppression can lead a person to feel like they will never be able to overcome their obstacles. In fact, that is part of the goal of oppression, to have the oppressed participate in their oppression through acceptance of its credence. In a metaphorical way, this is what addiction does. It makes the alcoholic or drug addict participate in their own oppression, by making them believe either a) the oppression doesn’t exist, or b) it isn’t that bad.

Limitedness

When an individual believes that their own personal skills are limited, or that they do not have enough of what is needed in order to succeed, they can begin to feel hopeless.

Doom

People experiencing this form of despair usually believe that their lives are over and there is nothing they can do to save themselves. Doom can arise many times repeatedly with individuals who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

Captivity

For the sake of what we are discussing, self-captivity or self-imprisonment can cause feelings of defeat and pessimism, in that a person will keep themselves in a relationship or situation longer than they should because their sense of self is wrapped up in that relationship or situation.

Helplessness

People who believe that they are helpless and vulnerable can begin to feel hopeless, as they see no way of defending themselves, either physically or emotionally from the world.

Hopelessness and Addiction

Overcoming hopelessness

Unfortunately, many people who suffer from addiction are susceptible and even likely to feel hopeless. Individuals who struggle with substance abuse often face challenges that those around them simply don’t understand. If you’re suffering from a drug or alcohol use problem, it’s likely that you sometimes have a hard time relating to and connecting with those around you. Perhaps your family members or friends are seemingly becoming more and more distant from you. Or, maybe you are finding yourself more emotionally withdrawn from them.

Addiction has a tendency to separate people from their loved ones. In some instances, individuals who are suffering from alcoholism or drug dependence feel as though they are unworthy or unwelcome amongst family and friends. This can be likened to the “alienation” form of hopelessness. Many times, people actually experience a severe amount of guilt or shame. These feelings can prevent individuals from feeling comfortable around their loved ones. 

While actively using alcohol or drugs, some people feel hopeless in the form of “powerlessness”. They may feel as though their addiction is far more powerful than they can ever hope to be. This feeling can become overwhelming and may eventually lead people to completely give up all hope of ever overcoming addiction. 

These feelings can also be associated with the “doom” form of hopelessness. Sadly, many individuals feel an extreme sense of doom and despair when suffering from addiction. They often feel as though nothing can be done for them, nothing can help them overcome substance abuse. In essence, they feel that, not only are they powerless against their addiction, but that there is also no way in which anyone or anything else can help them.

Feeling hopeless while also suffering from addiction can be emotionally, mentally, and even physically harmful. In some instances, this hopelessness may even continue during treatment in recovery.

Hopelessness During the Recovery Journey

Again, many people suffer from the effects of hopelessness as they are dealing with addiction. Thankfully, many individuals who are living with substance abuse enroll in a treatment program in order to end addiction in their lives. But, the truth of the matter is, treatment doesn’t magically erase the feelings of hopelessness that people experience. While addiction rehab certainly helps to improve a person’s physical health by ending harmful substance use, it’s important to understand that emotional healing is also a necessity during recovery.

When a person is in recovery from addiction, he or she may feel hopeless for several reasons, including the following:

Change

While it’s true that treatment brings about a good kind of change, it’s still a change nonetheless, and a drastic one, at that. Many individuals find themselves feeling helpless when big changes occur in their lives. So, even though they are changing for the better, individuals in recovery may continue feeling hopeless because they are not sure how to cope with the shifts they’re experiencing.

For instance, a person who is in residential treatment may have never lived away from home. But now that he or she is living in a treatment center with unfamiliar people, the individual may feel completely out of place. Also, someone who is in recovery may stop spending time with individuals who continue to abuse drugs or alcohol. This may mean losing close friends or family members. Of course, this can be a very challenging type of change. Thankfully, therapists and counselors can help to make all of these transitions much more comfortable.

Lack of Direction

It’s not uncommon for people to feel somewhat “lost” after going through treatment. Sometimes, individuals are left with thinking “what now?” after rehab is over. This can definitely leave people feeling hopeless. So, it’s important for individuals to seek support and guidance both during and after treatment for addiction.

Overwhelming Goals

Goal-setting is a very important part of recovery. But setting too many goals or goals that are too big can become overwhelming. It can leave people feeling a devastating sense of inability. So, it’s definitely best to practice setting small, accessible, and achievable goals. Celebrating the “little victories” can help people to overcome the hopelessness that comes with having inaccessible goals.

For example, setting a goal to avoid all negative thoughts is not exactly bad. But, it can leave people feeling unsuccessful if a negative thought occurs. Since this is an inevitable occurrence, it’s important for people to make goals that are more accessible. So, instead of saying, “I won’t have a negative thought today”, an individual can say, “If a negative thought comes to me, I will manage it by doing such-and-such.” This puts an action in place, giving individuals a way to actively work through their emotions in a healthy way. 

How To Overcome Hopelessness

For almost all of these forms of hopelessness, the answer to overcoming them is the same: get outside of your own thoughts and take an accurate look at the situation. This, however, is not always easy and sometimes it requires asking for help and having the aid of others who can more accurately appraise our situation for us.

For instance, if you are feeling alienated or forsaken, you may want to start by determining whether or not these feelings are based on truth. Has everyone truly abandoned you? Is everyone in your life alienating you or pushing you away?

Most of the time the answer to this will be ‘no’, but if even you find that it is true, it will be helpful for you to think more deeply about your own involvement in these situations. Did you push these people away and, if so, why? By taking a more accurate look at the situation and then moving towards remedying the cause of these thoughts and feelings, you can restore hope and thereby remove your feelings of hopelessness.

The same thing goes for people who are feeling uninspired, oppressed, powerless, captive, or helpless. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that how we currently feel is how we are always going to feel. When the feeling of hopelessness washes over us, it is almost as if it blinds us to the ability to see any solution to our problems. As a result, we begin to think that we will always feel the way we do now and we will never be able to change.

Rarely in life is this actually the case. So once again, when hopeless feelings arise we must take a look at our lives and see if there’s something we can change or simply accept in order to overcome our feelings.

Seeking Treatment In Order To Overcome Hopelessness

If you are currently feeling any form of these feelings mentioned above due to your drug addiction or alcoholism, don’t despair! There are a multitude of resources available to you. Remember that you don’t have to continue feeling the way that you feel right now. With help from professionals who understand the effects of hopelessness, you can gain the skills you need in order to overcome this challenge.

Here at Coastal Detox, we are dedicated to providing our clients with the resources they need in order to ensure a successful recovery. This often includes a medical detox process. Ending alcohol or drug use usually results in withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be very intense depending on the type of substance a person is using. Some may be mild, such as headaches, while others may be much more severe, such as tremors and seizures. 

While going through detox, people can end substance use in a safer and more comfortable way. Individuals in this program will detox under the supervision of medical professionals. This can help to prevent any severe or life-threatening effects of withdrawal from occurring. 

Residential treatment is another resource that can help clients to work through recovery and continue overcoming hopelessness. While in this type of treatment program, individuals can gain relapse prevention skills and the tools they need in order to manage negative or unhealthy thought processes through various therapy approaches. 

You do not need to fight this alone. We are here to help you find the peace and happiness you truly deserve. Call Coastal Detox and allow our trained professionals to aid you in getting the help you need today!

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.