“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” wrote Alexander Pope (“An Essay on Man,” 1732). Upon entry into these rooms for the last time, before the program began to work for me, this principle rang hollow in my breast. I hoped simply that by attending the 7:00 a.m. meeting prescribed by my spouse, it would bring an end to the nagging. This was becoming a daily routine from my wife who was at wit’s end with the sot she had married. While my outsides certainly could have been described as all I had ever hoped for in life, from a successful business, to a “happy” marriage and three beautiful children, surrounded by a close extended family that loved me, on the inside I was dying, literally. My physician had been expressing his concern for my distressing physical symptoms. These were no longer occasional complaints, but regular observations from one visit to the next. In my heart I had no hope for their improvement. Rather, I hoped only that they were random flare-ups that simply coincided with my doctor appointments. This was the depth of my denial. This was the extent of my “hope.” That the symptoms were due to my alcohol consumption completely eluded my thinking, despite all evidence to the contrary.
If they could do it, I could, too
I showed up at the 7:00 a.m. meeting daily. I still could not manage to stop drinking. First came a new sense of hope. Somehow this program of suggestions might possibly work for me the way it had for those I heard each morning. These people with whom I could easily relate, neighbors I did not know, shared their experience of success against that first drink. This gave me hope. If they could do it, I could, too.
Slowly, and not without challenges, hope blossomed. The wreckage of my drinking past began to fall away. First the marriage, then the lost custody struggle, and finally the business (once so booming). Each passed away as sober days passed, slowly, one day at a time. I hoped through it all that my future might not be as the handwriting on the wall of life deemed I should expect. But my higher power had other plans for the chapters in my life’s book. As one challenge after another was confronted, I relied more heavily on the experience of my group of drunks. Through the strength in their stories, I gained the hope that I could walk through obstacles sober. And I could share the legacy from those who had gone before me. I could live with the integrity and dignity of a sober man, a sober ex-husband, and a sober dad. As I made living amends for my drinking past, I hoped I could fulfill them with the same devotion I found in my sponsor and those in our fellowship who had what I wanted.
I hoped I could carry the message
Another facet: as opportunities for service were presented to me, my hope was that I would be useful in accepting them. I hoped I could carry the message in a way the still suffering alcoholic could hear. Or simply reach the drunk, like me, who needed to know they were not alone in their struggles.
In those moments of life on life’s terms, I got a glimmer of what hope really meant. I hoped the new man would hear the message and not take that first drink today. No longer was there a cacophony in my mind. It was replaced by one beautiful strain, one common theme tolling, “You are not alone. If I can do it, you can, too.” This was indeed hope springing eternal for me and for the rest of my group.