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Hope Deferred Makes the Heart Sick

Dandelion - Hope

I have been around prescription medication addiction and abuse all my life. All. My. Life. As detailed in my book “Unhooked,” not a day of my life has gone by that wasn’t somehow impacted by someone’s struggle with addiction. Whether I’m in a healthy place with peace, serenity and firm boundaries intact, or I am “having a moment,” fed up, acting crazy and slipping into an emotional meltdown, it doesn’t take this away. Addiction and the ripple effects of it are always around my life and the sense of that never truly leaves me, not even on my great days.

That’s not to say that I walk around dreary, full of doom and gloom. But the reality is, when you have addiction rampant in your family it brings a lot of spontaneous madness, crisis and conflict onto your path. Those things can arise and rear their head without warning. This scenario can also cause you to have hope for changes that you have zero control over.

While I’ve gotten better at not getting pulled into chaos and I’m quicker to recover from upset, I do have areas of growth I sometimes fall short in. Expectations, hopes and disappointments can still at times overtake and even overpower me. These are the times I am keenly aware of my need to stop, regroup and fortify some new ways of managing myself. 

I do know that I have come a long way from where I started and that is encouraging. Yet even still, how many times has my heart been sick over hopes deferred? The list is long.

When I first began working with therapy and recovery, I was totally tangled up in the madness. Fighting through it, struggling against it, grieving about it. Almost daily. All of my heart was invested in the functions (and dysfunctions) of those around me. Much more than it was invested in my own well-being. The misery this caused prompted me to analyze the objects of my hope.

I began asking myself “Are my hopes and expectations achievable for me? Are they healthy? Realistic? Fair? Is my hope at the mercy of others? Is my hope dependent solely upon someone else’s decisions? Is it possible to come to a point that regardless of what anyone is doing (or not doing), I can come to a place of peace and acceptance?”

When the answer was “No,” I recognized that it must again be time to stop, regroup and fortify some new ways of managing myself. Through prayer and meditation, self-examination, recovery work, support, much trial and error, and by cutting myself some slack, I began finding my way forward.

Through recovery work I have learned to stop expecting people to be different and to reduce the frustration that comes from trying to cause a person to get better, or trying to mold them into how I think they should be (even if it’s reasonable). When I put these demands and expectations down, I can love people for who they actually are. 

I’m still free to decide how to respond, how much time to spend, what to give, allow or tolerate. Those are the decisions within my control. There is so much peace in no longer hinging my well-being upon anyone else. Life always becomes much easier when I let go of the control I never had in the first place.

…and this is when I know that working my recovery is working for me.

My hopes and expectations are much more realistic and flexible these days. Chaos flares up, crisis and conflict are going to happen. They just are, it’s how it is. Life happens. I have learned to stop living at the mercy of my circumstances. Who knows, tragedy may fall on us. I certainly hope not, but if it does I have to believe that even if devastated, I will be okay. I will survive. Life will go on and eventually we will all meet up at the same finish line anyway.

Having faith in that, allows me to have peace in the moment and hope for the future.

“Peace begins when expectation ends.” ~Sri Chinmoy

Peace, hope and serenity,


Annie Highwater is a Writer, Speaker, Podcast Host and Family Advocate. She has a particular interest in family pathology and concepts of dysfunction, addiction, alcoholism and conflict. Annie published her memoir, Unhooked: A Mother’s Story of Unhitching from the Roller Coaster of Her Son’s Addiction, in 2016. Her story sheds light on the personal challenges facing the affected parents and family members, and illustrates how family dynamics both help and hinder the recovery process. Annie’s second book, Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache was published in August of 2018. She resides in Columbus, Ohio and enjoys writing, long distance running, hiking, the great outdoors and visiting her son in California as often as possible.



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