Hope is a Contagious Force of Healing

In our last Friends and Family group meeting, which we hold every two weeks to support our Medication Assisted Treatment (Suboxone) program, the word HOPE came up several times.

The first person to use the word apologized, saying it sounded so passive, but another person said it is a very powerful action word.

As the meeting progressed, other people chimed in about the importance of never giving up hope, even though they all had seen and dreaded relapses, any one of which could be fatal.

Wrapping up, we went around the room and everyone said what their takeaway was from the night and what their “homework” would be before the next meeting.

I said I was going to think more about hope and write something about it.

Theologically, the three virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity (Love) are viewed as having God both as their source, infusing them into us, and as their object. In this context, the opposite of Hope, Despair, is viewed as a sin.

Hope has been described as our intellect’s desire for something and our expectation that it will come about. It is a future oriented attitude and frame of mind, an optimistic outlook.

Faith is trust in what is here and now, perhaps something you attain further along your life’s journey than Hope.

With everything we now know of neurobiochemistry, psychoneuroimmunology, placebo effects and natural healing, most of us believe in the power of optimism. We also know that people with addictions struggle with self loathing in all its forms and that any expression of negative expectations from people around them can push them deeper into despair and further into chemical escape. They often have little hope for themselves and no faith in their here and now.

I believe Hope is a powerful emotion that can be contagious, transmitted, shared and multiplied when we claim it for ourselves and publicize it openly. It can be like a blood transfusion or a catalyst in a chemical reaction when we share it with those who have less of it or none at all.

For people who have a hard time believing in themselves and their own future, tangible expressions of hope from people who matter in their lives can change them, just like we all tend to smile when someone else looks happy, if we think of a trivial example. The same contagiousness exists for despair, as history has demonstrated many times from stock market crashes to pandemics to Jonestown.

Our patients’ or loved ones’ lives are on the line. We can’t be neutral; do we choose to carry Hope or Despair? It’s one or the other. The ones we care about can sense it in us and their success or failure may hinge on our innermost expectations.

2 Responses to “Hope is a Contagious Force of Healing”

  1. 1 Mark Wulff March 3, 2020 at 6:05 am

    I was an addict for 17 years and the only time I ever experienced real Hope was after being admitted to hospital with acute renal failure.
    A drug social worker came to see me to tell me I had the option of either Suboxone or Methadone and in my case she recommended Suboxone.
    Up until then I thought my only hope was a constant supply of drugs or death and the second option was always the one that really ever gave me hope – a final escape from the hell my life had become.
    I am outside the US and have a really hard time trying to understand why tried and proven methods with long standing track records and hard core proof is not being adopted in the US.
    Simply making Suboxone more available plus implementing a whole host of other harm reduction methods could virtually end the crisis in America tomorrow and that is completely evidence based.

  2. 2 Carla Rogerson March 5, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    Went to my first group as a parent. Felt hope for the first time in a very long time. Knew I wasnt alone that gave me hope.
    Thank you Dr. Duvefelt

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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