Ever since I can remember, the doorknocker at my paternal grandparents’ house has been engraved with our family motto – “Dum Spiro Spero,” or “while I breathe, I hope.” It’s also inscribed on the crest ring my dad wore on his pinky every day when I was growing up, and I was so upset when the saying wouldn’t fit on my ring because my fingers weren’t big enough. All those years, I don’t think I truly understood the meaning behind that simple saying. I liked the way the Latin words rolled off my tongue, but the English translation left me shaking my head with the obviousness of the idea.
Throughout my involvement with atTAcK addiction over the past several months, I’ve heard a similar phrase used over and over again. “Where there is breath, there is hope” is a simple reminder to people in the grips of attack addiction (and their loved ones) to never give up.
“Where there is breath, there is hope.”
As crazy as it sounds, even though that phrase is virtually identical to our family motto, I never thought of the two of them together until the other night when I sat down to write this blog.
Sometimes it’s all you have to hold on to.
You see, here’s the thing about addiction – whether you’re the one fighting for your life in the throes of the disease or you’re walking the tightrope with someone you love, holding on to them for dear life and praying it’ll be enough – this disease is powerful, and terrifying, and discouraging, and consuming.
More often than not, you feel hopeless. Your life as you know it is being torn to shreds before your eyes. It would be the easiest thing in the world to throw your hands in the air and cry “uncle.” Some days it feels like the only option you have to save yourself is to admit defeat, to drop your loved one’s hand and walk away, leaving them to fight the battle themselves. If you’re the one in the grips of it, and you have everyone in your life doubting you and waiting for you to fail, questioning your heart until it makes you question yourself, who would blame you for selling the last shred of hope you held dear for one more bag of dope? And then you realize, the only hope you have left in this world is that this one last hit will be enough to kill you.
Here’s the thing you have to remember: there’s always hope.
Where there is breath, there is hope.
Because if you don’t have that, what do you have?
I’ve said before that my sister could bring hope to a downtrodden stranger just by smiling. It’s not that easy for me, as the corners of my mouth turn down into a perpetual frown, but I’ll continue to share her story with the idea that I can bring others some encouragement in the same way her smile did while she was alive.
So far, I think it’s working.
Over the past year, I’ve received more than a few anonymous gifts in the mail from people who have gained some strength from Sarah’s story. The fact that I don’t know who sent them make them all the more special to me. About a month ago, I opened a package to find a key on a necklace. It was made by a company called “The Giving Keys,” which employs people who are transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of old keys. Each key has a word stamped on it, such as "courage" or "dream" or "strength." The idea is that when you're given one, you keep it until you find someone who needs it more than you do and you "pay it forward" by giving them your key. You're then supposed to share your story on their website.
My key said “hope.
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