Cynicism & Hope

how-not-to-lose-hope“Victor” is back in Chicago again. The situation is familiar, though the details are different. I just hope that the outcome ends up being different, too.

Victor’s been coming to the Ministry Center for at least 15 years. His drug of choice is alcohol. The pain he’s gone through is something he never learned how to handle in a functional way. The bottle gave him a solution—however poor—that’s allowed him to get through life.

About five years ago, his AA sponsor moved to Texas, and invited Victor to move in with him. After some hesitation, Victor agreed. We were so excited to see him take such a bold new step, because we know that sometimes our men need a complete change of scenery to start their lives anew. Things looked promising. Then Victor quietly moved back to Chicago. He was in Texas for less than two months.

We were disappointed, but we understood. Change can be difficult for anyone. For our men—who have so little that’s stable and familiar—it is frequently more so. We encouraged him to try the move again, and a year later he did. And then he returned to Chicago a couple months later. Again.

He repeated this pattern—moving to Texas, promising to make a fresh start there, then returning to Chicago within 90 days—a few more times over the years. It’s a great example of one of the biggest challenges we have with our men: maintaining hope for them and resisting the weary cynicism that we think will protect our hearts from breaking when they fall.

In early July, Victor moved back to Texas again—this time with more resolution than before. He returned to Chicago a month later though, but for different reasons: a close friend had died, and his friend’s wife asked him to return to help her close down the business she and her husband had run. Victor has maintained a focus on recovery while in the city that I’ve never seen in him before. He’s aware of his limitations and the temptations around him. He’s making phone calls when he feels tempted to drink. I really want to believe that he’ll make it this time. But the cynicism creeps in whenever I think about him: the temptation to give up on him so I can’t be disappointed if (when?) he falls again.

The thing is, Victor is to me the way I am to God—but the difference is that God never gives up on me. He views me through his perfect love, and I’m always going to make it as far as he’s concerned. That hope is at the heart of Emmaus’s work with the men. We don’t always have it perfectly, if we’re being honest, but that’s okay. God does, and he’s really the one in charge, anyway.

Please pray that that the Holy Spirit works in Victor’s heart so he remains committed to sobriety and maintains hope for himself.

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