Dr. Pat finds hope and gratitude in the biggest and smallest moments in life
By Patrick McElwaine, Psy.D.July 11, 2020
Many people can point to one specific moment that had a truly profound and positive effect and drastically altered the course of their life. When I look at my own past, I find a series of hope moments—more of a staircase instead of a cliff. At the time I experienced each of these, however, I likely would have labeled them very differently than a moment of hope.
My first hope moment was when my family first set boundaries and limits with me, and I recognized that it is not OK for me to use drugs and alcohol. At this time, I did not think this was a hopeful moment. I felt my loved ones were working against me rather than supporting me. How time can change one’s perception!
I consider my second hope moment to be all of my relapses. I used to view these as failures, but now I look at them as valuable learning experiences and teachable moments.
My third hope moment was when I finally found a good therapist who point-blank called me a drug addict and alcoholic. A lot of work followed that moment, but looking back, I now see what a critical juncture it was. Finally, someone called all of my bluffs, and after getting over my anger and resentment, I took those words to heart and got serious about recovery. This altered the way I view myself, stigma, and treatment; it was the most impactful of all of my hope moments. After this, the many moments someone has helped me gain another clean day (whether or not they’ve known it) are countless, and I consider all of them to also be hope moments.
I consider my second hope moment to be all of my relapses. I used to view these as failures, but now I look at them as valuable learning experiences and teachable moments.”
In recovery, I have been blessed with multiple gifts, including my daughters, opportunities for great jobs, achieving my doctoral degree, and now being able to help others in recovery. Like anyone, there are many blessings I take for granted and many times when I focus on what I do not have instead of what I do have. But I know I’ve come a long way in learning to be grateful for all of the times that so often are taken for granted. Simple moments like seeing my kids play together, or times when I can pass on some of my own experiences to someone struggling in recovery—I make a point to recognize their value.
I am incredibly grateful for this life in recovery: a life filled with hope moments that continue to add up.
Patrick McElwaine, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, licensed professional counselor, assistant professor at the graduate counseling psychology department at Holy Family University and faculty member at the Beck Institute, focused on cognitive behavior therapy. Dr. McElwaine also serves on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) board of trustees and has more than 20 years of clinical experience in various settings, including outpatient community mental health clinics, residential treatment facilities, primary care settings, clinical private practice and inpatient treatment. His expertise is in addiction, anxiety, depression and trauma. In February 2020, “Dr. Mac,” as he’s known to his clients and colleagues, celebrated 11 years of continuous recovery. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters.