The Gift of Desperation


In AA we have this phrase we use, sometimes we refer to “the gift of desperation.” Meaning, that point of being so desperate that we were finally willing to do whatever it took to make changes, to try something new, to get better. It is the gift of desperation that brings us into the rooms of recovery, and very often the same desperation that drives us to make changes down the road.

Years ago I read a piece of a poem by Rumi that has stuck with me. If I remember correctly, I found it on a blog I used to read and found much encouragement in: Sober Boots. Heather no longer blogs regularly, but she did recently publish a compilation of blog posts that is worth checking out.
This is the Rumi poem that I find myself consistently returning to:

“Pray the prayer that is the essence
of every ritual. God, I have no hope.
I am torn to shreds. You are my first,
my last and only refuge.
Don’t do daily prayers like a bird
pecking its head up and down.
Prayer is an egg.
Hatch out
the total helplessness inside.”

I am deeply and capriciously in touch with my helplessness. I hate it. I hate how painful everything is. But it is this desperation that keeps me going, keeps me praying, keeps me showing up at meetings and reaching out to people. The desperation that how things are cannot be the way they will be forever. The desperate understanding that the world is shattered, and I cannot curb the pain of that reality. Like the lines from the poem “I have no hope, I am torn to shreds. You are my first, my last and only refuge.”
I have nothing. Nothing is of much meaning to me these days. I am helpless and desperate, and often on my knees. I am finding just the tiniest, gasping bits of strength in hatching out this total helplessness inside me.

I still hate it. And it doesn’t feel like enough most moments. But I am desperate, and that’s really all that is propelling me forward anymore; I think I’ll keep hanging on to that while I can.





Photo by Audrey (Central Pennsylvania, USA), Mom, I’m Pecking As Hard As I Can!, via Wikimedia Commons


  1. I so relate to this. I remember when I was not going to many meetings (one a month?) and not being connected through literature, fellowship, sponsor, prayer, etc. I didn’t want to drink, but I didn’t want to live. I remember praying for that desperation I felt when I was new. I know my life depended on it.

  2. Your candidness is an amazing blessing. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Hannah! I appreciate any time you comment ❤ I've definitely been glad to read your writings as well lately 🙂

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