Have you ever been at a point in your life where you just wanted to belong but your addictions forced you into a dark and secret place?
Many of us have felt this way, including me. No one knows about our secret place and we keep it this way. It feels safe.
But honestly, isolation is real and it’s a very lonely place.
I’ve spent a good portion of my life in isolation. It was always my go-to hiding place. And I hid so well, even in public.
Isolation is a powerful tool that leads us in the wrong direction. For the most part, when people isolate they tend to hide and spend time alone. However, there are those of us who isolate in plain sight.
If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper
For many years, I did everything I could to make myself look good on the outside but hid a deep, dark secret from those around me. I was so good at this game that even my family and close friends had no idea. I was surrounded by people but felt isolated and alone.
I remember walking the halls at school, participating in sports, going to church, and hanging out with family, and at the same time, feeling lonely and invisible. I longed for someone to acknowledge me and ask if I was okay. I wanted others to like me, but since I kept my true self hidden from others and really didn’t like myself either, how could I expect others to like me? I carried so much guilt and shame because of my hidden secrets, and at the same time, so badly wanted to tell someone—anyone—to relieve the pain.
I felt this way for a long time. All through high school, I thought about suicide. I thought to myself, “Yep, I could end it all right here and no one would ever know.” Even now, it makes me sad to think about it, but at the time, I really believed this. I told myself, “No one will even care—no one will even miss you.” So why not? I tried and failed which caused me to fall deeper into my addiction.
There is lost and then there is LOST.
I felt LOST. This was the deepest, darkest place I had ever been. I didn't understand how lost in my addiction I had become. I was in so much pain—and also so good at medicating my pain—but those close to me couldn’t see it.
We were created to live in community: to be around others in a healthy setting. It’s not normal for us to hide, feel lost, and disengage from life and others. In the Bible, right out of the gate, God created man and woman for relationship—relationship with Him and with each other. He didn’t create us to be alone.
God didn’t breathe life into us so that we could sit and hide in darkness. This is what isolation is—the darkness in our lives that covers what we don’t want others to see. The darkness that keeps others out because we fear getting hurt. The darkness that feels safe because we think we’re in control. It’s where
we make the rules,
it’s our personal agenda, and
no one else knows about it.
Although I thought I was in control, this was really the place where my addiction was in control. It was the one thing in my life I could count on. It never told me no. It was comforting. It was mine. I did what Rich wanted to do, but I was so deceived. Without knowing it, I had become a prisoner to my addiction.
Have you been in this place? Do you know what I’m talking about?
It’s hard to get up when you’ve been beaten down, especially when you’re the one who’s beaten yourself down. This makes getting up so much more difficult.
When we’ve isolated for so long, and are living with unhealthy addictive behaviors, we create a “new normal” in our lives. To make matters worse, we create unhealthy neural pathways in our brain that cause us to think our behaviors are normal. Over time, we have traded our healthy behaviors for behaviors that reinforce our addiction.
The good news is that we can rebuild healthy neural pathways in our brain, but it will take time and intention to break our unhealthy behaviors. It will take a process of renewing our mind with new, healthy experiences, the support of others, and practical tools to help us walk in freedom every day.
Pure Desire has a DVD called The Neurochemistry of Addiction, which explains how the brain works, how addiction affects the brain, and how to begin developing a mindset for health. I highly recommend picking up a copy. Understanding how the brain works, especially when it comes to addiction, is truly amazing!
If you’re stuck in a place of isolation and wondering what to do, here are a few suggestions:
Reach out to a trusted friend, pastor, teacher—whoever it may be. Reach out and let them know you’re struggling and the addiction is taking over your life.
Contact Pure Desire Ministries. Talk with us. We are here to help you find health and freedom.
Get connected with a Pure Desire men’s or women’s group. Trust me when I say, “We need others in this process.”
Schedule an appointment with the Pure Desire clinical team.
Pure Desire offers a safe place to be real and honest about your struggles.
There were a lot of dark places in my life and, finally, when it was too much to handle, all four of these suggestions saved my life.
We can’t do this alone. I know this for a fact because I tried. When I think back through my healing journey over the past 26 years, I am thankful every day for God’s grace and Pure Desire’s clinical program and groups. My life has been forever changed.
Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God’s people.Charles Spurgeon
No matter how tough things may seem in your life right now, Pure Desire is here to help. We have men’s and women’s groups all around the world where you can get connected. Our clinical team provides counseling in-person and online to clients throughout the world.
Take it from someone who’s been there, you don’t need to hide in isolation anymore.
Rich is the International Men's Groups Coordinator (IGC) for Pure Desire. He has been involved with Pure Desire for over 20 years and is a foundational piece to helping churches start a Pure Desire group ministry. Rich is also the author of The Silent Battle: One Man's Fight for Freedom.