From Loneliness to Hope: How Community Benefits Addiction
I was lost and I was afraid. After my divorce with my husband, I just didn’t know who I was anymore. I know how the Bible views family and I’m the first in my family to get a divorce. I felt like I had given it my all and it still wasn’t enough. I felt like a failure. I thought my life was put together before this bombshell. I had a solid group of friends I could rely on, a good relationship with my family, and I went to church every Sunday. Yet here I was… divorced. I knew I was depressed and I wasn’t being the best partner. My husband had given up on me. At first I was angry with him. But then I seemed to be angry at everyone – my family, my friends, my church. It felt like nobody was supporting me. Now I was in my 30s and all alone for the first time. This wasn’t what I had envisioned. This wasn’t what I wanted. I had prayed SO hard for my marriage, and for what? So I stopped returning my friends’ calls. I avoided my weekly family brunch and church. I didn’t want to talk about the divorce with anybody. I was too ashamed.After a while, the loneliness set in. I was constantly sad and alone, thinking about where things went wrong. That’s when I started drinking. I turned to alcohol for some temporary relief. I started drinking at night just to ease the pain and the heartache. I didn’t see it at the time, but I also drank to feel less alone. It was fine at first. I thought I could control it. But then I couldn’t stop. Whenever I felt alone, I drank. Whenever I started thinking about everyone that had rejected me, I drank. Pretty soon, I was drinking all the time. And that’s when things shifted. Instead of being angry at everyone else, now I was also angry at myself. Why was I doing this to myself? Why couldn’t I get it together? I see people get divorced all the time and they weren’t turning into alcoholics. What was wrong with me? That’s when the anger turned to guilt and shame. I was so embarrassed. I already felt like I couldn’t talk to anybody about my divorce. So how was I ever supposed to tell them about my drinking? I didn’t need or want any extra judgment. I didn’t know where to turn. And this downward spiral went on for several months. I’d drink myself to sleep each night. I longed to reach out to my family and friends, or to go back to church. But I just couldn’t. I was too ashamed of what I’d become. And, if I’m honest with myself, I was also still angry at all of them. I felt like, in some strange way, I was getting back at them for rejecting me. But in the end, that approach only hurt me. A lot of times, the secrecy and shame we feel force us into a dark place of feeling alone and disconnected.
Secrets Only Cause Pain
It’s hard not to feel the need to be perfect all of the time. Nobody’s perfect. We all succumb to temptations and need help to get back on the right path. And for those of us who struggle with substances or addiction, we are all too familiar with giving into temptation. We are all figuring life out together. But sometimes the pressure can get the best of us. We fear reaching out for help for our addiction because of how it may make us look. What will my friends think? Will God or my family give up on me? These fears pull us from society. They cause shame and loneliness. For those of us struggling with addiction, secrecy can prevent us from getting the help we need in order to recover. When we keep secrets, we retreat from our friends and family. This can cause us to lose our sense of purpose because we don’t have our support network and aren’t serving a purpose. We are no longer active in our communities, making a difference in the lives of those around us. Secrecy contributes to the development of addiction and should be avoided at all costs.Nobody can go it alone, which is why we need communities for help and support. Galatians 6:1 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” Coming clean to ourselves and the people in our lives are key to recovery. It reconnects us with others to get support while restoring a sense of purpose through being of service. When we let go of denial, we are free to seek the help we need.
Breaking Free of Stigma and Addiction
We all need support and encouragement, no matter what we are going through. But because of stigma, addiction isn’t always viewed in the same way as other problems. For example, if we need support for a cancer diagnosis, we are given it. No questions asked. The same should be expected by somebody struggling with addiction because it is a sickness, just like cancer. The stigma that comes with addiction causes us to feel ashamed to bring the issue to our community out of fear of judgment. In recovery, we often say the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s community. Many of us struggling with addictions have become disconnected from our friends, family, churches, and other organizations. We need a loving hand now more than ever. To reach recovery, we need to look beyond our fear and seek help. People recover from addictions all of the time. We deserve to get treatment and to be open about our struggles. Only then can we recover and realize that we aren’t alone. After all, none of our temptations are unique. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
End the Stigma
It is important to remove the stigma around addiction so people struggling with addiction can more easily seek the help, redemption, and recovery we deserve. Communities can start by understanding addiction in the first place. There can be a tendency to view addiction as a moral failing. When someone in our life is withdrawing, it’s usually because they’re feeling too ashamed to reach out and are suffering from loneliness in silence. That’s why it’s most helpful to reach out to them instead of waiting for them to come to us. Addiction isn’t a moral failing, but the result of underlying issues such as mental illnesses, trauma, and/or lacking healthy life/coping skills. The stigma that can be perpetuated is that addiction is a habit or choice. In reality, it is a chronic yet treatable condition. When addiction is viewed as a choice or habit instead of what it actually is, judgment gets involved. That’s when addiction is viewed as a moral failing. People get the idea that we decide to use substances as a form of rebellion. Once the blame is taken away from the person, it’s then important to have understanding and compassion for those dealing with addiction. Our communities should promote sharing honest testimony without judgment. That way, we can get the support we deserve to have the best shot at recovery without having to face isolation and loneliness. It’s important to show support for those struggling with addiction. Communities should be checking in on them, encouraging them, and helping them find treatment when they’re ready. It is vital to find a supportive, accepting community in order to heal. That could even mean leaving an unsupportive environment in search of a more loving and accepting one.
Rediscovering Ourselves and Our People
Through connection, we break free of the isolation caused by addiction. We find the solutions we need to overcome addiction. Through reconnecting with friends, family, and God, we rediscover forgiveness, strength, and connection. All of these things help us break free of stigma and addiction. That’s why it’s so important for our society to actively destigmatize addiction so those struggling with it can get the support they need. Our communities must be a source of support needed for those of us struggling with addiction. Remember the wife struggling with divorce? All she needed to reconnect with the people in her life was a friend who cared enough to reach out. After my divorce, an old friend from church showed up at my door. She asked why I hadn’t been to church in a while and if there was something wrong… and I broke. I was a mess. Still hungover and sobbing like a child, I confessed everything I had been bottling up for months. She let me cry and as the tears subsided she asked one question. She said, “In all this time have you ever wondered if you’re mad because your plan didn’t work out, or because God’s plan didn’t work out?” I was shocked. No one had ever been so supportive or so frank and I looked at myself and what I had become. She was the first person who met me without judgment and showed genuine care for me and my situation. She didn’t treat my addiction as a moral failing, which allowed me to get real about what was happening instead of hiding it. She helped me realize that nobody turned their back on me. Not God, not my friends, and not my family. I turned my back on my faith and my community. I knew I needed to return to them for help. I began restoring my relationships by calling my friends, attending family brunch again, and going back to church on Sundays. When community and treatment are combined, we have a powerful solution to addiction. In faith-based addiction programming, we are surrounded by other spiritual people who have experienced the same temptations as us. This can help us feel less isolated, get rid of the need for secrecy, and find recovery. When we seek treatment and forgiveness, we get a fresh start. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”When our friends, family, and God forgive us, it’s important that we also forgive ourselves. Addiction doesn’t define us; through connection, we are made whole once again. Here at Calvary Healing Center, we offer Christ-centered, faith-based programming in order to provide accepting support for spiritual and physical healing from addiction. By connecting to faith during treatment, we are able to find redemption and community alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ while getting tangible treatment for addictions. Learn more or get started by calling us at 602-279-1468.