Filling the “void”


There’s a hole in a donut. There’s a hole in a car tire. There’s NOT a hole in you.

I need to come out and say that right from the start, because I believe it’s one of the most important lessons any addict needs to learn in order to fully recover. It’s a Hollywood fallacy. It’s misinformation. Somewhere along the line, maybe in some self-help book, we were taught to believe that we have a void inside us, and that notion is, simply, wrong.

Part of my recovery, part of many traditional recovery plans, was learning how to “fill the void,” that aching, empty, bottomless pit inside your soul, the “hungry heart,” as Susan Peabody calls it, that feeling of needing SOMETHING that if you don’t find it or get it or stuff yourself with it, it keeps you from feeling whole and complete. So, being the insecure, unhealthy people we are, we tend to fill that void with garbage—we latch onto destructive people, get involved in inappropriate relationships, take drugs, have sex, smoke pot, spend money, overeat, drink. All the while believing that if we found the right stuff to fill ourselves with, that empty feeling would go away.

But it doesn’t.

And the truth is, anyone who has ever suffered, anyone who has ever lost a loved one, there is a real, physical feeling of emptiness. If I pay close attention when I am sad, I can actually FEEL a void in my heart. And yet, I ask you to believe that there isn’t one.

What if that empty feeling was not an actual empty space inside you that needed to be filled? What if there was no void? What if that empty feeling is just part of you?

What if you sat in a room with it and experienced it instead of trying to stuff something in it, hide it or cover it up with love, sex, drugs, or food? What if you just accepted it like a flaw, like a dimple or a slight indentation in your skin? Something you cannot get rid of; something you must make peace with and accept?

I suggested this idea to someone in a love addicts anonymous meeting once, and the response I got was, “Thanks. That would be nice. But there really is a void there. I know it, I feel it and it’s the driving force behind all my actions.” But you see, it’s the opposite of a phantom limb–that sensation of a limb still being there that an amputees feels when there’s really no limb there. With addicts, we have the limb, we just don’t acknowledge that it exists. The way we perceive ourselves, instead, is incomplete. How we learned to perceive ourselves as incomplete is Freudian. It comes from our childhood.

But trust me. You have no void. You are complete.

So, how do you get rid of the feeling or perception of that void? Well, this is what I did. And, of course, it goes back to your addiction. When S left me after an 8-month relationship that I thought was my last; after he told me, “I don’t think I love you. I think I made a mistake,” I locked myself in my room for four days straight one week and I sat with it. For the first time ever, instead of curling up and rocking, trying to avoid the emptiness, or running out and trying to find someone else to replace S, or shoving food in my face, or drinking myself into an oblivion, I let it in–the pain that is. I told myself, “This is a part of me, so I will experience it, know it and accept it.” And I did. Andit was excrutiating at times. And every time it crept up on me, that feeling of being hungry for something, anything, (and there were lots of times, even after the four days in lockdown), I said, “This is a trick.” And it was. It was and is a psychological trick. And eventually, just like making peace with a missing limb, I started to be OK with the idea that, even if it felt like there was nothing there, there really was. And I started to understand that nothing, after all, was missing. There was no void. I am whole. And once I got that, I stopped trying to fill myself with garbage. Suddenly, there was no point.

‎”There are only two types of people in the world: those who try to stuff their inner emptiness, and those very rare precious beings who try to see the inner emptiness. Those who try to stuff it remain empty, frustrated. They go on collecting garbage, their whole life is futile and fruitless. Only the other kind, the very precious people who try to look into their inner emptiness without any desire to stuff it, become meditators.” –Osho

Today’s obvious advice: sit with the empty feeling as long as you can. Experience it. You’re not going to like it at first. But you’ll adapt. You’ll acclimate yourself. Human beings are resilient.  Addicts are especially resilient. Pain is something we’ve been avoiding for a long time. That’s the purpose of our addiction–to cover up the pain, to shroud it. But let it in like the wild roller coaster ride that it is. Let it exhilarate you instead of crush you.

19 thoughts on “Filling the “void”

  1. Awesome! I know it’s hard. But your mind is your best tool in your recovery. I have to really kind of sit with a yucky feeling tonight and instead of “numbing” it away, I think I’ll try to really experience it. The more you do this, the better at LIVING you get. xo

  2. Hi!! this article you wrote is amazing, thank you. I am in the process of stop hating myself, avoiding myself, and lying to myself that there is a whole inside of me that I have to fill.

    I have this empty feeling as you had, and I need to confess that I do not like to feel this feeling, so that is why I have been acting all these time like a desperate woman who has to fill this “hole” in some way to stop feeling this emptiness and feel me complete. But I will try to do the things you did to stop lying to myself about that “hole”.

    Thank you

  3. I want to say Thank You, Thank You, And Thank You! I wondered if others were out there experiencing and writing about this topic and I found your article and am truly inspired by it. It makes perfect sense and I appreciate that you shared this publicly so that a person like myself could come to find it. I will continue to share for others to see.

  4. Out of emptiness comes fullness…That’s the basis of many philosophies and religions. Pain is a part of life and those who run away and distract themselves are missing the point that pain is simply one of many feelings that they will encounter in their lives. Sit with it and it will dissipate into a sense of calm. In a way, pain initiates the impulse to love and to create… It offers a rebirth into the sense of the Divine via a connection with ourselves at a deeper level. Sometimes the things we do to distract from our sense of being disconnected and in pain are a form of poison as they keep us divided from ourselves. Pain is a warning to pay attention to a part of our lives that as yet remains unexpressed or unaddressed. Sometimes we mistake the source of our pain as coming from outside rather than within and push away the very people or things that we need to heal the rift between our desire and our fear. Pain is a primal cry for help and deliverance from something that has wounded us and cries out to be heard. It’s like a baby crying in the night to be held and comforted and fed with something to restore the hunger in the belly. As an adult you can provide your own sustenance by making wise choices about how to fill your life to feel content. Practice patience during the process. Connect with good people and good causes; create and give without expecting anything in return; eliminate harm and maximise good thoughts and actions. Forgive yourself and others for being human and making mistakes. Accept yourself as you are and try to grow up and be responsible for your choices and the impact that they have on yourself and others. Pain is merely a sign that you are human and are responding to “a sense of” loss, change, grief or injury. Better to feel pain than to feel numb and detached as it challenges you to find a means to change your “natural” response or reaction into something healthier and more fulfilling. Pain is a sign that we were deeply attached to something or someone and the loss is hurting us. In a way, pain, grief and loss are inseparable components of love and deep attachment. A child cries when it loses its favourite toy; so too do we weep at the loss of something precious that we cherished. Pain reminds us of our attachment to ideals or objects outside ourselves that brought us pleasure. Mourning is a part of life that needs to be worked through rather than avoided, and pain reminds us that we need to take time to accept our feelings and find healthy ways to embrace, express and release them.

  5. Fascinating! I feel like the reason I have spent years moving from one addiction to another is that I am afraid of looking at myself like you suggest. Action is the enemy of thought and means I spend my time runnIng away from myself instead of confronting these feelings head on. A brilliant article

    • Thanks! Glad it shines a little light on to your situation. And yet, I’m a bit confused when you say “action is the enemy of thought.” There are two types of action, from what I have learned: wasted action that we do to cover up or distract ourselves from our real life, and right action, which needs to occur in order to live out our life. I spent MANY years in wasted action mode, running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I’d like to believe that now, I mostly take right action, toward meeting my goals. How about you??

  6. Article is great & thought provoking…What if the hole we feel is necessary in finding and solidifying a mate or life partner what if it is what keeps us with one another? Now when I look at my emptyness as a nessesity in the circle of life, I understand its ok now to have a purpose, a drive to connect with someone and often it can be this person I am longing to connect with is Me.

    • Interesting point. But, Have you ever loved someone or been in relationship where you felt WHOLE and COMPLETE all on your own, and you also felt you were with someone who was also WHOLE and COMPLETE. It’s a FANTASTIC feeling. There is no “need” or “ulterior motive” anchoring us together. We are not together because the other person fills our void, and therefore, there is no guilt or co-dependency. We simply love each other for the whole person we are. I kinda like that a lot better. :)

      • Good question and it sounds really nice….um I think I was quite the narrsasist there for a while, loved attention and was very mindless of others hearts, had alot of relationship where I didnt really need the perrson just was with them as a bonus to my already seemingly fun life, It hurt alot of people. I eventually left all of them. I ended up in a lot of relationships with codependant people as well. Which caused me to develop a fear of being trapped and so I would choose relationships that had no chance. I have recently desided to open my heart back up to one of my exes who was an amaizing partner, with no expectations or promises just real organic growth and well ill let you know how it goes lol :)
        I have plans to travel and he understands that.

  7. This is the best blog I have ever read. The absolute best. Many of the comments made it even better. Thank you SO much for helping me. This is a true gem.

  8. Hey there,
    i read your article and thought it was a good slant on things which offered a different veiw on things. I dont fully agree with all of it, for example what if you already embrace and truely feel the pain and sadness and grief which is hiding behind addiction? What if you accept these things but still feel a void? Are you supposed to carry on feeling these things which are truely painful, because fingers crossed you will learn to adapt and embrace them? If there actually is a void or unsettled, uncontented part of you which you’re trying to fill by drugs, alcohol, sex, food or whatever, wouldn’t it be sensible to look inside yourself and find what it is rather than live in misery trying to ride
    out the suffering?
    Plus no two people are the same isnt it possible that other explanations or solutions maybe possible for different people?
    I will definately keep an open mind though, thanks

    • Hi Bec. Thanks for your post! And yes, we are all different and have different solutions to our problems. The idea of making peace with the void that we feel is inside of us comes from the idea that there’s an emptiness in us at all. SOmetimes when we vizualize an emptiness or a void, we subconsciously want to fill it. Well, if you started to vizualize that there is no emptiness inside of us, then why try to fill it? You, on the other hand, are talking about pain and suffering. Those are different vizualizations and they need to be addressed, not ignored. Pain is a message. It’s telling you something is wrong. And when something is wrong we immediately try to address it as best we know how–but there are healthy ways of addressing pain, and unhealthy ways. When you get a cut on your arm, inflamation takes over. It looks ugly (it turns blacka and blue or you get a scab), but inflammation is the body’s way of healing. WHen there is pain or trauma to our psyche, an inflammation of sorts has to take over. FOr the love addict it tends to be obsession over someone or a relationship. We try to “heal” our pain and suffering with relationships. In reality, we are simple picking at an open wound over and over and over, trying to remove it from our body, which is essentially causing the sore to grow larger and larger. This is obviously the wrong tactic. We instead need to find healthier ways to heal, which sometimes means letting the body, mind and spirit heal itself. This means not covering the pain up, or trying to stuff the emptiness you may feel with fruitless things. Figure out WHERE the pain is coming from and address it. Nine times out of ten it’s not the person you are addicted to that is the cause of your pain. It’s something a lot deeper that you need to resolve on your own. SOmething you are afraid of, that, once you face it, the pain goes away. Does that make sense? Read “the 500-pound elephant” blog and “the battle within” to help.

  9. Pingback: Tips on Dating, for the love addict | The Lovely Addict

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