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.