April 3, 2013 at 10:18 am #30224
When we give up an addictive substance or behaviour, we often come face-to-face with a kind of void in us. Conventional wisdom usually tells us to replace our addiction with a healthier habit, and this is good in general. But the uncomfortable feelings we feel when we remove the thing we used to cover them up contain a lot of potential gifts. If we don’t deal with the pains, we would simply replace it with another form of addiction.
If, however, we choose to look closer, we could learn so much about ourselves. So much beauty can be revealed to us if we looked instead of turning a blind eye to that place which yields pain. We think that pain is all there is in there, but those who looked actually find that the pain is only part of it. People can stay in recovery for years without discovering the joy and passion… until they examine this place and come away with a healed, more whole self.
What might you discover in the void?April 3, 2013 at 12:06 pm #30291Lori DescheneKeymaster
Great question Amyra! I definitely noticed this was true for me. Dealing with uncomfortable feelings was the hardest thing for me when I first started recovering from my eating disorder. I always wanted to *do* something with my feelings–in other words, avoid just feeling them.
But it’s like the saying goes: the only way out is through. In coming face to face with the void, I learned a lot about what hurt me, why, who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do in life. I also learned that two things caused most of my suffering: the belief that there was something wrong with me, and the fear that other people would see it and reject me.
In releasing these beliefs, I feel less of a need to run from my feelings, because they no longer stem from a deep fear of inferiority. And they no longer make me feel powerless. That’s not to say they don’t hurt; it’s just that I now realize I can work through them. Feeling them won’t break me because I no longer feel so broken.April 4, 2013 at 2:57 am #30467
I battled a drug addiction for almost 5 years and after getting clean, I had to face this void you talk about. But at the time I was not aware that there was a void. I no longer used drugs, but started eating tons of junk food. I basically had replaced one addiction with the other. And it wasn’t just junk food. Drugs did such a good job at numbing my emotions, that once I quit them, I had to find all kinds of things that would give me some form of ‘instant happiness’ or suppressed my feelings. If it took the attention away from me feeling bad about myself, I was hooked instantly. I thought quitting drugs would make me feel good about myself, but the reality was, I felt almost as bad.
When I stopped using drugs, I did not once think about ‘why’ I used drugs. I got professional help and still this question did not come up. They only focused on ‘not doing drugs’.
At one point I had to face the fact that I had all these new ‘addictions’ because I didn’t want to face how I felt about myself and my life. It was very confrontational, but also eye opening. Once you see what the cause is of your ‘problems’, you can also see a way out of them. There were a lot of things I had to let go of: guilt, blame, shame, fear of being labeled as a loser, addict,… and a lot of things I had to learn: loving, accepting and forgiving myself,…
When you are in this position, it might seem overwhelming, but the key is to take it one day at a time. I knew where I wanted to go, so I kept focusing on that image and that is what kept me going. I am now grateful for this whole experience, because it made me very strong and it contributed to the person who I am now, and I love who I am now 🙂April 4, 2013 at 4:13 am #30475
Lori – Thanks for sharing!
“…two things caused most of my suffering: the belief that there was something wrong with me, and the fear that other people would see it and reject me.”
These beliefs are also the root of a lot of my suffering in the past. In facing up to these beliefs, challenging them, working through them and seeing how much I had invested into believing them, I’ve been able to gradually find self-acceptance and stop sabotaging myself.April 4, 2013 at 4:55 am #30476
Guy – Congrats on reclaiming your personal power through the courageous work of letting go of much of the underlying negativity that drove you to addictions.
You highlighted an important point: the difference between addressing the underlying causes of addiction and merely focusing on strategies to stop using. If the things that made you reach out to numb yourself aren’t addressed and healed, you’d be driven to act out in addictive behaviours again sooner or later.
The point that people usually miss is how rewarding doing the real work is, as your story is testament of.April 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm #31343senseiParticipant
Thank you Amyra for the post.
Guy, I was so glad to read your post.
Addiction is nothing but full filling the “VIOD” within ourselves.
First 40 years of my life was a pure HELL, deeply Deprested, extreemlly Sad and Unhappy.
Those years I trully believed that the only way out of misery was to KILL MYSELF.
Fortunatelly I met a group of people whom I learned something from and changed my life.
Believe me I have tried Alcohol, Drugs, and Religion, but those are temporal solution (?).
What I learned from this group were “MYSLF”, MY LIFE”, and “LIFE”.
More I learned and UNDERSTOOD, more I became Happy.
Rehab, AA meetings and other support groups DO NOT WORK, simply because addressing the wrong causes.May 7, 2013 at 8:03 pm #35236gingerParticipant
I am so uncomfortable with feeling sadness, i cry and it causes physical tightness in my chest, and stomach acid buildup which very recently is causing ulcer symptoms. I am fearful of dealing with my sadness and anger because it causes physical things to happen. i am 23 and i so wish i was 75 to know that i can make it through this time in my life. ive lost 14 pounds without trying to this month and have started seeing a counselor weekly. i am waiting for that peaceful day in my life when i do not cry or feel anxious. it has been a full month of crying and stress. i do not know what to do. 🙁 i distract by watching tv and i used to be an avid marijuana smoker until about 40 days ago. I have had stress dreams and i am just so tired and feel hopeless. your stories are inspiring but the inspiration feels so fleeting and unattainable for me.May 8, 2013 at 3:21 am #35249
I experienced the exact same things as you are experiencing now. I was an addict, suffered from depression and anxiety attacks and felt like life was passing me by. Even two counselors could not help me feel better. I hope yours is better and will be able to help you. I just thought I’d share some things that have helped me a lot:
– start some form of intense physical exercise. This helps with physical stress and tension, and it releases serotonin into your brain which instantly makes you feel better.
– meditate: it will help you let go of negative thoughts, fears and anxiety
– find something you love to do and do it often. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you enjoy doing it.
– stop watching TV: TV has the same effect on your brain as drugs and it is easy to get lost in it. If you really want to watch a certain show, watch in on dvd. This way you can watch in when you want and there will be no commercials. Think about what would happen if you were to spend all those hours you lose by watching tv on improving your health and the quality of your life. On average people watch 3 hours of tv per day. That’s a total of 1095 hours per year. If you work 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, it will take you more than 21 weeks to get to 1095 hours. If you spend 21 weeks a year on improving how you feel and on improving the quality of your life, there is no limit to what you can achieve.
– eat healthier: Food has a huge impact on how you feel. Eating unhealthy will make you feel depressed. Eating healthy will make you feel good and give you tons of energy. Even adding one green smoothie to your diet everyday can make a huge difference. The more changes you make, the bigger the effect.
These things are easy to do, cost no money and you can start doing them right away. You will start to notice changes very quickly if you follow through with them.
The thing with fear, anxiety and depression is that they will not go away by ‘waiting’. You have to create the changes yourself. Set some attainable goals for yourself and take life day by day.
Best of luck to you!May 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm #35299gingerParticipant
Thank you Guy for your tips. It helps to know what works for others with the same struggle. I am inspired to know that you’ve made it through the tough times and I am going to run or do a physical activity the next time I feel like watching TV. :). those numbers are shocking when compiled and I do not want to spend my life distracting! I am going to make this commitment to myself to make changes, I have noticed I have been doing the same things daily as I did when I smoked pot, so of course it feels weird to be alone and not high, I need to be doing different things. Thank you so much you are helping me realize truths. I feel focused on the amount of time I’m spending on feeling down but really it has only been a short amount of time I’ve been sober a little over a month, I am going to give this time and work on it like anything worth while. Ourselves should be the most worthwhile project.May 9, 2013 at 3:31 am #35305CassieParticipant
I really needed to read this. I am in recovery for an eating disorder (and other mental health problems) and for a while I was trying to fill the void, and I guess I somewhat still am. But now I am spending my time doing things I enjoy, that bring me peace and bring me closer to being the person I want to be.May 9, 2013 at 3:45 am #35306
Yes, it is about finding joy and rediscovering all the things that are wonderful about yourself. When you have had an addiction, depression or other disorder, in most cases, you have focused on all the negative things in your life and about yourself for a long time. Once you learn to change your perspective and start looking for all the good things in and around you, you’ll not only find them, but your life will start to change very rapidly.