“A profound and crushing sense of emptiness” is one of the most common experiences in the early phase of recovery, and typical of our patients. This presents as anxiety or depression and is often described as “…feeling a dark and frightening void inside me…” or “…feeling like an empty shell of a human-being…”
When one considers that addiction, by its very definition, is “all-consuming,” it begins to make sense that once removed, it leaves a devastating void–one that I have personally come to know, can only truly be filled (to wholeness) again by the Grace of our Lord. The program of AA/NA refers to this as a spiritual awakening. Nothing else compares, and oftentimes, without the guidance of a recovery program founded on spiritual principles, the risk of cross-addiction occurs. Without knowing any better, the individual will naturally be drawn to replace one addiction for another. For this reason, I’ve framed, and have on display in our group rooms, The Periodic Table of Intoxicants by Kevin McCauley, MD / “Pleasure Unwoven.” It is a showcase for all the varieties of addictive substances AND behaviors–yes, behaviors too: such as eating disorders, pornography, and gambling.
Think of this table as a deadly “hit list” to avoid. Remember, the expression of addiction in the brain is one thing… only one thing: that which trips the pleasure center, and as addicts, our ‘OFF’ switch is broken. That’s why someone’s “drug of choice” (or the ‘problem’ behavior) is only the most recent offender of this state of brain derailment. This is critical for relapse prevention: Once addiction has been turned on in the brain, it’s “On” and it’s on forever. It can never be undone. We no longer have the choice to go backward. Worse yet, we are now vulnerable to all things addictive in a way like never before.
Addiction is an incurable disease with a guaranteed fatal outcome. Our only reprieve is in the choosing the path of recovery, but there is a payoff that makes this difficult journey worth the trouble: we have the opportunity to experience a LIFE MAKEOVER where we begin the process of renewing relationships once fractured by the insanity of this disease, and to embrace a new and better way of living, with enhanced life skills and coping mechanisms to handle life on life’s terms.
Until next time… Thanks for letting me share.