Filling the Void with Drugs and Alcohol
“We become aware of the void as we fill it.” ― Antonio Porchia
As I entered adolescence, I began seeking new things to temper and soothe my discomfort, lack of identity, anxiety, loneliness, fear of abandonment and not feeling like I belonged. I experienced a feeling of excitement and attachment to the media’s portrayal of the lifestyle of drug users.
By age 15, I was committed to the role of a drug user – and I couldn’t have been happier about it. For me, drugs and alcohol offered an escape from the constant discomfort I experienced as a child, a sense of belonging and an identity that was exciting, risky and offered the illusion of control. The amount of focus, attention and attachment I had to my toy truck as a toddler had transferred to a relationship with new objects – drugs and alcohol.
My desire to get high was a priority and all other relationships suffered. My relationships with peers revolved around drug use. Any healthy relationships I may have had soon disappeared, as my values changed to support my substance use habits. This, too, worked for me; the less I was attached to humans, the less chance I had of experiencing discomfort, fear or anxiety.
Additionally, my parents – like so many parents – were unequipped to support me without further enabling my substance abuse patterns. Throughout more than a dozen unsuccessful rehab attempts and two nearly-fatal overdoses, they stood by me in the only way they knew how, which was financially more than emotionally.
The pay offs of my substance use outweighed the drawbacks, for so many years; or so I thought. The illusion was that substance use was filling my void. The reality, however, was that my void still contained all the discomfort and pain of my childhood – plus the addition of more discomfort, pain and shame from adolescence and early adulthood.
During my 14th treatment intervention, I connected with a spiritual counselor staff member. This staff member was a female who was around the age of my mother. She was the first person in my life who gave me permission to release my emotions… to cry and get angry. It was here that I finally experienced what it was like to feel comfortable in my own skin; to feeI that I was deserving of a different kind of life – something I had struggled believing before. Instead of numbing these feelings with drugs and alcohol, I now had healthy coping skills and a support network I could rely on for help.
Managing my cravings during previous rehab attempts was always difficult. But, this program emphasized the importance of exercise and offered nutritional support to help restore the vitamin deficiencies caused by my substance use and lifestyle. While the cravings didn’t magically disappear, they felt manageable. The decrease in physical withdrawal symptoms allowed me to experience other emotions and thoughts. This allowed me to see that I not only had the power to stop using drugs, but that I wanted to.
Building a House on a Foundation of Hope
In part three of my addiction recovery story, you’ll learn how I used my own personal struggle with addiction to inspire the development of The Raleigh House of Hope treatment centers. Because I experienced addiction and treatment first hand; I knew I wanted to offer a program that didn’t just focus on treating addiction. I wanted to create a treatment program and philosophy that addressed all the systems that impact and are impacted by addiction.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, The Raleigh House is here to help.