The Void We All Experience, is an Unopened Trove

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The infamous VOID that we’re constantly trying to fill, cannot be filled because it is already full and the lid is tightly sealed.  I know this from experience.  Everything I tried to fill myself with eventually brought more emptiness.  I don’t need to go into this because we all know about temporary fixes.  What we don’t all know about is that the void is wreaking havoc on your life because it’s yearning to be explored.  There is nothing more cavernous and beckoning than the void inside of each human being, but rather than give it our full attention, we try to shut it off because we secretly think it’s going to kill us.  On the contrary.  That cave inside of you is the richest part of your human experience.  If only you would sit with it for quite some time and learn to acknowledge it; you will discover that there is a treasure inside of you simply waiting to be opened. 

One of the men at my home group has been coming back as a newcomer for weeks.  He gets thirty days and spoils it.  Over and over.  He is in a lot of pain.  I’ve been there before and I hear him speak about the void that is inside of him and how he used filled it with women, but now he’s filling it with God.  I understand all of this.  I understand that many of us think that God is the one who is supposed to fill that void, but I will tell you something that I don’t think I’ve ever said before.  God never stopped me from taking a drink.  God never stopped me from self-destructing.  Filling my void with God didn’t remove the cravings, nor did God remain in there so tightly that it filled up my void completely.  Like sealing cracks around a window, the air always finds its way through, and God never took up all of that empty space inside of me.  There is nothing that can fill that space because it’s not a space at all.  It’s a place of yearning.  Its a place of essence.  It’s the very core of YOU, and its begging for your exploration.

You’ve ignored yourself for several years.  There is so much entertainment, too many distractions, a bazillion people wanting your attention.  You spend your energy trying to achieve their approval and acceptance.  There is a career, possibly there are children, and so many relationships require your time.  If you’re religious, Jesus needs your attention too, and if you’re into technology, then you’ve kept yourself occupied with plenty of computer stuff.  Movies, games, meals, sex, TV shows… it’s enough to draw anyone away from themselves for decades.  And the void seems to get louder.  It’s aching inside of you and it’s begging for your attention, so you fill it with even more outside stuff and suddenly you discover yourself in a self-destructive cycle.  WHAM!  Then you’re finally left with nothing except for you and that disturbing, terrorizing void.  You can cry over that void because it makes you miserable.  It’s irritating and longing for one thing only.  That one thing is not God.  It’s you.

 Hang out with your emptiness and learn about that space inside of you.  It’s not going to kill you to feel lonely, or to desperately ache.  That feeling of void is the neglect that you have offered to yourself throughout your life.  It’s sadness.  It’s pain from being abused by you.  It’s your own self longing for your friendship.  Haven’t you ever wondered why there is a void?  Perhaps it’s not a void at all.  What if it is everything you’ve ever dreamed about, wrapped up inside a beautiful box just waiting for your arrival?  And it was getting louder and louder because it has been waiting for so damn long?  Come back home… it calls to you.  Love me… it beckons.  Like a little child missing a long lost parent. 

The void is not emptiness longing to be filled.  It’s a rich trove, begging to be opened.  Walk down into that cavernous space of yourself and discover what it’s like to open a treasure that fills up every crevasse of your being.  Stop running.  Stop fixing.  Stop pretending you aren’t aching just like everyone else on this planet.  The only difference between you and the person who is filled with serenity, is that they finally stopped fighting their emptiness and accepted the gift that was yearning to be discovered.     

 

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Enlightening Up Cover

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Dating in Recovery and Relationships After Sobriety

Dating in Recovery

Many of us who have suffered in our addictions discover that we are addicted to more than a substance, once the substance is eliminated.  It is difficult to go through recovery in the beginning, and so easy to become distracted with a new love interest.  It is heavily suggested that people do not date for a year in their sobriety, but how many of us do it regardless of the suggestion?  I know how lonely I felt in the beginning of my recovery, but I also know when I got really serious about staying sober, I got serious about the suggestion to not date.  It is such a slippery slope, and if you are truly in recovery, the one person you need to learn how to have a relationship with, is yourself.

Recovery is an inside job.  There is a lot of emotional baggage that comes with our addictions, and though we don’t need to jump in and dig out everything all at once, we have to be very diligent about things like integrity, being honest, being present, and taking life in slowly rather than running through it like we did in our addictions.  Facing ourselves on a day to day basis, as a sober individual, is like discovering a whole new world, and then learning how to maneuver in it.  If you expect to be a good partner just because you are finally sober, think again.  There is a great deal of self-worth that must be established before you can be healthily involved with another human being, after several years of self-sabotaging.  There are habits that need to be broken, and behaviors which need to be looked at and changed.  This takes time and patience.  Recovery is something that takes a lot of inner healing, and self-love.  It is not fair to yourself, or anyone else, to take away from the process.  A relationship is a very big deal, and it also brings up a lot of emotional energy, which you may not be ready to face right away.  People bring up our emotional baggage – it’s just the way the universe balances us out, so that we have the ability to face it and then to heal.  In early recovery, it isn’t very wise to bring up all that turmoil through the likes of another human being.  It’s difficult enough doing it one day at a time living with yourself and everything that comes up for you on a day to day basis.  It’s even more difficult when the honeymoon phase of a new relationship ends, and you are sitting there raw with a partner without a drink in your hand to make everything seem dreamier than it truly is.  Anyway, don’t you want to learn to take care of yourself before you take on the heart of another human being? 

As far as continuing a relationship that was already established before you get sober, well, this is something very personal that must be dealt with delicately.  There are many factors that contribute to a person’s addiction, and sometimes, it’s a co-dependent partner.  Everything shifts when one person becomes sober, including the dynamics of a relationship.  Many partners are not comfortable with their newly sober mate, and on the other end of the spectrum, some partners are extremely supportive, but no matter what, nothing comes easily.  It takes work for both parties, which is why support groups can be extremely effective in helping people through relationship changes.  

We do not realize while we were busy getting high and drunk, how little changes in day to day activities can affect our moods, our state of being, or our focus.  We diluted life, so there was either UP, or DOWN.  There was no taking true responsibility, nor was there any clue to the nuances of day to day life.  We had drama, for certain, but we didn’t really know what we were feeling, because we were always trying to change how we felt.  Being sober is being raw, and this is kind of exciting, but it can also be confusing and scary.  Sometimes I change moods so often in one week, I question if I am mentally stable, but what I really get out of this, is that I am no longer able to hide behind a bottle, so I’ve got to face myself and all of these moods.  Instead of fighting myself, I look at my diet, my intake of vitamins, my sleep patterns.  I get curious about myself and take an interest in what is going on with me.  My point is, it takes a lot of time to establish our own patterns and to get to know ourselves when we are sober.  Having a partner brings up even more emotions, so it is really worth it to take that full year, or even longer, before you begin sharing your life with someone else. 

It’s a question you need to ask yourself – AM I SERIOUS ABOUT MY SOBRIETY?  If the answer is yes, then you will quickly clear a path for your life so that you have the space to run the distance.  Don’t let people get in the way of your recovery.  Don’t be distracted from healing.  Don’t be anxious to do anything because it will all fall into place at the exact right time.  It just will, because it simply does.  Life falls into place if you will only allow it to.  You will meet the right person, and you will be healthy enough to love that person when they come.  Just give yourself some space and allow yourself to do this thing without all the nonsense in between.  For once in your life, love yourself enough to abstain until you have no doubt that you are able to truly and unselfishly love another human being.

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Grief and Anger Accompany Quitting Drinking and/or Using

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For addicts and alcoholics who begin coming to terms with the idea that their days of using are over, it can be a devastating, drawn out process of anger, followed by grief, confusion, irritability, etc., which boils down to fear.  Think about the relationship you’ve had with your drug of choice, and imagine walking away from a very long term, intimate friendship.  Humans do not acclimate to change easily, and addicts without their drug, is a toddler without its binky.  There will be some inner temper tantrums.  It’s another part of the recovery process.  It’s emotional, overwhelming and for some of us, terrifying. 

For me, the breakup with alcohol was a long, drawn out process, in which I slowly weaned myself, not off of the booze, but the idea of not having any booze.  It weathered with me as futile.  This was at the end of my using, and as I began coming to terms with my impending loss, fury rose within me.  I was in such a rage, that I wanted to hurt somebody.  I wanted to throw things.  I wanted to attack.  Sitting with it was overwhelming for me, so I went on a run instead, while listening to Lincoln Park on full blast; but the run was a full on sprint which lasted for about an hour.  Adrenaline peaked for me that day, and the run helped with the anger, but then, what followed was intense bouts of grief.  Instead of sitting with this, I drank liquor instead, but the repercussions at this point, were what brought my alcohol abuse to a end.  The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a detox facility, withdrawing in the raw, without any source of medical relief.  Two weeks passed without much sleep, while my head was full of confusion.  I was able to keep busy doing laundry for the clients in the days where nervousness peaked, but my days with the bottle were over, and I had to face this war without any armor.  It was just me and the mirror at this point, and the woman looking back at me wasn’t very attractive.  She was a hot mess and she needed help.

I had a counselor in treatment who provoked some of us to anger.  She did this knowing that it was a good start for us to deal with our emotions.  I was one of the ones she often provoked.  I think it’s because anger was the only emotion I was in touch with at the time.  I couldn’t hide it for shit, and it allowed me to cry because it came up as rage, and when I rage, tears follow.  This was the beginning of all that fear clearing for me.  It was the tip of the iceberg in my overall healing.

I don’t miss alcohol today.  It is an old, weathered relationship that took a bad turn, and needed to be severed.  I am so comfortable and safe with the stability of my emotions now; I would be frightened to take a drink and feel high, followed by the intense low.  I don’t know how I managed all that high and low stuff for so many years.  It seems horrible to me now, knowing that I never could sustain a high for very long, yet I ruthlessly kept trying.  What’s futile, is that stupid relationship I had with vodka.  It was so unpredictable.  

Yes, you will feel a lot of crazy, hellish feelings in the beginning of your sobriety.  Let them arise and figure out a healthy way to release them.  Get some boxing gloves and a bag if you need to.  I’ve done this as well. It also helps to detox with others like yourself, where you can all vent and laugh at the idea of giving up your drug. Just please don’t give up – and remember, this is not eternal. 

 

And The Walls Are Finally Coming Down (Intimacy in Recovery)

Heart in a Vice

I wish they would have talked about relinquishing the chains of my heart, while I was in treatment.  I KNOW that I am not the only alcoholic in recovery who has built gigantic cinderblock walls around myself, complete and lavished with barbed wire.  We are guarded beings by nature (the alcoholic and addict), because we spent years perfecting the art of hiding out in our addiction, and keeping people away from the truth of who we are.  On top of that, I haven’t met an addict yet, who doesn’t have some sort of emotional trauma surrounding their addiction.  Many of us were never nurtured emotionally as children.  Many of us were abused, abandoned or ignored.  It goes with the territory.

The cinderblocks and barbed wire no longer serve me, yet while being in a loving and healthy relationship with a good man, I find myself trapped inside of the walls I spent so many years building.  Although he can clearly see my walls, I’ve been oblivious to them.  I’m so comfortable with my “independence” that I don’t even know how to call a spade a spade in this twisted arrangement of mine.  Luckily, I have a partner who adores the hell out of me, and is on a mission to break down the barrier to get to my heart.  He doesn’t let it get to him when I tell him I need space, or that I feel like I’m suffocating, or when I push him away with everything in me.  He won’t go away, because he sees what I am doing, and he’s not going to let me hide anymore.  I don’t know what it takes for other recovering addicts to overcome these barriers, but for me, it has been having a soul mate who sees beyond the limiting confines of the mind.  He ignores my ego and speaks directly to my heart, “I love you Jennifer.  I love you Jennifer.  I love you Jennifer, and I’m not going away.”

He made a breakthrough with me.  I feel myself opening up to him, and accepting his love, finally.  I BELIEVE him when he says he loves me.  It’s something I have a hard time believing, except when it comes from my children or my grandparents. 

I’m not trying to make this all about myself.  I wrote this because it’s something that wasn’t addressed while I was getting treatment.  And for goddsake, it’s a beast of a problem.  We are so accustomed to hiding, that we don’t even realize we do it, even in recovery.  I was so completely blind to my cinderblock wall, believing that my partner was the one with the problem.  “He’s too needy,” I told myself.  “He needs to get a hobby, and join a club, and maybe date other women…”  I didn’t think I had enough to give him, so I pushed and pushed and pushed, and he blew and blew and blew love back to me.  What if he didn’t do this?  Where would things end up?  I envisioned myself finally pushing him away, and me staying single for the rest of my life.  I simply didn’t have it in me to face the truth of myself, that I was guarded, and I certainly didn’t know how to break down the walls myself.  I was comfortable in there.

Intimacy is not impossible for a former abused, alcoholic/addict.  It simply needs to be acknowledged and addressed.  It’s something we all must overcome in recovery.  It’s scary as hell, and your mind will twist things up to make you think you’re ok and the other person is unhealthy.  But I don’t think it’s as difficult as we believe it is, to overcome. It takes a lot of trust in our partner, or friend.  It takes time and admittance that we have an issue.  We don’t need to hide anymore.  We can be ourselves, and we are worth loving.  We need to accept this about ourselves.  “I am worthy of love, and a healthy relationship…” Say it with me.  “I am capable of giving love to another human being.  I am capable of giving love to another human being.” You see, intimacy is not as elusive as we believe it is. Intimacy is simply acceptance of love. It’s just another form of surrender.

We are not like Humpty Dumpty.  Essentially, we are never broken.  Our minds may be fragmented, but the human heart is always a whole.  You are complete.  You are whole.  You are capable of giving love and also receiving love.  You are capable of true intimacy, even after the emotional wars you’ve endured.