People don’t usually start abusing chemical substances because they are way too happy and content, and figure that they might as well slowly (or rapidly) destroy their lives. People usually start abusing drugs and alcohol because they are experiencing something uncomfortable, and they want to make themselves feel better by numbing out whatever it is that they are feeling. A lot of the time, that feeling of discomfort stems from an aching pit of despair. Something is missing. The person doesn’t feel whole, and doesn’t know to satiate the non-descript emptiness ringing in the pit of their soul.
Sounds a little bit dramatic, perhaps, but if you’ve ever experienced drug addiction or alcoholism firsthand, you probably have a slight inkling of familiarity. The emptiness hurts, and we don’t know how to fill it. So, we try to fill it pills and weed and crack and booze, and whatever else we can get our hands on. Maybe it helps temporarily. Maybe we are able to numb out the pain of meaninglessness for just a few moments (or days, or weeks). After a while though, the pain comes back – more intense than ever before. Here’s the Catch-22 – for as long as you keep drinking and using, the deeper and emptier the void will become – and the deeper it becomes, the more chemical substances you’ll need in order to “keep it at bay.” So, what’s the fix?
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. But there is a solution.
The Early Recovery Process
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of exactly what to do. Keep in mind – filling the void won’t happen instantaneously, and it will take a lot of hard work. But the payoff is massive.
Step 1: Admit to yourself that you need help getting sober, because you sure as heck can’t do it on your own. Believing that we can handle our problems all on our own is the biggest mistake that most of us make. In truth, from the beginning of the recovery process through long-term aftercare, we will need to consistently ask for help. Additionally, admitting that we are powerless over chemical substances and that we need help in the first place is one of the most difficult things that most of us will ever do. Drugs and alcohol are just things, aren’t they? How can the thing be so powerful, how can a thing have such an intense negative impact on the quality of our lives? It’s important to remember that addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease, one that is both medically recognized and diagnosable. It is a disease that can be effectively treated – but never cured. Once you decide to seek treatment the majority of the hard work has already been done.
Step 2: Decide what program of clinical care best suits your personal needs and develop a viable plan of action. In most cases, clinical care will consist of four distinct phases – medically monitored detox, inpatient addiction treatment, outpatient treatment and sober living, and long-term continuing care. However, this is not necessarily the case for everyone. Unique circumstances and experiences lead to different treatment needs. For example, the void that you are feeling might be partially attributed to unresolved childhood trauma. If this is the case, trauma informed treatment will be necessary. The void might be partially attributed to an untreated mental health condition like anxiety or depression. If this is the case, dual diagnosis treatment will be necessary. When developing a plan of action, it is always good to get a second and third professional opinion. For more information, reach out to us at Chapel Hill Detox today.
Step 3: Commit to your recovery whole-heartedly, no matter what happens. Things will get hard. This is guaranteed. When they do get hard, it is important that you stay committed and avoid veering off the path. The moment you decide to pick up a drink or a drug, the moment that void will reappear – and it will be more intense than it ever was before. Do what you have to do to stay committed, whether this be taking things one day at a time or hitting two 12-step meetings every day for several months. No matter how hard it might seem in the moment to stay sober, it will always be easier than it is to return to drinking or drug use.
Step 4: Continue on in a 12-step program of recovery once you have completed your program of clinical care, and work through the steps thoroughly with a sponsor. Medical detox and residential addiction treatment typically last for a combined three months. As part of every effective aftercare program, daily 12-step meeting attendance and actively working through the steps with a sponsor is highly encouraged. It has been repeatedly proven that men and women who stay involved in a 12-step program of recovery are able to maintain sobriety and avoid relapse at much higher rates than those who do not. At Chapel Hill Detox, we thoroughly introduce our clients to the 12-step model of addiction recovery, bringing in outside meetings to our facility at least once a day.
Step 5: Learn how to genuinely forgive yourself. This part is really tricky. We tend to be our own worst enemies and critics, which can definitely set us up for failure at some point down the road. In order for us to be successful long-term, we have to recognize the fact that we are human and that we are fallible. We are likely to make mistakes along the way, and as long as we stay sober these mistakes can all be resolved. Self-forgiveness is a lot harder than forgiving other people. It’s a skill that must be learned over time. But once we learn it, we can utilize it at any point in time and it will help us stay on the right track.
Filling the Void with Other Things
It’s super important to note that the feelings of emptiness won’t subside as soon as you get sober, and that while the void will be filled over time with meaningful human interaction, spirituality and faith in something bigger than yourself over time, it takes just that – time. When you first get sober that void will still exist, and you might find yourself frantically trying to fill it with anything other than chemical substances. Some of the things you might try to utilize include:
Working out excessively.
Chapel Hill Detox – Begin Your Journey of Healing
If you are tired of feeling the way you feel, take the first step on the road to recovery. Give us a call today and we will help get you started. As soon as you become willing to seek the professional help you need, we will take care of the rest. Our Admissions Counselors are standing by to set up a date and a time for intake, once an initial evaluation has taken place over the phone and it is determined that our detox program best suits your unique, individual needs. For more information or professional advice and insight, give us a call. The only things standing between you and a lifetime of fulfilling and meaningful sobriety is yourself.