Fill the Void with Spirituality

Filling "The Void." This is what addiction is about. We try to fill the void with anything we can: with stuff, with alcohol, drugs or food, or with processes like gambling, shopping, sex, pornography, or even exercise or work — two of the more justifiable addictions. The problem is that "The Void" is not the shape of the substances or processes we try to put into it. The alcohol, drugs, and food leak out; the momentary satisfaction from processes evaporates like dry ice after a few minutes, and the stuff is simply NEVER ENOUGH.

What about stuff? People who hoard stuff always have a justification for their behavior. They might need the extra clothes or shoes that were on sale in 1989, never surrendering to the fact that the size they wear, or the style, has changed. How many clothes and pairs of shoes can you wear anyhow? Do you need more than will fit in your closet? What about the boxes of parts ... parts to the old lawnmower you no longer need because you don't have a lawn, or the car owned by your uncle in St. Louis, or the bike you don't ride anymore, all occupying the valuable space in the garage, pushing the stacks of magazines and papers "you might need some day" into the house, down the hallway, and into the living space. What about those old financial records? Accountants tell us the most we ever need is 7 to 10 years of records; you can let go of the ones from 25 years ago. Compulsively buying is an attempt to "fill up."

Never being able to "throw away" anything while continuing to buy more, comes from the fear of not having enough ... the feeling of being empty ... "The Void." It never gets filled with "The Stuff." "The Stuff" takes on a life of its own. "The Stuff" drives a wedge between us and our family and friends. We become embarrassed to have company, even to invite a friend over for dinner. Neighbors begin to see a problem with "The Stuff" filtering out onto the porch or into the yard; they may glimpse the inside of the garage, too full of "The Stuff" for the car now. We get temporary satisfaction from our "Stuff," and neglect our relationships ... if we have any relationships. We focus on our "Stuff" instead of life, people, activities, sharing ourselves with other human beings, being available for others, and spirituality; we hide ... from emotional attachments, from our feelings, from our friends and families, by accumulating "stuff."

If we have family, they begin to feel suffocated; their living space is shrinking. Stacks of clothes, old and new, outgrown and out of style, "bargains" we could not resist, go from floor to ceiling, allowing only a pathway through the house. What is this? It creeps up on us so slowly, and then takes over our lives. We cannot stop finding, buying, and keeping more "stuff."

We are trying, unsuccessfully, to fill "The Void", that hole that is in our gut, that gnawing feeling of emptiness, the vacancy, the unoccupied space in us that contains nothing. The pain of it is subtle, but demands that we fill it. It is true that nature, especially human nature, "abhors a vacuum." "TheVoid" is what differentiates us from lower animals; it is our need for a human level of spirituality. It can be filled with a relationship with the traditional Judeo-Christian God, or perhaps with a concept from an Eastern Religion, or maybe just a sense of belonging in and to the Universe, or being a part of The Whole, or of nature. Whatever works to allow the growth of our human spiritual side is what will fill "The Void" and allow us to let go of "The Stuff", realizing that we don't need it to feel "filled."

Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. or info@docdawn.com

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