Addiction and Inner Emptiness: Recovery on Higher Ground

Battling emptiness during addiction American poet, essayist and activist Robert Bly once stated,

“The beginning of love is a horror of emptiness.”

Although each person experiences addiction differently, it’s safe to say that for many, there’s this inherent feeling of emptiness that lingers and perpetuates a painful, stinging sensation of loneliness, hopelessness and internal despair. Sometimes it’s an injury that makes a person no longer feel functional, or a series of painful events that have continued to scar a person’s psyche over time. Self-inadequacies, trauma, relationship issues and major disasters have a way of making us feel as though we’re not good enough in some way or another and that’s when addiction appears – in an attempt to fill that gap.

Spiritual Emptiness: A Look Inside

The circumstances of our lives have placed us in unique positions over the years and the pain we’ve endured can certainly leave wounds on our hearts. For a long time, we may feel as though we’re wandering around aimlessly – with no sense of direction or purpose and no true connection. It’s this inner turmoil that often leads people to seek out substances – because the distractions they provide briefly take those feelings of pain away.

A 2016 article published in the journal Alcohol Treatment Quarterly emphasized that spiritual emptiness is often what accompanies poor mental health and substance dependence. When we’re spiritually empty, we’re lacking a sense of connection to the “bigger picture” that is life; put simply, we’re focused on what we don’t have, what we’re missing out on and what we’d rather be doing than healing from our experiences and finding ways to move forward. Addiction affects the mind, body and spirit and when our spiritual self is weak and feeling lost, we may easily find our lives become unmanageable and out of control.

Several years ago, the Huffington Post described spiritual emptiness as being a “lack of love” – but it’s not what you think. Rather than feeling low because of a lack of love we’re receiving from others, our spiritual emptiness often derives from a lack of self-love, which is found through spirituality. When this occurs, we don’t see ourselves as worthy, or loveable, or responsible, or deserving of good. With spirituality in our lives, we become much more open to ourselves and others by acknowledging that we have more to offer to this world than we realize.

Opening Your Heart

Ernest Kurtz, co-author of Experiencing Spirituality, told The Fix in 2014,

“Pursuing the image of “open” we come to giving generous; the open hand, making available what we have, rather than the grabbing, clenched hand, oriented to taking. A facet of open, willing, honest generosity is the gift of self that is presence.”

They say that two core aspects of spirituality are divine love and service to others. 12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), promote both of these components by helping people open their hearts to God or another Higher Power and by giving to others as an act of love. A 2017 study conducted by researchers from the University of Akron in Ohio sought to explore the benefits of these two aspects of spirituality for adolescents in addiction recovery. A total of 195 adolescents participated in the study and were assessed at the beginning of, during and after the study was completed. This is what the researchers found:

  • Experiencing divine love greatly enhanced the effect of service on recidivism rates
  • Service to others reduced relapse and promoted greater character development

Defining Spirituality

Of course, there are many other ways that spirituality can be defined as well as many ways it can improve your life. A study published in the Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry sought to examine the role and influence that spirituality has had on those in addiction recovery; 50 men and women diagnosed with substance use disorders (SUDs) participated in the study and surveys were conducted to get a glimpse of their perspectives. These were the definitions that many participants provided for their perspective on spirituality:

  • A source of power greater than the individual
  • A guide through life
  • Another form of energy
  • A connection and faith in a universal God
  • Emotion or love

Altogether, these were some of the explanations individuals provided for what spirituality does for them:

  • Spirituality gives many people the ability accept the fact that they’re addicted
  • Spirituality helps them understand that recovery is possible
  • It helps individuals remain open-minded to possibilities for their recovery and life
  • It provides them with a sense of hope and overall replenishment

Spirituality combats emptiness by filling us with purpose, meaning, love and light. 12-Step programs can give us a sense of connection to others who are also on this journey and can enable us to open our hearts more than we ever thought possible. If you’re ready to begin your journey to recovery, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today. The time to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit is now.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.