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Understanding the Character Traits That Drive Our Addiction, Part II
The Emptiness Inside, Denial, and Pursuit of the Material World
The emptiness inside
Hidden deep within each of us is a terrible emptiness. A yearning gnawing feeling, a craving that never leaves us. It is the hole that can never be filled. Normally, it is filled from the inside, by the spirituality of our Higher Power. Wandering endlessly in our addiction, we had no Higher Power to turn to. Never comfortable in any situation, we were uncomfortable in our own skin.
Empty inside, we turned to the outside world for satisfaction. Romantic encounters, whoopee parties, spending money, and chasing success all worked to fill the hole, but it only lasted for a short while. We got high from our excesses, but we always lost our buzz, and found ourselves back inside our own hollowness. Our failure to fill the hole inside us led to frustration and to anger-fed resentments, and then to even lower self-esteem. We compensated by inflating our own self-importance even more, and the more arrogant and judgmental we became.
Then we found that booze and drugs could fill the hole. They took the edge off our irritability and gave us the courage we normally lacked. We became the life of the party, we could talk to girls, or anyone. When we were high, the emptiness was gone. Our get-highs solved all of our problems. We were finally at peace with ourselves. Or so we thought.
Denial is a normal human response to overwhelming situations, and is not unique to the addict by any means. But we use it with great success to hide our using from ourselves. It helps us forget the pain we have caused others. It obscures our shame and covers our blame and guilt. As dishonesty became part of our lifestyle, we hid that as well. Denial cleared the way for us to continue using in spite of the consequences that began to pile up: getting arrested, bouncing checks, losing the trust of family and friends.
The whole process was extremely painful, and although the pain was denied, it could not be escaped. The answer, for the addict, was to obliterate his consciousness with his drug of choice, which just made everything worse.
Another way to fill our emptiness was through our connection with others. It’s said that addicts don’t have relationships, they take hostages. We controlled our partners so they would support our using. We worked hard to direct the lives of those around us, to make them dependent on us. Or, we subverted ourselves to the command of others, allowing us to become dependent on someone else. We learned well how to play the role of the victim. Either way, we became adept at manipulation. Our self-centeredness prevented any semblance of a mature relationship.
Pursuing the Material
Our emotional clamp, by shutting down the heart, also shut down much of our conscience. Moral values, taught to us in childhood, easily fell by the wayside, especially when they threatened to interfere with our using. Compassion and charity were for suckers. “Do unto others, then cut out” was the order of the day. Behavior served the ego, striving to claim unto itself the goods and treasures of the world. We became selfish, and it felt good.
To Sum Up
This all sounds pretty, well, overwhelming, and it is. Our addiction overwhelmed everything in our lives. Our inherent low self-esteem, our tender hearts, and the emptiness inside us all, contributed to who we were when our disease was active. Fortunately, all of these traits are treatable. With successful recovery, our self-esteem was replaced by the knowledge of our inherent worth as human beings, as children of God. Our wounded hearts were healed by the love we found. And the aching ever-empty hole in our chest, was now filled by a Higher Power we could call our own.