Hole in my soul
July 27, 2008 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Kicked (kicking) a bunch of addictions. What to do with this feeling of emptiness when the only thing that fills me up are the addictions?

So a few years ago, I realized that the only three things that made me happy in this world were cigarettes, pot and sex-related activities (cruising and Internet porn). Not very wholesome to say the least.

So I quit smoking, and quit the pot. The cruising was easy to stop as well, since I would always come home rejected and disgusted with myself. The Internet porn is a struggle but I am working on it bit by bit.

Now I am much more aware of my emotions and feelings, and lately, all I feel is an emptiness (which is expected - all this time, I was dealing with the emptiness with my addictions).

My question to you is: what do I do now? how do you deal with the emptiness?

I have tried new things: gardening, exercise, video games - nothing seems to give me the same warm feeling as I get when I am on "those sites" on the Internet.

Friends are (and have been for a long time) non-existent. In fact, I think this perpetual lonliness was a major contributor to developing my addictions. And now, I think I am so embittered by my social failures and so selective about what I am looking for in a "friend", my personality won't allow me to make friends anyway. and don't tell me "just stop being so selective", because if it were that easy, I would have done that ages ago! However, if you do have some concrete suggestions, that would be appreciated.

Therapy? What type of therapist? What will he/she do? I am under the impression that I need more ideas rather than therapy, but that's just me.

Thanks for your help - if you would prefer to contact me via e-mail, my throwaway account is: internetmetaaddict@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a nice summary of interpersonal therapy. It focuses on relationships, or their lack or shortcomings, which it sounds like you need. It is a very humane mode of therapy.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:28 PM on July 27, 2008

I've had this "hole in my soul" feeling most of my life also, one of the few things that fills this void is social interaction.

What are your social failures? Why doesn't your personality allow you to make friends?
posted by sixcolors at 3:42 PM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Consider doing volunteer work. Do you have a particular issue that you care about? Animal welfare, environmental, helping the eldery, literacy, disaster relief, theater, etc....? Volunteer work can be a great way to engage with society without having to be social. Relationships, and eventually friendships, can develop naturally through doing the work at hand. And it gets you out of the house.

It can take some time to find the right organization to volunteer with. If you work for a large company, they might have an employee volunteer organization. Your county or city may have a volunteer office. Or check out the links here: http://www.networkforgood.org/volunteer/default.aspx

Congrats on your success in fighting addictions.
posted by valannc at 3:54 PM on July 27, 2008

You be empty for a while. There's really no magic fix. Time makes it better, but you spent time basically digging a hole in yourself and keeping things that made you happy in it, then removed the things that made you happy and now all you have is a hole. It won't happen overnight, but time will fill in the hole. Just do stuff, even if it bores you or you hate it. Sometimes you just need to pass the time until you're tired enough to sleep. The best advice I've heard about getting over addictions is: "Whether or not you smoke a cigarette, the urge to smoke will pass." Apply this to whatever you need to stop doing. It works.
posted by knowles at 4:02 PM on July 27, 2008 [8 favorites]

Set yourself a goal. Go achieve goal. Repeat.

Was there anything that you had wanted to do at some time in your life? Like, read War and Peace, or hit every major peak in your state, or learn to bowhunt? Go and do it. Once you've done it, find yourself another goal. Or maybe hit up Heinlein's list.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. ~ Robert A. Heinlein 1907 - 1988
posted by porpoise at 4:11 PM on July 27, 2008 [5 favorites]

Seconding interpersonal therapy and 12-step programs or some other kind of social activity or support group.

If you don't like the God stuff or other potentially annoying aspects of 12 step programs, "take what you like and leave the rest" is probably the most important 12 step slogan.

The "rooms" as they are called are a very good place to practice social skills and build a social network (although, since many other people are practicing too, the program might not be where you ultimately find most of your long term friends-- some people are just too flaky).

If there is a meeting near you and you don't like the 12 step stuff, SMART recovery could also be useful

I'm nearly 20 years in recovery and while I have certain serious philosophical issues with 12 step programs, attending daily or nearly so for the first 7 years, I learned a lot. And made a few great friends.

Also, that emptiness might actually be anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), which is a symptom of depression that in my experience, cannot be helped by anything but medication. If you can't feel good, doing things that usually make you feel good will actually make you feel worse. So, consider medication. And keep in mind that you may have to try a few antidepressants before you find one that works.

I was socially clueless for a very long time and extremely clingy and needy with the friends I did have because I had this idea that I was fundamentally unloveable, which definitely drove my addiction and was probably part of my depression. Anhedonia can make you seem insatiable because nothing satisfies you because nothing feels good-- and that's no fun to be around, so it's hard to have friends in that state.

Medication helped quiet the part of me that thought I was so awful and needed constant reassurance and of course, when I didn't need constant reassurance any more, I was a lot more pleasant to be around and made lots more friends.
posted by Maias at 4:37 PM on July 27, 2008 [4 favorites]

I can't say it's easy or there's any quick fix; there isn't one. But you might try finding a hobby that is a "positive addiction." Running, digital photography, and chess / Go have been ones that I've been "addicted" to (obsessed with) with in the past. Find something you can lose yourself in where even if you overdo it, it's no big deal, because it's a fundamentally harmless activity.
posted by wastelands at 4:44 PM on July 27, 2008

I remember feeling this way once, when I simultaneously quit coffee and sugar (fruit, pasta, etc) cold turkey. At work, I was a zombie going through the motions, and after work, all I did was lie in bed and cry. Life felt completely pointless. How had I never noticed it before? What was the purpose of doing anything?

So, I think what you're feeling may be a physical reaction to quitting a powerful addiction. If so, many people have gone down this path before you. I didn't realize this at the time, but there are a lot of resources to help get through that very hard phase. I wouldn't go through it alone if you don't have to. If nothing else, read addiction recovery material. Alcoholics Anonymous and similar groups are totally free. For me, (in another situation), therapy was a huge relief: ah, I'm not alone, someone will help me figure all this out. It was basically like explaining my problem to a friend, but a friend who was extraordinarily sensitive and willing to listen. She became a problem-solving ally, but one who had seen a lot of other people go through similar things.
posted by salvia at 5:31 PM on July 27, 2008

I attended a series of medical seminars recently and one was on addiction and addiction recovery.

One interesting fact was that the major risk factor for alcoholics relapsing was being unemployed. Turns out that having a regular schedule where you have to show up and work reduces the idle time that leads to the old bad habits.

So perhaps a suggestion would be to get more structure into your days. Seek out new activities, expend effort in learning, trying out new things and setting new goals.

Second, that empty feeling sounds mildly depressive. A few ways to address it:

Start a 'gratefulness log'. Every night before bed write down three things (no matter how trivial) that you are grateful for in your life. Do this for sixty days and you'll see an impact. Sounds corny but it works. The mind is like a muscle in this respect. If you practice better emotions, you will get better emotionally.

Exercise (regular aerobic type stuff, stretchy stuff like yoga) has been proven to alter your mood. Same with meditation.

Finally, sit down and think about what your passions are in your life. What do you really want to leave behind as a legacy? There's plenty of work that needs to be done in this mixed-up world. You're someone who can help make it better.
posted by storybored at 7:04 PM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might not like this answer, but what about God?

From personal experience, I can say that He has been more fulfilling than anything else I've tried. What do you have to lose?

I know that Christianity isn't popular, and I know that society today tells us not to believe in it. But my life is infinitely better now. Also, I no longer feel hopeless- about anything.

If you're interested in hearing more or if you have any questions, you can message me.

I sincerely hope you find what you're looking for!!
posted by nataliedanger at 7:16 PM on July 27, 2008

I agree with natalie to the extent that some kind of spirituality or mindfulness is often very effective when you feel empty inside. If religion itself weirds you out, there's always meditation or a practice which is based on mental/spiritual focus like yoga or tai chi.

That big hole in you can be filled by the future. You can shape what happens to you.

I'm not going to tell you to "stop being selective" when it comes to friends, but you might try thinking about friendship in a different way. Friends aren't these people that have to fit you perfectly. They can just be people who happen to be "just right" for certain activities. For example, you can find someone who enjoys the same kind of movies or music as you, and go out to shows or films and then talk about them.

You don't need ideas, because most of the time we know what we "should do" or we know what things can work (that's why you already tried exercising and activities to get you motivated and less depressed). Therapy can be about delving into the why of your current situation and from there figuring out the how of getting better.

Purpose helps feel emptiness. Do you have a job that you like? Is it within your reach to get one? That will help a lot. Or, if work isn't that important to your identity, figure out what is, and improve that. Would you like to own a house? Go traveling? Choose a meaningful goal, something that in itself seems impossible or improbable. Think about what's necessary to get there, and make a map of what you need to do over the next year/few years to get to that point.

Also, sexual urges are totally normal. You don't have to completely deny yourself sexual release. You just have to change your relationship to sex. Once you've made yourself more whole, you might want to consider moving on to having a real relationship (as opposed to just cruising). You may find that incredibly fulfilling.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:30 AM on July 28, 2008

My inclination is always towards creation. Something wonderful like Watts Towers or you could learn an instrument or create stained glass windows, or help build houses with Habitat for Humanity.

Your life is a blank canvas. Think big.
posted by Lou Stuells at 1:55 PM on July 28, 2008

Religion/spirituality is great if you like imaginary friends.

Do something that scares you. Find something that was too whatever, and do it.
posted by evil holiday magic at 9:57 PM on November 3, 2008

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