There is a longing, an aching void that exists deep in the heart of every one of us. We deny it, build walls around it and try to fill it by whatever means available to us.
This void is a hurt that runs deep to our very core. It’s feelings of inadequacy, of not being where and who we want to be. It’s our deepest insecurities and our deepest fears and it exists in everyone. Athletes, celebrities and even the most confident people we know are riddled with insecurity. It is part of the human condition.
But there is a difference between those that live happy, productive lives and those that don’t and it lies in our ability to cope with, acknowledge and heal the causes of this void.
Coping mechanisms improve our ability to function and deal with painful situations – some are healthy and some are not. Many people use denial, alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling and spending to excess, to make themselves feel better. The statement we make when we indulge in these activities, is that our emotions are out of our control. Our life is unbearable and we have to dull our senses to escape from reality and go somewhere where we feel short term pleasure or nothing at all.
I’m not talking about recreational usage, everyone needs to cut loose sometimes. I’m talking about people who resort to these coping mechanisms on a daily bases to deal with their present reality.
We all know people that live in denial. Some people when questioned about their drinking or drug use get incredibly defensive. They prefer to hide from their feelings, because they have never learned how to effectively cope with their problems.
Reaching for comfort food when you feel bad is another standard practice. Eating sweets makes us feel better – It’s not our imagination – it’s science. Consuming chocolate will increase our serotonin (the happy hormone) levels temporarily, but what happens when the sugar buzz wears off?
You feel sick to your stomach, you’ve just inhaled 1000 calories and now you feel worse, physically and emotionally and throw in a side dish of guilt. And guess what? The cause of the hurt – is still there. We ate the chocolate to feel better – and now we feel worse. The same arguments can be made for alcohol and drugs, but the question is – Is this or is this not an effective coping strategy?
You see, the crux here is that when we drink, or do drugs to escape our reality, or when we binge eat to get that sugar buzz, or when we engage in promiscuous sexual activity, gamble or spend to get that temporary high – we aren’t even touching the problem. We don’t even come close to it.
You can’t heal the void while trying to fill it at the same time.
When we feel hurt, that’s our body’s way of telling us that we are in need of comforting. We have a built in navigation system that tells us when we are off track. Our hurt is alerting us to a problem – it’s how we know that something is wrong, that we are off balance, that we need to change our thinking.
When we use maladaptive coping mechanisms all we are doing is avoiding the problem. It’s like getting a physical ailment and just treating the symptoms. When the medication wears off we’ll need more, because we haven’t treated the cause.
The difference between those that effectively cope with their issues and those that become paralyzed by them is our attitude and our thoughts.
I Have a Problem that’s Good.
When our attitude is positive and our thoughts are healthy we make better choices and we learn to see obstacles as challenges to overcome. And with each successful triumph we gain strength, courage and confidence to face the next one.
When my life collapsed around me, I can remember being in so much emotional pain that I couldn’t move. I just lied in bed staring at my blankets, thinking nothing, but feeling out of my mind with fear and hurt. I wanted to die.
When I drove my car on the highway I would drive so fast and recklessly I didn’t care what happened to me. I missed my parents, I was so lonely and I kept envisioning my boyfriend with his new girlfriend and I couldn’t stop those thoughts from coming. I thought no one would care if I died. I had nowhere to go, no one to turn to. I hurt so much I couldn’t breathe and the pain just wouldn’t stop. I felt so bad for so long and everything I did didn’t make it go away. I could have easily become an alcoholic or a drug addict – my situation was ripe for it.
I had a choice to make – do I sink or do I swim?
I realized that I felt bad, really bad and until I addressed my real issues none of the window dressing was ever going to make me feel better and if I kept making the same choices I would keep getting the same results.
I got really real with myself. I took the time to figure out what my core issues were, where they came from and what I had to do to heal.
I sat with my pain and my fear and I got really comfortable with it. I marinated it. I didn’t hide from it. I went toe to toe with it and I didn’t let it beat me.
I learned healthier ways to comfort myself:
I surrounded myself with healthy, positive people that cared about me. Not people that were going to affirm me and tell me I was doing great, but people that were going to push me to be better and inspire me, who offered me up a good hard dose of tough love when I needed it.
I started exercising. I ran, lifted weights, rode the bike, swam and hiked in nature every day. Talk about a healthy endorphin rush – a million times better than any sugar buzz.
I read books. I devoured everything I could get my hands on. Everything I needed to change my life was in there and my appetite for this knowledge was insatiable.
I moved in with my brother and his wife and I learned what the essence of a real loving family was all about. Without her ever knowing it – my sister-in-law taught me how families are supposed to interact, show their emotions and express their love. They celebrated everything – all of them, her whole family and all their friends. Every weekend it seemed like there was a huge celebration, with food, laughter and dancing. They hugged, they kissed and they Salsa danced.
I studied all the major religions and then discarded them. I became an incredibly spiritual being and learned that we are all a part of God. We all contain the same spiritual DNA – we are all water from the same well and capable of the same miraculous feats as our creator.
I started meditating and connecting with source energy every day. All of the hurt was replaced with gratitude, happiness and joy and I vibed that energy every spare minute I had.
I changed my thinking and my beliefs about me. Instead of listening to that little voice inside telling me I wasn’t good enough – I gave it a new script.
I realized that everything bad that happened had to happen, exactly as it did to get me to the place I am now. I forgave myself and those that did me wrong.
I saw beauty everywhere I looked and I became thankful for everything.
I took control of my life – my body, my thoughts, my finances and created goals for myself.
I conquered my fears.
I laughed and I laughed and I laughed.
The person I was before my life crisis and the person I am now are like night and day. Changing who I was and escaping the pain that had become my life, took a lot of deep introspection and a lot of hard work, but it was worth it. I am so grateful for the struggle, for it taught me that I am stronger than my pain and stronger than my fear. It took all that trauma to force me to face my reality and deal with the void in my heart and in so doing I found that which is indestructible in me.
No amount of alcohol or drugs could ever compare with the high I get these days – now my drug of choice is life. 🙂
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