God-shaped Holes: Filling Them in Recovery
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
Profound insights hit when I least expect it. Take for instance today. While I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror, going over the lines to my play, at the same time getting ready for rehearsals I got smacked with the proverbial “smart” stick. Or I had what I call a “tada” moment. Here I was trying to put on make up, while repeating my lines as my character, and all I could think about was how I need to set up an appointment with a personal trainer the minute this play gets over so I can start a strict work out routine. What? Who thinks like that? I do, that’s who and I am an alcoholic.
You think that it would get old saying that, but it doesn’t because it’s my truth. The play that I am currently in has rehearsals that take up two hours a day four days a week, not to mention my personal time memorizing lines. This schedule will have taken over two months straight of my life by the time the play ends – it’s a very demanding rehearsal schedule. The rest of my week consists of a forty hour a week day job, a weekly blog and writing submissions I do, raising a daughter all by myself, and handling just the day-to-day average life requirements. I have very little time for my meetings (I am down to one a week) and no time for social interactions or a personal life.
Now why do you need to know all of this? First of all, let me reassure you that I’m not complaining by any means. I am so very blessed and each of my daily activities are ones that I have purposely chosen for myself. I am grateful for each of these opportunities. That is not the reason I am sharing my daily life with you. The reason I am sharing all of this with you is to show you the insanity that still lives within the addict/alcoholic even when they aren’t in their active disease.
My “tada” moment was when I realized that I still have a God-shaped hole (term commonly used in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings) that I am trying to fill up. I once chose to fill that missing part of me with booze and drugs. I obviously couldn’t get enough in me to fill that hole but it’s evident that I gave it a good try. I landed a seat in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Just now I fill it up with as much things to do to keep me just busy enough that I don’t have time to think, feel, or breathe for that matter.
My boss and friends lovingly joke that I wouldn’t know what to do if I had a free moment. I now look at them as if they are really implying something all together much different than something that is funny. I complain that I don’t have time to get into an intimate relationship, or take up my exercise again, or go head on with my writing. Yet, every free moment I get I will fill it full of whatever I can find.
So what does that look like? What are some of the things that alcoholics and addicts replace to fill up that God-shaped hole once the booze and dope is gone? I assessed this in my already full head as I drove to rehearsals (leave it to an alcoholic/addict to be a master multi-tasker).
WHAT REPLACES ALCOHOL AND DRUGS?
Well, if you are like me, then this can be anything. As alcoholics, we latch on to whatever we can find to avoid what we don’t want to deal with. And, just like when we were using, we often times don’t realize it until we are overboard and ready to get drunk again. Some of those things that we use are complete time wasters. When we waste time, we don’t have to think about what we need to be dealing with, like life. So we over work ourselves. We become involved in an activity or hobby that takes precedence over normal activities. We get overly involved in our relationships or children. We dive deep into our recovery to the point that we avoid trying to live amongst the normies. We can even fill our free time with over sleeping, over eating, over exercising, watching excessive television or on social media. We fall into the trap of the internet. We can take everything we do to the Nth degree. We map out every free moment with something – anything – just in case we actually have to stop for a minute and just “be”. But, when do we realize we are trying to fill that God-shaped hole once more?
HOW DO I KNOW IT’S A PROBLEM?
As is the case with our disease, or with anything for that matter, the way I view it is that if it is interfering with my ability to function and is damaging or hurting myself or others then it is a problem. If what I do takes away from being of service, or I start neglecting other priorities, or I am spending money I shouldn’t to do it, or it is affecting my health negatively, or is imposing on another, or if I find that I have to hide, make excuses for it, or lie about it, then I may need to assess what the real truth of the matter is.
When I drank and used I spent money that was suppose to go to bills and necessities on alcohol. When I drank, my job and school became less important and I started not showing up. When I drank, I didn’t care about my family and their needs. When I drank, I argued with others about my drinking, or lied about it, or hid it so I couldn’t be judged or bothered by others. When I drank, I didn’t invest in my friendships. When I drank, I avoided dealing with my real life and my real issues. I ignored what was really going on around me. When I drank, it was all about me and what I wanted. I neglected my health and taking care of myself physically, spiritually and mentally was not a priority.
So, I had to stop and think about this for a moment. Where at in my life was I doing what I had done when I was drinking? Were there moments in my life that I was filling up to the point of harming myself or others? I believe I came up with pretty good understanding of what I was doing once again.
All of my day is so filled with things I must attend to. There isn’t one free moment to just be in the moment. I feel out of sorts and discombobulated when it looks like there will a free moment in my day. So, I fill it with sleep or meaningless television shows on Netflix if I don’t have a commitment I have signed up for. I hate television and I’m a tweeker by nature, so I hate sleeping. True story. But the alternative of dealing with whatever I am trying to avoid obviously is enough to keep me running away from it. Instead of nurturing myself and caring for my recovery, I find whatever I can to fill up that God-shaped hole I’ve been trying to fill all of my life, and I do while making a pretty good argument for doing it.
My play will end, conveniently it will be on the weekend of my father’s one-year anniversary of his death, and it terrifies me. The truth is that I made sure to fill up every waking moment with anything I could find to not have to grieve or feel the tremendous loss I have experienced this past year. I have tried everything I possibly could to replace that loss. It is now revealing itself under the weight of my pen. I am going to have to deal with this or I’m going to get drunk again. No amount of rehearsals, hours at work, tedious tasks I fulfill, or relationships I get into can ever fill that God-shaped hole. It’s called a God-shaped hole for a reason. Nothing I put into it can replace the space but my higher power – truth told.
HOW DO I FILL UP THAT GOD-SHAPED HOLE NOW?
I start over. I go back to the drawing board or more simply put – the basics. I have designed and begun to incorporate a morning ritual into my day. In the morning I write my gratitude list first thing, before I do anything else – especially before I open up my phone or computer. I need to start my day on a positive note; it sets the trend for the rest of the day. I then incorporate a small exercise routine – just to get my blood pumping. I give my body the respect it deserves by feeding it good food and hydrating it. I then read or listen to something positive or something that stretches my spiritual growth. I then either pray, meditate, or do yoga. Maybe I do all of them. During the day, I check in with another alcoholic as well. At the close of the day, I reflect on my day and journal about it to get the poison out or to remember the sweet spots throughout my day.
My God-shaped hole won't fill itself. I am starting to slow down now, beginning in the morning, in order to get with my higher power and honor myself in the process. I do all of my morning rituals before I ever step out my front door. No electronics come on until after I have shut my front door. I make space for my higher power to fill me up by respecting myself and caring for me. It’s a start, but how else can I allow my higher power to help me become the fabulous me it wants me to be if I don’t allow him the time to do it? It begins with baby steps and remembering what works. Reality for me is that the end of the month will be here soon and even though the play will end, the show must go on.
~Tami Harper Winn~
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