Filling The Void: Replacing Alcohol With Love
It’s Friday evening. I’ve downed a 24oz tumbler filled with a stiff margarita and I’m twisting the bottle opener into a second bottle of wine. My mind is pleasantly numb. A feeling confiscates my being of a need to continue to abate the present moment. “There is pain in the present,” my subconscious reminds me, “we must escape it.”
My husband and I are at home on our own. There’s no real reason for us to be drinking so much. We sit on the porch and delve into our views on humanity. The alcohol seems to take the helm of what we consider to be profoundly important conversations. Should we open another? We are both weak at this point. The alcohol is talking. We know we shouldn’t. But we do. Our surroundings become a blur. I lose my point mid-sentence, but no matter, I come up with another one. It’s deeply insightful, I’m sure of it.
Saturday morning steamrolls in with a torrid of guilt. I crucify myself for poisoning my body. I pop a frozen pizza in the oven for breakfast, adding to my culpability and a sense of lethargy that consumes my body. The day will be a write-off. There may even be a few arguments as our muddled minds struggle to cope with returning to the present. We’ll craft another strong cocktail by 4pm to take the hangover’s edge off.
I always considered myself a social drinker, that was unless I was sitting alone at home watching Bridget Jones’ Diary, sobbing into my wine glass that I was “all by myself.” So, maybe I drank a bit at home on occasion. Well, er, let’s be realistic – when I wasn’t being monitored, the vino was free-flowing. But I certainly never thought of myself as being addicted, or as an alcoholic. I could stop whenever I wanted to. I’d partake in “Dry January” each year. I’d stoically refuse social requests on “school nights,” only to binge-drink on the weekends.
As long as I had a break between binges, it meant I had control. It was a constant struggle though. If I wasn’t drinking, I couldn’t go out and be social without feeling the pressure to have a cocktail or a glass of wine, so I just wouldn’t go out. I started to become aware that I was drinking because I felt sadness, I felt alone, I felt sorry for myself, and I felt an emptiness that I thought I needed to fill with alcohol. I realized that it was just a band-aid covering these symptoms. I used it because I didn’t feel whole.
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In our society, we are taught that it’s okay to drink to escape. It’s not only okay, it’s encouraged. How many times have you heard someone say, “Ugh, I’ve had such a rough day, I need a glass of wine.”
You drink to erase the emotions brought on by the crappy boss, the difficult client, or the heartbreaking ex. Your girlfriends (or guy friends) step up to the plate, ordering another round to help you forget your misery. And to further encourage us, articles that make us feel reassured about our drinking choices flood our newsfeed, like “20 Reasons why you should drink a glass of wine every day” or “5 Hidden Health Benefits of Alcohol”.
What if instead of convincing ourselves that we are right for numbing our minds, we faced our demons and the reasons why we drink. Yes, it can be horrifying to acknowledge those emotional skeletons buried behind locked doors. But bringing them to light and letting them air out is much healthier in the long term, no matter what the media says about wine’s antioxidant properties and heart-health. And remember, you can get all kinds of amazing benefits from just plain grapes and blueberries too, you know.
But breaking up with alcohol is like trying to leave an abusive relationship. You say to it, “You’re no good for me!” You push it away, and you gain your confidence in its absence. You feel strong and alive. But in a moment of weakness, it’s back. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and loved. It’s like an old friend that knows you all too well. “It’s okay, I’m here,” it says. “We don’t have to be apart again.” And before you know it, it’s moved back in, and you’re feeling used and broken. You don’t know if you have the strength to leave again.
Think of alcohol as using Aspirin to help clear a headache. The Aspirin is getting rid of the headache, temporarily. But you still didn’t figure out where the headache was coming from, did you? Maybe the headache was because you were dehydrated. You could have prevented the problem by making sure you had enough water, then you wouldn’t have had to take the Aspirin, to begin with.
Alcohol “fixes” those symptoms of something else that’s going on at a deeper level. Get to the root of the issue, and you’ll find the need for your addictive crutch will disappear.
It wasn’t until I healed my pain that I truly realized the comforting mask that alcohol provided. For me, alcohol pacified a hole in my heart, literally. The energetic field in my heart area felt broken. I always seemed to know that, but when it healed, I sensed my heart area filling up with something else, something that felt a lot like love. I felt love for myself and compassion for others, and now there’s no reason to pour alcohol into the space that used to feel so empty.
So what can you do to heal addiction?
In my particular case, I went on a journey with plant medicine. Several months ago, I went on a retreat to Costa Rica and partook in three Ayahuasca ceremonies led by traditional South American shamans.
While I realize that plant medicine isn’t for everyone, it seemed to be exactly what I needed and the lasting effects have been profound. They say that plant medicine is like 20 years of therapy all rolled up into a few evenings. In one night, Mother Ayahuasca healed my chest – my broken heart space. I could feel it happening. It was as if a gaping hole was filled with peaceful and loving energy. The emotional tie was severed, and I was instantly healed from my toxic relationship with alcohol.
But what if you know without a doubt that you won’t be delving into plant medicine anytime soon? Don’t worry, you can still fill that energetically void in your body. With dedicated practice, yoga, meditation, and breathwork can bring you to the same place of healing that plant medicine does.
Yoga connects your mind with your body. It sounds simple, but we surprisingly have so little connection with these bodies that we inhabit. I notice new students to yoga tend to have such a disconnect until they start to move within themselves. It’s almost as though we have forgotten that we’re human!
That energetic connection that you begin to establish between the mind and the body oftentimes leads to profound emotional healing. Have you ever cried on your yoga mat? If so, you’re certainly not alone.
I’ve personally had profound experiences with meditation. Once you work your way “below the thoughts” as I like to say, you’re able to connect with that deeper level of consciousness that’s not always available when the neurons are rapid-firing and we’re operating in the sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight” mode. Through my meditation practice, I’ve become acutely aware of my anxious nature. When anxiety arises, I take a moment to ask where it’s coming from. I don’t try to control it, I just notice. Usually just bringing awareness to the sensation is enough to make it dissipate.
Something as simple as breathwork can be deeply introspective. We move into a “zone” by pumping our bodies full of oxygen and are then able to tap into our innate wisdom through self-exploration. I’ve witnessed people have transformative and other-worldly experiences by using the breath alone. I suggest reaching out to a breathwork guide in your area so you can safely navigate through the process.
In large cities throughout the world, people are joining in ecstatic dance parties. Ecstatic dance allows people to freely express themselves and enter altered states of consciousness through music. There’s no alcohol at these events, and participants are encouraged to close their eyes, allowing for feelings of ecstasy and abandon. As you can see, there are quite a few options, but the first step in this journey is bringing awareness and acceptance that there is an imbalance. Follow your intuition, listen to that subtle voice inside you. Connect with that voice, trust it, and it will lead you exactly where you need to go.
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