Cross addiction is very common in recovery. Many addicts and alcoholics are dependent on multiple substances, especially drugs in the same classifications. People often use drugs to fill the void within themselves. The famous Carl Jung described alcoholism as “a spiritual disease that has at its base a drive for wholeness”.
At first, the drug seems to improve the users’ life. Eventually, however, consequences begin to emerge and the user attempts to stop using. Unfortunately, they never dealt with their emptiness within. Soon they are substituting another chemical to deal with the painful void in their life. The user rationalizes the new drug as less harmful as the first addiction. Many users justify using marijuana due to this rationale. They believe it is less harmful or “natural”, so they use it instead of heroine or meth. Unfortunately, “less harmful” does not mean it is not an addiction or it is good for you. Many users are in denial, however, and don’t realize that any mind-altering substance can make them relapse or create a new addiction.
This is because we attempt to fill ourselves, trying to silence the emptiness within. We fill our lives with pleasure, food, sex, drugs, power, money, or busyness; all in an attempt to provide ultimate satisfaction. Instead, however, we fall deeper into despair as we spend our days attempting to find meaning.
Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Victor Emil Frankl called this the existential vacuum. He liked this emptiness in our lives to a vacuum, which of course, things rush to fill. He pointed to the fact that when people finally have time to do what they want, they rather not do anything. For example, students get drunk every weekend, people get bored when they retire, and we spend our evenings in passive entertainment (Crumbaugh & Carr, 1979).
Frankl stated “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”. This best exemplifies the philosophy of existential therapy. Counselors show patients that they can make decisions to change their lives by changing their behavior. We are held responsible for our behavior and its outcome. Therefore, we can reinvent ourselves by our behavior. We are the builders of our lives and can create our futures. We find meaning, even in our suffering, and our lives are a product of our choices.
What do you use to fill the emptiness within? If you can't think of anything, just think of what you spend the most time on trying to achieve or validate your worth. Does this really matter in life?
Crumbaugh, J. C., and Carr, G. L. (1979). Treatment of Alcoholics with Logotherapy. The International Journal of the Addictions, 14 (6), 847-853.