Filling The Void
Change initially creates a void. Whether you are making life changes to achieve a particular goal or recovering from an addictive behavior or taking steps to move your life forward to what you believe is the next level, you will experience a void. Old behaviors and the friendships associated with them have filled your life and your time for years, so when you begin to change your behaviors your circle of friends will change along with them. As friends and family linked to the old behaviors drop from daily interaction you will notice a void.
This is especially so when recovering from addictive behaviors. Until family and friends accept that you are not going to return to the way you were (and believe me they will put all manner of pressure on you to fit back into the dysfunctional system) and begin to relate to you in healthier ways you may find it necessary to minimize or even sever those ties for a season. And it may be a long season. It may even be permanent.
All of which leaves you feeling alone. For a while it may drive you crazy. This is part of the emotional detox you must undergo. Eventually you will begin to find that you enjoy the quiet. Then later you may feel the need for healthy friendships. The classic recovery progression is to get sober then get a plant. When you can keep a plant alive, get a pet. When you can successfully care for a pet then you can think about new relationships. Side note: For a hilarious portrayal of this watch 28 Days and pay close attention to Alan Tudyk’s character, Gunther, especially at the end of the movie. He really nails it.
Another temptation is to put all the weight of your loneliness onto your spouse or other significant relationship and expect that person to fill the void for you which, of course, no one person can do. This can strain those primary relationships to the point of breaking and smother that person under your need.
One strategy that works well is to pick a hobby or activity that you enjoy and then join a group that is organized around that. One client was smothering his wife, expecting her to meet his every need for friendship, companionship and intimacy. He enjoyed riding his dual sport motorcycle so I suggested that he seek out other men who enjoy doing the same. He found several guys in the Men’s ministry at his church eager to go on day rides. They now ride together regularly thereby filling his need for friendship. As the pressure on his wife lifted she responded by drawing closer instead of feeling smothered and pushing back just to be able to breathe.
The only caveat is to find a group primarily comprised of folks of the same gender as you. The risk of an inappropriate friendship is very real and not to be taken lightly. Guard your heart.
So as the void appears, fill it with healthy relationships based on shared interests. This relieves the pressure on key loved ones and provides you with a broad base of new friends who know you as you are now, not as you once were, which has the effect of reinforcing your new, chosen behaviors. Later when you have the opportunity to share your journey with them they may be astounded and reluctant to believe you were ever that old person. And your life will be richer for it.