Worksheet: Filling the Void

People use drugs or engage in other risky behaviors because it helps them fill a void or meet a need that they’re not getting somewhere else. The void often leaves people feeling very empty—and feeling empty is hard to cope with.

Do you feel empty in a way that makes you want to turn to drugs or risky behaviors? Where does it come from—maybe an experience or physical health condition? This worksheet helps explore some of those thoughts and feelings.

This worksheet is an excerpt from Mental Health America’s Mental Health Month 2017 Toolkit, “Risky Business”.


Here’s a web-friendly version of the activity from the worksheet:

  1. Draw a box. You can get creative with it, or just draw a simple rectangle on a piece of paper.
  2. Fill this box with the feelings (emotional and physical) or experiences you have that make you want to turn to drugs or other risky behaviors. Make notes about where you think these feelings are coming from.
  3. Draw a second box. Fill this box with the drugs or risky behaviors you engage in to deal with your feelings.

Now think about the following questions and write down your answers:

  1. What is the relationship between the feelings and experiences from the first box, and the risky business in the second box?
  2. How has using the drug or engaging in the risky behavior caused problems in your life?
  3. Is that something you want to change? Write “Yes” or “No” and explain why.

New life, new box

Now draw a third box. Fill this box with the things you want your new life to be filled with. These could be new relationships, new experiences, or new skills. Ultimately, you will want to do things that replace the risky behaviors you used to rely on. The best changes are healthy, but fill some of the same “voids” that you’ve been filling with risky behaviors.

Want to know more about how drugs and mental illness are related? Listen to this episode of Mental Health America’s podcast, In The Open.

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