I’m not so foolish as to think my recovery was iron-clad, but I was pretty convinced I had a good thing going. I’ve been walking in freedom for several years, ministering to others who are struggling with eating disorders. For all practical purposes I have been there, done that and quite literally “wrote the book on it”. But, Paul warned in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” I may have let my guard down.
My life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for the past few years, but God has been generous. He has healed and strengthened my marriage, filled me with hope and given me so many opportunities. Recovery became a habit, for lack of a better expression. In this predictable phase of life, I figured out how to eat well, exercise moderately and control my thoughts. But what happens when life as you know it falls apart?
Last weekend, my husband deployed to Liberia. Every familiar aspect of my life flew overseas with him. Much of what I’ve relied on to be a standard part of my healthy life just crumbled out from underneath me. Suddenly, I saw the ugly image of relapse lurking in the shadows. Praise the Lord, I didn’t engage in any eating disordered behaviors, but the swirling thoughts of exercise, calories and compulsion swamped me. It felt like a war had erupted in my brain; a battle for control of my soul.
Why did the old patterns of eating disordered thoughts assail me right now? What triggered them? When all that is familiar was stripped away, when my heart was exposed to pain and stress, I believe it searched for a means to distract me from the hurt. By swarming my mind with compulsive thoughts, the loss of my husband’s presence was not so sharp.
But here’s the thing, feeling that pain is much safer than the eating disorder. Sitting among the shards of sadness is actually more healing than allowing our minds to be swept away by the distraction of an eating disorder or other addiction. In the course of the battle, I acquired three weapons for fighting off relapse.
- Run away. Weakened by the battle in my mind, I forced myself to keep a commitment to visit the local hospital with my therapy dog. Miraculously, the very moment I entered the hospital, fleeing from a focus on myself and my own pain, I found great relief. Second Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee youthful lusts”. The word for lusts here goes far beyond the usual application of sexual cravings. More accurately, it means any desire, craving or longing for what is forbidden. I believe this applies to my sudden desire to return to the familiar thoughts of anorexia. My natural longing is to relieve the pain of my husband’s absence in the quickest way possible, even if that is running back to the arms a deadly foe. Getting outside of yourself, running far and fast from oppressive, self-centeredness is a powerful way to reclaim the mind of Christ. (Phil. 2:5-6)
This is Part 1 of a 2 part article. Check back next week for the weapons two and three!
Number One Relapse Prevention Tool, video resource
Weather the Storm, by Danielle O’Malley
The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story, by Abby Kelly