By my mid-twenties, I was living in a 24’ camper with an irresponsible husband as well as my son and two—sometimes three—other adults. For all intents and purposes, we were transient, just one small step from homelessness. Life was out of control. More and more, I sought solace in food.
When you’re spiraling into addiction (food compulsion or otherwise), there comes that moment during a binge when it’s not fun anymore. It no longer tastes/feels good, and you don’t even want it. All sense of enjoyment is gone, and all that’s left is the guilt and self-loathing, but you keep going… The thought process goes something like this: “I’ve already failed, so I might as well fail big.” And if it feels awful, that’s all the better because as far as you’re concerned, that’s what you deserve. Compulsive eating or __________ (fill in the blank) is a type of self-flagellation. It’s a way of giving all the shame, pain, guilt, and sorrow of life somewhere to land. Freedom is possible only when we grasp this truth: the shame, pain, guilt, and sorrow already landed somewhere—on Jesus’ body.
“It was our suffering he carried, our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness. … He endured the breaking that made us whole. The injuries he suffered became our healing” (Isa. 53:4–5, Voice).
As the binges became more frequent, I started gaining weight, and I certainly didn’t want to pack on the pounds, so I started purging (which is a polite term for sticking one’s finger down one’s own throat in order to bring the food back up so it doesn’t turn into fat). I have little recollection of the first time; I only remember feeling like I had to rid myself of what I had just put into my body. And of course I remember the shame. This secret cycle of helplessness, self-comfort, and self-loathing continued for a couple of years. I had said the sinner’s prayer at fifteen. But here I was, shackled to my addition. I woke up thinking about food and went to sleep thinking about it. I obsessed about eating, and I obsessed just as neurotically about finding a way to stop.
I know people who are shocked—even appalled and offended—by the fact that a Christian can be an addict, as though we are somehow immune to the compulsions of the flesh. If only that were true! Brennan Manning once said, “There’s this naïve idea that once I accept Jesus as saving Lord my life is going to be an unbroken, upward spiral toward holiness. … almost like being a patient etherized on the table.”* But that’s not what happens. We don’t shed our bodies; we aren’t immune to temptations, neuroses, dysfunctions, fears, and addictions. I came face to face with this brutal truth as the events of my life roller-coastered and my addiction escalated.
Finally, I hit bottom. That’s where we’ll pick up next time. In the meantime, know this: when God is there to catch you, hitting bottom is good news. For me, it meant waving the white flag and realizing the extent of my helplessness. It meant understanding that, ironically, the only way to freedom was to forfeit my rights and my “freedom of choice” when it came to food and to shackle myself to Jesus instead.