My “little” problem began innocently enough. Exercising here, dieting there. But it seemed as though one day I woke up 80 pounds of a woman who couldn’t help herself. Somehow, something I had a grasp on in the beginning spiraled out of my control. Help was beyond me, as was my eating disorder. The more it grew, the more powerful it became. Dictating, mandating, controlling. In the beginning, control and the ability to assert myself were what I wanted for myself, not this unfortunate and unwelcomed disease.
I realize now that my eating disorder was the tool Satan chose to keep me from God and the way of life He wants for me. God wants us to have an abundance of joy in our lives (John 10:10; 15:11). Real joy is knowing you are right where God wants you to be, sometimes regardless of your circumstances. Joy comes from seeing yourself the way God sees you—full of potential, with a divine destiny and a light to shine upon others. God wants us to find strength in our weaknesses. Turning my disorder into a gift was a challenge, and I was in no condition to do it on my own.
I found help in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There I met wonderful people; the local minister and his wife were so loving and welcoming. I began to realize how much I meant to some people in my life. Support flowed in by means of letters, calls and visits.
At times, when I was in Tulsa, I wished my family and friends hadn’t loved me as much. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be there, putting in very difficult, uncomfortable work and dedication toward achieving recovery. If they hadn’t loved me so much, then I wouldn’t have been alone there, away from my family and friends. If they hadn’t loved me so much, I would have been able to finish school sooner, continue to work hard and seem to live life without interruption.
If they hadn’t loved me so much, I would have continued to isolate myself, ignore my problems and not develop constructive strategies toward solving them. If they hadn’t loved me so much, Satan would have continued to infiltrate my life and would have kept me from developing a relationship with God. If my family hadn’t loved me so much, I wouldn’t be writing these words right now—instead I would be dead.
While I was in Tulsa I was forced to approach difficult topics and process unwanted emotions. There was never any mental downtime. One time I remember feeling like I was pushed to the limit, and then I found myself being pushed even harder. Every second was paid for by continued encouragement, and there was never a moment that was taken for granted. It was all part of the process.
We touched every topic possible, and became familiar with various methods, tactics and coping strategies. There were no skeletons left in the closet, and no corners that remained darkened. I was obligated to put in the effort and do the hard work. Not only did I owe it to my family, but I began to realize that I owed it to myself. Before going to Tulsa, I was no longer a functional human being, and I realized that my Christian light (Matthew 5:16) was no longer shining as bright as it could.
My experience in Tulsa and the work that I put in prepared me for many things that may happen once I returned home: temptations, relapse and various stumbling blocks. These obstacles can only be defeated when you expose yourself, and your entire self, into the process. Recovery is made possible only when you apply your whole heart, just as God has instructed us (Colossians 3:23).
Continued hard work is a requirement. One of the most important realizations for me was to know that recovery will always take work and effort, and if I take a “break,” I allow Satan’s temptations to seep back into my life and destroy everything I have worked so hard for. Having support is a key requirement and prerequisite for keeping Satan at bay and achieving recovery. I realized that support and the reliance on others for strength are not only important, but they are essential in order to succeed at life in recovery. This support I found through God (Philippians 4:13) by means of prayer, studying and the support and encouragement of my family.
I realize now that my eating disorder (which I appropriately renamed at the time “Evil Demon”) was just a tactic Satan has used to keep me from God and His way of life. Satan uses any method he can to distance us from God. He infiltrates our life like a serpent, cunning and mischievous (Genesis 3:1-3). For this reason I could not underestimate him.
The only way to defend myself against Satan was to put God at the forefront of my life. Satan wants us to forget God’s virtues. I realized that every time I listened to what “Evil Demon” wanted, I was in fact letting Satan in and was less in-tune with God. Every time I stood up to my inner-critic, I was in fact weakening Satan’s veil over me. Continuing to fight and talk back to this critic allowed me to break free from Satan’s grips and allowed me to strengthen my relationship with God.
I have made God a huge part of my recovery. He has been involved in every aspect. I continually pray and speak to Him. I tell Him my struggles, challenges and fears. It took a lot of work and a large amount of time to find my strength. But I found strength in my weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:10) and strength in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:13). And He has helped me. Recovery has been made easier knowing that I have God’s strength and support. I can feel when there is a distance, and it isn’t a good feeling. I feel anxious. I fear allowing Satan to come back into my life. I don’t want to give him that power again.
I not only had to realize that recovery is possible through the strength of God, but I also had to realize that there are no short cuts in recovery. You have to do it to your fullest. A lot of people try taking short cuts in life. They try to find short cuts to cures, problem-solving—and even entrance into the coming Kingdom. The truth is there is no short cut to anything. No short cut to overcoming an eating disorder, and no short cut to salvation. Anything worthwhile is going to be hard work. Going through the process of recovery from any addiction, or trying to defeat any vice, will continually take work. Even now, as I write this, I am still battling staying in recovery. I consciously have to be aware of my addiction and what recovery means.
The approach that is needed for recovery is very similar to the approach that is needed for living a Christian life. It takes continual work. We aren’t baptized into the faith and then allowed to sit back and relax until the coming Kingdom. Conversion takes continual work, just as recovering from an addiction or disease. You have to study regularly and know what decisions are the best and healthiest for you. If you are not watching the spiritual things or continually watching the Christian way of life, then you will become lost. Your recovery will go away, and you will veer off the path.
Our relationship with God is the key. A lot of people focus on the physical when contemplating the Christian life, and a lot focus on the physical aspects of recovery. However, we need to focus on the spiritual aspects. Struggles will continue to exist. Stumbling blocks will always be put in front of us. We need to continue to battle our demons, rely on God for strength and support and realize that our journey is continuous.