Monthly Archives: November 2013

Love Wins.

The church my man and I attend has real people in it – people who have excelled and fallen short in their efforts at relationships, being Christians, and life in general. In an environment like that, I shared my story out loud for the first time last Wednesday night. An unexpected thing happened: as difficult as it was to admit some of my more embarrassing mistakes, I became so proud of Jesus. So proud that my God is the kind of God who pursues diamonds in the rough. So proud that my God accepts me as I am – and you as you are – because he revels in the journey we’re on. So proud that my God is in control of the whole thing.

It’s like this. Addiction was a fourteen-year way of life for me – from 1996 to 2010 – and it sometimes nips at my heels even now. I didn’t reason my way out of it or will it to stop; you can’t treat addiction that way. Instead, I went to the office of a counselor hand-picked for me by God. For some, that sounds extreme I’m sure: couldn’t it just be a happy coincidence? But here’s the truth. I ended up finally making my decision to get help on a Wednesday that Dr. Morgan happened to be sharing the walk-in intakes, something he doesn’t always do. I arrived at the Health Clinic during his office hours, which are fewer than everyone else’s due to his research activities. He happened to be the one to take me back, even though several other counselors were available. His approach to counseling proved almost exclusively cognitive, in the sense that we looked around my brain and applied logic where I wasn’t. Given that I live my whole life in my brain, the method felt tailored for me. It’s all these reasons, and a few others, that assure me God oversaw my healing process, even when I wasn’t consulting him. He put me in the right setting to recognize what I was doing, why, and how to stop it. Then, he gave me the strength to change. If you’d ever seen me binge, you’d know: only Jesus can do that.

When I got married in June 2007, sexual dysfunction ignited my addiction, causing whatever shards of self-esteem I had left to dissolve in the heart-wrenching pain of loneliness and anger. My body was too wrong, too large, and sentenced me to a sexless marriage. Every failed “treatment” plunged me into further despair, and I looked to food with renewed zeal each time. I reached a low after my third miscarriage; not only was my body oversized, not only did it reject my then-husband, but it also made a farce of my dreams of motherhood. My destructive behavior had no limits: I binged, entered an inappropriate relationship, wallowed in self-pity and hatred, and ignored God’s invitations to surrender. I couldn’t see a way out of the dark and depression; for a while, I didn’t even want one. And even still, when I’d had enough, when I shrugged and said, “Fine, You win,” there was Jesus. Even when I’d turned Him down. Even after my divorce. Even when the old patterns lured me back. And now I can’t even see a shadow of the wife I was for so long. I have eyes only for my man, and I thoroughly enjoy him – loving him, living alongside him, sharing an intimacy with him that is exclusively ours. I have been made entirely new. Only Jesus can do that.

I shouldn’t be here, in this place of lightness and joy, after the places I’ve been. I spent years destroying my body, being unable and unwilling to stop abusing food. I’ve been through the loss associated with infidelity. I’ve felt the pain of my babies fading. I’ve walked through the disappointment and rage of (supposed) infertility. I’ve tried to soothe myself, to protect myself when I felt assaulted by the storm, only to wake up drowning in further waves of pain. But I’m here – joyful, peaceful, and free. Only Jesus can do that. I am married to the sexiest, strongest, kindest man God ever created. I am mother-by-marriage of two beautiful children that look just like my favorite man. I am mother-by-blood of a 34-week-old pregnancy miracle who is about to forever change my world for the better. I am blessed to live in a lovely home with a wonderful family that makes my life a joy beyond words, beyond anything I could’ve made for myself. But even if I lost everything tomorrow, I have been shown that my God is greater than the gifts he gives and the pain I endure. Whatever I live through tomorrow, He has the answers. He meets my needs. He loves me and speaks tenderly to me and remains faithfully beside me no matter where we go. No matter what happens, there’s Jesus.

That’s all I ever needed to know, really. I’m loved, I’m of priceless worth, and there’s always Jesus.

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Filed under Addiction Recovery, Broken Beauty, Jesus Loves Me, Once Divorced, Twice Married

The Best French Word

My favorite French verb is tituber, which means “to stagger; to stumble.” The first time I read it was in the poem “A la princesse” by Cameroonian poet Patrice Kayo. The speaker tells his beloved they will tituber hand in hand, toward the horizon. It’s forward progression, however halting and unsteady. It’s hope. Tituber is how I journeyed through addiction.

One of my ongoing questions to Dr. Morgan was, “Where does my addiction come from?” It confounded and angered me that I had such an impossible relationship with food; no one else seemed to. At meetings, get-togethers, and anywhere else social eating was on the agenda, it appeared that people could eat without gorging. If a table of snacks was set out at a party, for example, everyone else seemed able to take some and stop. They didn’t return for a binge when the other guests had migrated to another room. Why did I? Dr. Morgan quickly identified the shame I felt when I compared myself to others, but I was slower to recognize it. He asked me a few questions in my second session about what I saw when I evaluated my perspective of others’ food habits.

“It seems like everyone else makes a conscious decision whether to eat,” I shrugged. “I don’t feel like I have the choice. I don’t make any decisions. I just eat what and when my mind tells me.” After reflecting for a moment, I went on: “In fact, I don’t think I’ve felt actual hunger in months. I eat too often to feel it.” I winced and looked at my counselor. “I’m crazy, yes?”

He chuckled almost paternally. “I don’t use the word ‘crazy,’” he said, lifting an eyebrow and shaking his head.

As I continued to talk, sometimes answering his questions and sometimes my own, I realized two things. First, I was losing every time I compared myself to others. I saw the majority as “healthy,” in contrast to an unhealthy me. The world was well; I was sick. Here’s the truth: not only was that impossible if I believed that “all have sinned and fallen short,” but it’s also ludicrous. You can’t walk through life without being wounded, and hurt does funny things to all of us. For some it creates feelings of unworthiness, for others it instills the expectation of abandonment, for others it’s rejection, and so on. But hurt people don’t escape unscathed. So if we are all hurt from time to time and mistake-prone by nature, some unhealthiness would have to be in all of us. And perhaps the more wounded we are, the likelier we are to develop unhealthy habits. Instead of being the one sick case, I was normal, even by my own logic.

The second thing I noticed was more practical. My addictive behavior was always in done secret. I was willing to go to whatever lengths were necessary – rearranging my schedule, “stretching” the truth, stopping before returning home to get rid of evidence, whatever – to hide my binges. They were more powerful than I was; the draw of the next private binge was practically running my life.

So when Dr. Morgan asked what one thing I could change starting that day, one thing that would get me a step closer to health, I said, “Well, if I do all the ‘bad stuff’ when I am alone, then I would be healthier if I always ate around other people.” And as soon as I said it, I shook my head, telling myself all the reasons that wouldn’t work. I rarely ate in front of others because I believed they would see my shame. I believed I couldn’t eat like everyone else, couldn’t follow all the unwritten rules that they all innately followed.

The rest of the day after I left Dr. Morgan’s office, I thought about not eating alone anymore – no drive-thrus, no picking up something while my then-husband was at work, no gas station snacks while driving home to see my family and friends. That was my way of life, and the thought of abandoning it was painful and impossible. I came up with endless reasons why I simply couldn’t do it.

But the short version is…I did. Even if I felt like I couldn’t make a decision about what or when to eat, I found myself able to decide where. I started getting to school earlier than necessary so I could take my lunch to the graduate assistants’ office. If I didn’t want to eat in front of people who knew me but still didn’t want to break my promise to myself, then I ate out in the open on the school grounds. I asked my friend E to have lunch with me often so I could enjoy her company and unwitting accountability. I fought fiercely against the voice that said, “It doesn’t matter where you go or who you’re with, you’re still sick. Still fat. Still different from everyone else. People don’t change; it’s who you are.” That voice blared, and some days it still does. Nor did changing the location of my meals have any bearing on what I was eating: I persisted in destructive choices. But I persevered with all the ferocity I could manage, and every single meal that week and the next, I ate in front of at least one other person.

By the next time I spoke with K, the friend I first confessed to, I was mentally exhausted from acting against a huge part of my natural instincts, but my brain had just enough space to feel in-control again. I had taken back just enough ground to muster some self-trust. I wasn’t healed in one week, but I had taken back some ground. If I couldn’t run or even walk toward healing, I could certainly tituber my way there. The healthy, redeemed me that I would one day grow into had gotten her first breath of life.

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Filed under Addiction Recovery, Broken Beauty, Ooh Là Là!

What Else to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting

A few more things occurred to me after I posted last time. It’s like when someone asks your opinion and you can’t think of anything to say and then a day later, you have sixteen different responses. You know what I mean.

6.) You might spend an inordinate amount of time gazing at your torso. Every time my baby moves, it hypnotizes me. Of course, all I see from the outside is a slowly shifting mound of alien head, but it’s mind-blowing. Weird too, because Anna is majorly attached to my bladder, a.k.a., her dribble-practicing apparatus, stability ball, and best friend. She naps on it, squeezes it, flips over it, and probably coos sweet nothings to it. Naturally, I’m thrilled to be growing such a resourceful fetus, but there are times I tell her, “I swear, if you touch that thing one more time, you will have hell to pay. With God as my witness.” About that time, she’ll somersault visibly, and then I forget I was in the middle of an important disciplinary lecture.

7.) You might cry at commercials. For real. Publix had a commercial around Mother’s Day featuring this little girl in pigtails and a pink striped shirt. She and her manifestly pregnant mother were making lunch in the kitchen. Mom says, “You know, I used to tell you secrets when you were a baby. I’d hold you so close and whisper in your ear. No one could hear it but us.” Mom smiles as they continue making lunch and having a love fest. A frame later, with Mom’s attention elsewhere, baby girl gets right up next to the bulbous belly and whispers, “You’re gonna love Mom.” I am literally tearing up as I write this. (Honestly, though, that commercial is hardcore even for the non-pregnant.) Pregnancy stirs up these waves of emotion that feel so big they consume at least six cubic feet of the air around you. P.S.: Be ready for anger to feel that way too if someone interrupts your nap, pulls out in front of you, or eats the last one of the things you crave most. It’s intense, even if you normally aren’t.

8.) You might be surprised how much time you spend discreetly passing gas. Or trying not to. I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, but since no one told me, here’s another friendly PSA: you might morph into one gassy heifer. Luckily for me, I have a five-year-old stepson, so passing gas in my family is merely part of a comedy routine, a way of life. On the other hand, I spend my workday exclusively with teenagers. If I ever non-discreetly pass gas, I will have killed my respectability for the rest of the semester. But hey, that’s what maternity leave is for: reputation restoration after the pregnancy hijacking of your body and personality. It’s like pregnancy amnesia for your community.

9.) You might give your baby the hiccups. My pregnancies have not been successful so far, so when the slightest thing feels different, I duck and cover. It happened the other day after I gulped 20 ounces of Coke in about 4.6 seconds. Don’t judge me; I was very thirsty. Not long after I finished, my belly started a rhythmic bounce that perfectly matched the bass line of “Blurred Lines.” It was during the school day, so I looked around surreptitiously to see if my students noticed. I slid behind my desk and banged on my keyboard, furiously researching my mistake. Was she in distress? I went to WebMD and discovered that I might have rapidly mutating kidney cancer, or maybe little Anna had the hiccups. I sighed with relief and gazed at my torso again. I swear she echoed, “Mama!” up my esophagus in between frustrated spasms. I said, “Yeah, well, knock it off with the bladder antics.”

10.) You might feel even more affinity for your man than you did before. I’m sure you think your man is the best, blah-blah-blah, but I know that’s not true because I married the best. While I already had a crush on him when we got married, now that we have a burgeoning little one that is the result of our love for each other (and my insatiable attraction to him), it feels like there’s something completely magical between us. We made a little person! A half-me, half-him person! Probably she will be the coolest person of all. I anticipate some hard times as we adjust to Anna’s rhythms and re-create our own, but there is no one on the planet I’d rather Anna have as a father. He’s strong and manly and loving and generous. She is so lucky. And so am I, to have them both plus two other half-hims. It’s an embarrassment in riches, really.

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Filed under It's a Girl!