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.
1. 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)
2. Drown it out. I’ve long known that music is like a healing balm for my soul, but I had forgotten just how powerful praise can be. On my way home from the hospital, I stopped to buy a small bluetooth speaker. The moment, I got home, I selected a worship station on Pandora and turned up the volume. Songs of hope, freedom and praise filled the room. God’s presence became almost tangible as I reminded myself over and over, through song, of His mercy and faithfulness. (Eph. 5:19)
3. Sleep it off. In the days leading up to my husband’s deployment, I didn’t sleep well. Whether simply from stress or soaking up those last waking hours together, my body was wracked with fatigue. That first afternoon, when compulsive thoughts overwhelmed me, my mind felt scattered to the four winds. I couldn’t focus on anything and therefore it was easy to shift into default and let old, anorexic thoughts carry me away. It’s no secret to anyone that our minds get fuzzy and frazzled with lack of sleep. Finally, I forced myself to bed early enough to soak up more than eight hours of sleep (and I have a nap scheduled this afternoon). It’s amazing how different today feels than yesterday. I swear, the sun is brighter, my heart feels lighter and I’m actually looking forward to the rest of the week.
Perhaps none of these tools surprises you; they don’t seem profound to me either. However, weakened by stress, I immediately became vulnerable to the same old habits of self-protection and distraction from pain. It can happen to anyone if we think we stand firm, we run the risk of falling flat on our faces. Whether it be an eating disorder, another addiction or any form of sin, Paul reminds us in Ephesians over and over to stand firm. We do have an enemy who is out to destroy us and he doesn’t care what it takes.
If you find yourself flirting with dangerous, consuming thoughts or tempted to find comfort in old habits, reach quickly for these three tools. Run awayget outside of yourself, as far as you can from the battle in your own brain. Don’t reason with it, run away. Drown it out the Bible also says that God dwells in the praises of His people. You will find comfort and sense His presence when you remember to praise Him because He never leaves you. Sleep it off we weren’t meant to be Energizer bunnies. We weren’t made to run forever. God passionately cares about us, His intimate creations and He longs for us to listen to Him about how to tend our bodies.
We cannot win this battle on our own. We cannot maintain our freedom on our own. But, the Bible is God’s way of explicitly telling us that we can trust Him and find our complete healing in Him.
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Ps. 127:2
Learn more about me on my website: http://predatory-lies.com/about-me. Please find my book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Predatory-Lies-Anorexia-Kelly-ebook/dp/B00HFGMBJA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389645006&sr=8-1&keywords=predatory+lies.