Addiction

Pins and Needles: Chronic Abuse and Trauma

Our formative years present the potential for self-harm to thrive. Our early experiences, for better or worse, shape us. And sometimes, that shaping can take the form of addiction. Hypervigilance often results from certain incidents, in which trauma somehow established our need to self-medicate.

"... When a child grows up afraid or under constant or extreme stress, the immune system and body’s stress response systems may not develop normally. Later on, when the child or adult is exposed to even ordinary levels of stress, these systems may automatically respond as if the individual is under extreme stress... Adults with histories of trauma in childhood have been shown to have more chronic physical conditions and problems. They may engage in risky behaviors that compound these conditions (e.g., smoking, substance use, and diet and exercise habits that lead to obesity)." "Effects of Complex Trauma," http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/complex-trauma/effects-of-complex-trauma

My first memory, a traumatic one at that, was when I was three years old; my parents decided to move the family’s sewing machine from one floor of our house to another. But they neglected to remove its drawers, filled with hundreds of needles and pins. Inevitably, I toddled downstairs, stepping on many of them.

Practicing Patience and Addiction

What a mysterious thing is this enemy of ours - as mysterious as life itself.

Addiction is sometimes without explanation. However, we are aware of its presence and how miserable it makes us feel. How little we like to speak of it, discuss it, or consider its importance! When cornered, we discuss the thought as quickly as possible. That being said, doesn't it seem strange that we spend so much time feeding our addictions? Furthermore, when we have finally had enough, why do we not spend an equal amount of time and energy trying to recover from those same addictions.

Are You Cultivating Life Saving Fruit?

Let's imagine that recovery grew on a vine, and like grapes in a valley, it would need proper soil cultivation, sunlight, water, fertilization, and pruning to bear fruit.

Wouldn't it be nice if your recovery would bear enough fruit to eliminate fruit-bearing guides, books, classes and counselors? That being asked and answered, what would your mandatory concerns be to make that a reality in your struggles to grow recovery-bearing fruit?

Your concerns should be the following:

  • Make sure your potential fruit-bearing recovery plan is connected to the vines clearly with unobstructed prayer.
  • That you cultivate and prune your life by working a Twelve-Step Program.

Trying to Find Your Way Back?

Every so often the familiar and even somewhat predictable "amnesia scenario" is resurrected for another made-for-TV-movie or sitcom. The actor stares blankly into once-loved faces and professes no recognition whatsoever. Places, sounds, smells, even names--nothing seems familiar. Memory has been lost; hence, a sense of identity has been lost as well.

And that is exactly what has happened to us--all of us. We have lost our memory. Like the prodigal son's older brother who toiled endlessly and joyously in the fields, we have forgotten who we are and where we came from. But the forgetting goes beyond the pigsty from which the Father has rescued the prodigals. It extends back to the beginning--to a time when our identity was secure in our fellowship with the Father.
Before the rebellion...
Before the fall...
Before the exile.

As a result, our world is in the midst of an ongoing identity crisis. We walk around, day after day, year after year, generation after generation, trying to find our way back to....somewhere.... hoping that when we get there, someone will recognize us and tell us who we are.

The problem is, even if we figure out where that "somewhere" is, we cannot get ourselves back there, contrary to a song that was popular in the late '60s and early '70s that proclaimed the need to get ourselves back to the Garden.

The Heart: A Wild Creature

This statement, from its anonymous author, recently caught my attention:

"Hearts are wild creatures. That's why our ribs are cages."

Its focus, the heart and the rib cage, hit home. For I have had a disordered history with both.
My obsession with the thin physique created my descent into anorexia and its painful heart issues.

"...I could count all of my ribs. I still wasn't thin enough; it wasn't good enough..."*

As I've been in recovery from eating disorders, food, weight and body image issues, yes, I've had to deal with my heart. That, therefore, includes the related topics of passions, desires and idolatry.

God Chooses the Improbable

"You did not choose me, but I chose you..."John 15:16a

I know what you're thinking: "God chooses others, but not me."

Power In Discovering Your Audience

Coming from a theater background, I'm no stranger to an audience.

"All the world's a stage... And one man in his time plays many parts..."

In William Shakespeare's play, "As You Like It," Act II Scene VII, purpose-filled life is compared to that of a theatre stage.

How much more does that apply for those of us recovering from addiction, disorder or abuse?

Besides my theater background, I also have an eating disorder history as well. In college, I battled both anorexia and bulimia.

Indeed, during my sophomore year, desperate in my bulimic behavior, I began to dumpster dive...

"... I'd try to play it off, pretending everything was normal as people passed by me scrounging in the dumpster... in broad daylight... I couldn't hide any longer from others what I was doing... people were noticing..."*
*Excerpt from Sheryle Cruse's book, "Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder"

This was an unwelcomed audience for me.

Nevertheless, people saw. And, no matter how I tried, I could not escape the Presence of the Most High.

For a long time, I fought God.

What's More Important: Today or Eternity?

It's really easy to get trapped by the frenetic mindset of the world, to believe that the ultimate goal of life is to win or to acquire or to succeed.

It isn't.

We lose so much when we think that what we gain now, that what we rule now, that what we control now somehow has meaning. We lose because we fail to see the horizon. We are so caught up with the temporary demands of the now we don?t remember that life continues (and continues long) after this day of life is over.

Proverbs 11:18-19 NRSV
The wicked earn no real gain,
but those who sow righteousness get a true reward.
Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
but whoever pursues evil will die.

The Lord Jesus told a parable about such a man, a man who was so consumed with what he was doing in this life that he failed to plan for the next.

Using Our Recovery Feet

Over the years, I have learned about boundaries and the discernment needed in determining when to stay and when to go.

"And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet." Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11


These scriptures often deal with the spreading of the Gospel. And that is certainly the case. But I also see them applying to addiction/recovery matters as well.

1. We admitted we were powerless over a substance or behavior ─ our lives had become unmanageable.

Step One challenges our "I have this under control" lie we often tell ourselves.

I have encountered this from close family members, most specifically, my mother.

I was rather late arriving to the therapy party when it came to addressing my disordered eating/image issues. I wasn't in therapy as a skeletal anorexic, an impulsive bulimic or a ravenous overeater. No. It was a matter of "years later" when I finally decided I needed to face personal issues about myself. And I did it alone.

I did it alone because, when it came to dealing with those unpleasant and difficult issues, my family was unwilling to participate in unflattering truth's revelation.

I first encountered this as an emaciated anorexic.

The Power of Tears

"... I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee..."
2 Kings 20:5

There was once a product called "No More Tears" detangling spray I used frequently as a child. As a little girl, snarls were my reality; therefore, this product was mandatory. Mom pulled and sprayed my hair, while I'd stare at the bottle's portrait. Radiant mother was brushing radiant daughter's flowing tresses. There were no feelings of inadequacy, no complicated views of human emotions and no sore scalp. The bottle simply promised, "No More Tears."

If only life could be that easy.

But, indeed, my personal experience with tears has been un-easy. Crying - unpleasant emotion of any kind - was viewed and treated negatively, as something to be avoided, covered, silenced or punished. Tears were the uncomfortable evidence all is not well; there is disease, pain and trauma here.

However, in the last fifteen years, I have come to view tears through a healthier, more meaningful lens. As we deal with our addictions, disorders and traumas, addressing what our tears represent to us, we aren't far removed from the harmful beliefs which contribute to our struggles and thwart our recoveries.

I once stumbled across a photo which compared four types of human tears: tears of grief, tears of change, tears cried from onions and tears of laughter. I was struck by their imagery; each seemed to offer a specific signature concerning life experience.

Tears of Grief:

First, we see this microscopic picture of tears of loss. It resembles a sparse wasteland. To me, the prevalence of the tears' open space appears as a lonely island surround by an ocean. The impression I get from these magnified tears is one of disconnect.

And this was exactly where I was as I was confronted by my dad's death in 2003.

"The Easy Death:"

Even as I found connection within my faith as an adult, I still did not deal with the unresolved issues I had with him. By this point, I was married, living in another state, and pursuing my writing career. I had also been in therapy. Still, the dysfunctional relationship with my dad proved to be painful and powerful.

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