Guilt

Living a Double Standard

My feelings of guilt and shame towards a same-sex attraction began at an early age. I experienced frequent sexual abuse from an older male friend during most of my teen years, and hustling for money soon followed.

Years later, I was baptized in a Mennonite Brethren church as a public declaration that I would follow Christ. My secret desire was that maybe now my attraction and sexual fantasies towards men would disappear. They didn't, and the fantasies soon turned into years of acting out behaviours.

I attended several MB churches in different provinces over the years, all the while living a double standard. I became addicted to cruising public places that were well-known to the gay community as places where homosexuals could meet for anonymous sex – a behaviour very typical of this community. Frequenting gay bars was a given.

Life in the gay community has been tumultuous and everything but a happy time. I would be in the arms of a lover on Saturday night and then actively participate in a worship service on Sunday morning. My life was such a lie – a secret I was able to maintain for many years.

I Was Addicted to Sex and Could Never Get Enough

My name is Jeff and I am a recovering sex addict. It all started when I lived at home with my parents. My father was and still is a sex addict and alcoholic to this day. I can remember when my mother would go to bed, my father would turn on the cable adult channels and allow me to watch them with him. He also had pin up posters and other adult stuff in the household. My father was verbally abusive to us and my mother. After 23 years, my father walked out on all of us. I moved out shortly after, when I turned 18. I lived from place to place and I would hang out with my friends during the week and watch porno movies and drink beer. On the weekends we would go to clubs and try to pick up on girls to have sex with. All I wanted was sex. Little did I know that the craving and the snares of Satan began there.

I slept with a lot of women and could never get enough. I was married at 26, only to last 9 months. I could not be loyal to one woman. A year later I married again but the problems did not stop. I became addicted to pornography on the internet. I was spending at least 18-24 hours a week on the net. I met women, had sex with them and I got deeper and deeper into it. My wife became saved, and I did shortly after but it did not even stop there. I was so bound to my addiction. I had an affair on my wife again and this time I confessed to her. Things were better for a while but I found myself back on the net again.

Secrecy and Lies

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." Deuteronomy 5:20

Who would have guessed a doll could teach me about secrecy and lying?

When I was a child, I received a much-desired china doll, actually named after Florence Nightingale. So, obviously, when my mother bought her for me, I was thrilled, so thrilled, I shared my excitement with the wrong person: my dad.

"Earthquake, thunder, fire and fathers."
Japanese Proverb

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by emaciation, a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight, a distortion of body image and intense fear of gaining weight, a lack of menstruation among girls and women, and extremely disturbed eating behavior. Some people with anorexia lose weight by dieting and exercising excessively; others lose weight by self-induced vomiting, or misusing laxatives, diuretics or enemas.

Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight, even when they are starved or are clearly malnourished. Eating, food and weight control become obsessions. A person with anorexia typically weighs herself or himself repeatedly, portions food carefully, and eats only very small quantities of only certain foods. Some who have anorexia recover with treatment after only one episode. Others get well but have relapses. Still others have a more chronic form of anorexia, in which their health deteriorates over many years as they battle the illness.

According to some studies, people with anorexia are up to ten times more likely to die as a result of their illness compared to those without the disorder. The most common complications that lead to death are cardiac arrest, and electrolyte and fluid imbalances.
Suicide also can result.

Many people with anorexia also have coexisting psychiatric and physical illnesses, including depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, substance abuse, cardiovascular and neurological complications, and impaired physical development.

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.

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."

You think it's because of your secret, don't you? The awful thing in your past — that abortion or that affair; your divorce; the rape; the sexual abuse; the shameful business failure; your drug usage; alcoholism; criminal past. etc. Like the clumsy, nearsighted child no one picks for playground sports, you want God's favor, His grace, but it seems beyond your wildest dreams. It's not.The poem "The Chosen Vessel" tells how God picks a vessel to use: "Take me," cried the gold one. "I'm shiny and bright,"I'm of great value and I do things just right." But God passes by the gold, silver, brass, crystal, and wooden urns, and chooses the vessel of clay. The poem explains why:

Then the Master looked down and saw a vessel of clay.
Empty and broken, it helplessly lay.

No hope had the vessel that the Master might choose,
to cleanse and make whole, to fill and to use.
"Ah! This is the vessel I've been hoping to find,
I will mend and use it and make it all mine."

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 in My Suitcase?

I have this roll around bag I carry with me every day to work. In it, I carry my journal, extra pens, a small laptop, and anything else I think I might need for the day. I decided to get a bag that had rollers because the one I carried over my shoulder grew too heavy for me. I wish I could do the same for the other baggage I have carried with me over the years.

The other suitcase I carry with me has no handle. It resides within the chambers of my heart and the confines of my soul. It has years of control, co-dependency, self-blame, regret, sadness, grief, and pain within it. As I face Step Four of my recovery journey, I know there is more in that piece of luggage. I know there are things I haven’t admitted to yet. I know there are probably even things I am not aware of. But I know this is an important step in the recovery from my past.

These issues I have carried with me are common for people like me. I haven’t always known this to be true. Working diligently on making a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself showed me this. Reading Psalm 139:23-24 guides me toward God’s loving arms to reveal the truth about me.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

I ask God to search and know my heart. I ask him to

Nature vs. Nurture: An Unanswered Question?

Nature versus nurture: it's still an unanswered question. And that mystery applies to all things appearance.

Faces have always captured my attention. I am fascinated by the variety of features and expressions they contain.

A Couple of Kittens...

I first was obsessed with my mother's set of three cat figurines. There was one "mother cat" and her two smaller white kittens. I was especially preoccupied with the kittens.

And here, perhaps, is where I encountered one of my first harmful disordered ideas about image. I viewed one kitten as cuter, a/k/a, "better" than the other. Why? It was because this kitten- let's call her "Sally"- appeared to have a sweeter, more pleasing, "good kitty" facial expression. The other kitten, however, had more of a "Sophia- Loren- exotic- eyeliner-drawn- face" situation going on.

And, somehow, to me, that kitten face - let's call her "Sophia"- symbolized more mischief and displeasing, "bad kitty" behaviors than that of innocent-and-cute-looking Sally.

Indeed, in this kitten context, my toddler self was already learning inaccurate appearance associations all on my own.

But soon, other influences contributed to my preferences. Adults also instructed me about which emotions, often depicted in the human face, were acceptable - and which were not.

An Image Utensil?

Playing Hide and Seek with God?

I searched hurriedly to find just the right hiding place. Breathless I hid silently behind the shower curtain in my parents shower. A giggle slipped from my mouth and I quickly cupped my hand to keep it quiet. I could barely hear my friend counting... 6... 7...8 ...9... 10! Ready or not, here I come! My heart raced for fear I would be found.

I'm sure you remember the exhilaration and suspense of playing hide and seek with your friends. Now that I am older, I no longer play this childhood game with my friends or anyone else—or do I?

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