Living on Empty

Growing up in my family, we rarely spoke about our feelings. We kept everything to ourselves, the good and the bad, the dreams and the disappointments. When we did speak, the conversations usually ended with guilt and shame. We quickly learned to keep quiet.

We also grew up without God. Until I was in my thirties, I never knew he existed, let alone who he was or how great his love was for me. Because I had a family who didn’t talk to each other or show love, I became immensely insecure and dissatisfied with who I was as a woman. I compared myself to everyone around me, and in my eyes, I didn’t measure up. I certainly didn't see myself as God saw me, and I was definitely unaware that the love and acceptance of God was possible.

However, I wanted to be loved so desperately.

I longed for a family that cared deeply and wanted to know me, but instead I felt alone and I existed in soul-crushing silence. My insecurities and feelings of unworthiness manifested themselves in food binging and bulimia. I would eat immense amounts of food when no one was watching, instead of trying to share what I was going through. I would binged and then lock myself in my bathroom and stick a toothbrush down my throat until I had thrown up everything I had just eaten. I felt awful after consuming large quantities of food, so the purging was my solution for undoing the disgusting act of binging.

The problem was, the pain was still inside, even if the food was not. I was still alone and the shame was still unbearable. I was fourteen when the bulimia began, but inside I was just an isolated and lonely little child. No one knew my dirty secret. Because I didn’t have any faith in myself or in anyone actually loving me, I found a crowd that would accept me. They became my family, the ones who I trusted and who I believed would love me.

This crowd lived full of hate and they lavished themselves in evil and all that the enemy had to offer. Because I had given them my complete trust, I began to believe that hate was greater than love. I accepted all that they stood for, no matter how contradictory it was to what I wanted for my life.

Ironically, I desperately longed for love, but found myself instead settling for its opposite: hate.

I was introduced to drugs and I began taking meth. At first it was amazing. I honestly felt that I had found the solution to all my problems. My feelings of loneliness and abandonment didn’t haunt me any longer because the drugs numbed me to the point of not feeling any pain. The bonus of using meth was I didn't think about food. I immediately stopped binging.

Meth consumed my life for the next 19 years.

Not one day went by that I did not use the drug. I wasn’t a typical addict though. I was a functioning meth addict. I held down a job and I thought I appeared “normal” to those around me. But I was miserable. I saw myself as the victim and couldn’t see that the misery I was suffering was brought on solely by my poor choices. I felt entitled and that my family, my boss and all those around me owed me something.

One day it all came crashing down. I lost my job because after years of being late to work and disrespecting my boss, he finally had enough and asked me to leave. I had pushed my family away and blamed them for so much of my pain that when I needed them, they weren’t there. I finally hit rock bottom. I knew I needed help, but mostly I knew that I wanted to live a real and meaningful life. I felt a bit relieved that I could stop manipulating everyone in my life. It gave me a chance at a fresh start.

Even though I had caused damage to every area in my life, I had hope that things would be different, if only I could just stay clean. I found a recovery program and began working on becoming sober. I did all that the 12 step program suggested. I found God in recovery. He lifted the obsession I had with meth and the desire to use drugs in an instant.

I was amazed that God had that power but also that he found me worthy of his time.

I was astounded that he would accept someone who had made more bad decisions than good ones, someone who lived a life completely opposite and against what he commands us. It is completely amazing to me that God welcomed me with open arms and forgave all I had done and will do, and calls me his own.

He also brought me my husband. We met at a 12 step convention. He had a similar upbringing in an absent family and chose the wrong crowd as a teenager. He had struggled with drugs and alcohol and had come out of his addiction and was helping others to heal. We fell in love. We accepted Christ and knew God had greater plans for our lives but I still was struggling with my food addiction and we were struggling in our marriage.

Digging into Deeper Issues

Once I was no longer using drugs to numb my pain, it wasn’t long before my underlying issue with food returned. Even though I had support in recovery and a husband who loved me, I kept it hidden again. I binge ate, then over-exercised, and binge ate again. Vicious self-hate returned with a vengeance. I condemned myself for eating too much or not burning enough calories. My internal food police never let me sleep and reminded me constantly of my failures.

Finally, I had enough; I desperately wanted to be healed. A friend at work told me about Sandals Church. We decided to give it a try. I joined a group for women just like me. The first night, I cried when I heard another woman tell her story because it was exactly my story. She understood me. I knew I was where God wanted me. I started working the 12 steps in my Life Recovery Bible and learned the truth about who I was in Christ. It forever changed me.

Then, Sandals Church was holding a baptism at the end of the group session I was partaking in. I knew I wanted to be baptized. At that point I already made the conscious decision to follow Jesus, but I wanted the world to know. I was prepared to be baptized on my own and was surprised that my husband, who was out of town on business, came back to get baptized with me.

We still had a major disconnect in our marriage. We hadn’t tried to get help to repair our relationship and we were basically just roommates. After our baptism, incredible joy consumed me. I felt new and alive. On our way home, the Holy Spirit led my husband to confess to me his current and ongoing sin. I was elated that he was obedient, but devastated by his deception.

I instantly forgave him, like God instantly forgave me.

I was calm and peaceful and decided, in that moment, that I loved him enough to work through it. It was just a bump in the road. I know now that if it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit prompting me to get baptized and encouraging my husband to be real at the same time, he wouldn't have had the courage to confess to me on his own.

That incident forced us to start counseling though the Sandals Church marriage ministry. It saved our marriage. Because of the work of God in our lives, combined with my husband’s own history of addiction, recovery, and recovery ministry to others, he became part of starting the Life Recovery Group at Sandals Church. It is a group that meets weekly for those who want to overcome drug and alcohol addiction, food addiction, anxiety, sexual sin, divorce, compulsive behaviors or other life struggles.

I joined the Life Recovery addiction group. I began building amazing relationships and helping other women recover from their struggles with food addiction. Recovery is an ongoing process and I continue to work on staying healthy and being exactly where I know God wants me. My mom is now my best friend and whenever the enemy creeps in and tries to rekindle the self-hate, I have the tools and the truth of God’s word to fight those lies.

I can finally see myself as Jesus sees me: his flawless masterpiece. I know today I am free from condemnation and I am complete in Christ. There is no drug or food that could ever make me feel whole like the love of Jesus.