Friday, January 19, 2018

Make Mistakes...

The Two Daughters

St. Augustine once uttered this powerful statement:

“Hope has two beautiful daughters: anger, at the way things are and courage, to work for change.”

Upon reading it, my mind went first to the Serenity Prayer and then to how hope plays its role in addiction and recovery.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Indeed, hope is not a neutral word. We have feelings about it, be they negative or positive.

And, maybe, that is the first stumbling block. Perhaps we get tangled not in this word and theory, but rather in its opposite representative: hopelessness.

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick...”

Proverbs 13:12

For many of us, that is all we see concerning our addictions and our issues. And it spotlights a larger spiritual challenge: we believe our own skewed perception, rather than trusting in a higher authority. We entertain vain imaginations (2 Corinthians 10:5), erecting them as more powerful than the Most High’s Divine Nature (Jeremiah 32:27).

Proverbs 26:12 nails it; we are conceited.

“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him.”

Still, eventually, life comes a-calling, requiring we rouse ourselves from the complacency and the self-defeating attitudes we possess concerning hope.

St. Augustine’s quote may not directly manifest verbatim. More often, a direct revelation slaps us instead:

“We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Maybe we are literally lying in a pool of our own sick. Maybe we’ve lost a passion for life. Maybe we’ve had hard destruction show us just how much addiction steals and kills.

But, part of Divine Providence’s great love for us involves the startling, uncomfortable wakeup call. And there is no longer any snooze button to press concerning ourselves. We are forced to admit...

“For what I am doing, I do not understand...”

Romans 7:15

The hope daughters, often nestled within the Serenity Prayer, show us we need to approach a number of things, including our attitude toward hope itself, differently.

First, we need to make the decision.

The crux of much of this component’s complexity involves the word, “grant.”

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...”
“Grant” conveys we have picked a perspective; it is a call to action. Only, here, in the prayer’s context, we are asking for Divine guidance to take the lead.

When we ask “grant” in the Most High’s direction, it conveys we are decided His way is better than ours and much-needed. Therefore, hope’s two daughters, solidify our commitment to change and health instead of same-old, same old dysfunction and disease.

All well and good, unless we interrupt that with our disordered, stubborn selves and insist on taking the decision back and sabotaging that single-minded decision.

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:8

And come on, as addicts, this is natural and easy to do. For, whether or not we know it, many of us are still fixated on the hopelessness.

One can argue, I suppose, we are ADDICTED TO that hopelessness.

If things are bleak, why even try? If things are only doom and gloom, why not slide into oblivion with our beloved addiction? Nothing- and no one- else matters.

And it takes conscious, deliberate, unpleasant work to confront and replace that.

If we insist on remaining selfish, then, inevitably, we are here...

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”
James 3: 16

At first glance, we may delude ourselves into thinking we are living the life. Yes, things are exactly how we want them. Drunken stupors, binges, spending sprees, reckless behaviors and irresponsibility may be fun for AWHILE, but there is a price tag attached. And life is quite a collection agent. Sooner or later...

“...when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

James 1:15

Death often gets our attention. It doesn’t need to be the death of a person either. Death can happen to anything, including potential, relationships, career, good health and peace.

And, when this death comes, the hopelessness, again, rears its ugly head, attempting to convince us, of all things, Elohim is responsible, not us.

Pretty audacious, huh?

We all arrive at this misguided conclusion. Because it’s easier than being accountable for our hearts, minds and subsequent decisions and actions.

Yet none of that attitude will prevent spiritual truth. We are smacked with 1 Corinthians 14:33’s meaning. 

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace...”

However, many of us, especially if we are struggling with addiction, can tend to view this scripture as this...

“For God is not the author of difficult, painful solutions, but of easy, pain and change-free peace...”

We want a different book, author and reality; we want our passive indulgence. We’re not interested in, again, doing the work of hope.

But, until we hang out with the two daughters, our lives will continue to slide into further mess.

And, just like life, where we don’t have to like every person, we don’t even have to LIKE these two hope daughters. We don’t have to like “anger, at the way things are and courage, to work for change.”

But, if we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” then, we’re going to have to embrace this conclusion...

We have to DO something differently concerning what we both accept and change:

“...courage to change the things I can...”

Addiction is not courage; it’s fear. Addiction cowers from challenging life circumstances in attempt to avoid the unpleasant truth. It hides, lies and denies.

“Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.”

Psalms 119:116

We, as addicts, need not be ashamed of that fear. But we are not exempt from facing it. Courage is a skill.

We need to decide and act upon Divine hope’s two daughters in our lives; and that takes courage.

We are not left alone in that pursuit.

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right hand, and whenever turn to the left.’”

Isaiah 30:21

As far as “the way” is concerned, it’s not as mystical as we’d believe it to be. Rather, it is often the practical, unglamorous and unpleasant.

“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:”

Isaiah 28:10

It is such things as a Twelve Step program, an accountability-oriented sponsor mentoring our choices, unflinching therapy to address past trauma and, underscoring any and all education and help avenues, our honest willingness to participate in those “ways.”

Indeed, when we “stop fighting our help,” an unexpected result often occurs: hope-filled joy.

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.”

Psalms 16:9

Yes, rest happens. The burden is lightened, as our unhealthy addictive behavior changes enough to remove its destruction. Our Creator’s desired plans for us now have more room in which to flourish.

But, again, here is a tricky thing concerning even that rest: there is a work there. There is a decision and an effort we need to execute.

“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,”

Ephesians 1:18

 And so, we need to piggyback on Ephesians’ instruction.

We realize we are not the only factor in the equation (cue Divine Wisdom):

“... and wisdom to know the difference.”

All roads lead back to our Source.

“O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”

Jeremiah 10:23

The Almighty comes from a place of hope and infinite possibility. For us, this is often easier said than it is lived.

Nevertheless, hope’s two daughters challenge us with action, change, the unfamiliar and the dreaded “p” word: patience.

“But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”

Romans 8:25

Motivational anger and its wisdom show us there is more to who and where we are now.

“...anger, at the way things are...”

Divine discontent keeps us growing toward the fuller human beings we are created to be. Addiction stunts that process. And, of course, Elohim is not about stagnation.

Therefore, our Creator, wanting our ultimate good, will work with- and in spite of- imperfect circumstances.

“... and courage, to work for change.”

He will specifically create learning labs which work to improve our lives and enhance the blessing He wants to give to us individually.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will guide you with My eye.”

Psalm 32:8

We all need to challenge and change our associations with and approaches to hope.

What many of us already believe about it is an effortless, passive reality. We don’t connect the dots between hope and decided effort on our part.

We just, somehow, hope that hope will manifest automatically, easily and magically fix things.

But this is unrealistic. Yes, hope is a wonderful blessing. But it is not far removed from a scripture most of us never consider:

“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work.”

Exodus 20:9

It’s not to promote rigid legalism. Rather, we need to remember hope, recovery and healthy attitudes and choices are ALL daily habits. They don’t just arrive on their own. We need to do our part in the process.

If we choose to engage in this process, it is simply a matter of time before we realize St. Augustine was spot on about hope’s two daughters: they are, indeed, beautiful.

Copyright © 2018 by Sheryle Cruse

The Teacher is Silent

Recovery-from much of anything- is often not done in the steady hum of encouragement. It’s frequently done in intimidating quiet. Even with support groups, sponsors, treatment centers, churches and any number of “support structures,” we are still left with our true selves. And, no matter what affirmations we have heard and learned, we alone are left to apply them. There is no uplifting outside cheerleader. There is just our decision.

I know this comes across as negative, especially concerning “the Higher Power” factor.

As a person of faith, I’m not dismissing the role The Most High plays. Rather, I see how the Divine shows up in disguised forms, one of those being the unanswered quiet.

Years ago, I heard a statement which rocked my own recovery:

“When the student is taking the test, the teacher is silent.”

This went in tandem with my therapist’s advice; my recovery progress would not go unchallenged. I had to be prepared for any person’s “change back” attitudes.

“When a person does not accept your ‘no,’ they’re trying to control you.”

(Advice given from a self-defense expert, instructing females on their attackers’ viewpoints)

My “No” response has often not been accepted. Indeed, as I have worked to form and keep healthy boundaries, I have had to directly shut down my people pleaser nature and hold firm in the face of that negativity.

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Matthew 5:37

Not surprisingly, “the people” on the other end of my response are usually not pleased. Therefore, they have tried to cajole, insult, threaten or force me to change my response to their preferred “yes.”

And, when I do not do this, this situation becomes even more awkward. It is a “silent teacher/student-taking-test” dynamic going on. That uncomfortable silence can often prompt a temptation for me to give in, but I need to remind myself if I do this, it violates me and sends the message to the other person: “I can be manipulated.”

And I do not wish to return to the harmful place from which I came.

For, in the past, certain family members of mine have attempted to shame me when I did not do things their way. They asserted I was brainwashed, forgetting where I came from.

But, many of these same individuals are currently locked in some abusive or addictive state. I am not saying this to condemn, rather, to illustrate how difficult it is to create health from a diseased state of being. These individuals have known about the dysfunction which is the family reality. And they choose how they respond concerning those facts.

Some have chosen to continue the harmful behaviors. They believe their loyalty to the unhealthy pattern must be prized and protected, even to the detriment of another person’s- or their own- well-being. To do anything beyond that, then, is ruled to be unrealistic, arrogant, and yes, disloyal.
Therefore, because of that unhealthy existing family dynamic, my more unfamiliar, uncomfortable approach to it needs to happen all the more. I cannot control others’ lifestyle choices. However, I do have some control of mine.

And that is also part of the student’s silent test: learning what one is- and is not- responsible for.

Part of my family’s toxic belief system also asserts there are some individuals who are not to be held accountable for their destructive behaviors, while, at the same time, there are other designated family members who are to be overly responsible caregivers and rescuers, making the unhealthy situation “okay” somehow.

Concerning my family member’s responses to my “no/boundary-focused” stance, they often do not expect that. They are convinced I will cave to their whims. And, I’ve heard it said you can tell a lot about who a person is when they get that “no” for an answer.

Personal experience-wise, what I have surmised is that family reaction is often straight-up anger.

“Do not befriend a hot-tempered man, and do not associate with one who harbors anger. Lest you learn his ways, and ensnare your soul.”

Proverbs 22:24-25

That’s not a surprise to me. After all, there are honestly very few people in this world who enjoy being told “no” when they’d rather experience a “yes.” That’s human.

We want what we want when we want it.

But, the problem comes in when an agenda to use coercion, shame or brutal force surfaces as the “logical and reasonable” response. It negates the validity of the person who just answered no. It reiterates that person has no such right TO that word.

But, again...

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Matthew 5:37

Unfortunately, my experience with certain individuals has shown me there is no room for their understanding of anyone’s fundamental right to say “no” on any topic whatsoever. There is an impasse and little can be done concerning it.

More importantly, it’s not my responsibility to FIX this. Personal accountability applies to all.

Proverbs 19:19, therefore, has frequently sprung to my mind as it relates to my own navigation within these less-than-ideal family constraints.

“A person with great anger bears the penalty; if you rescue him, you'll have to do it again.”

When it comes to giving in to the person expecting/demanding my yes which could be harmful to me in any way, “'ll have to do it again.”

And, guess what? Concerning my recovery process, I do not want to do that.

Dealing with someone else’s disappointed anger is yet another “silent teacher/test-taking student” moment. I have no cheerleaders with megaphones, giving me an “Atta girl!”

I need to do that by myself in that quiet, awkward space of the truthful moment. It is not easy; it is not fun. But it is recovery work, nonetheless.

Do I wish things were different? Sure.

But, regardless of how things are now, I still must navigate. Each person is given free will to decide what he/she chooses. And some choose disease.

So, once I know that, their choice must not sway mine. And that is why I find my encouragement here:

 “And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, and built another outside wall and strengthened... and made weapons and shields in great number.”

2 Chronicles 32:5

To me, the recovery work principle is, indeed, found within this least likely scripture.

But we are all in process, on a recovery continuum, taking tests and learning how to simply be. We need tools, mechanisms, safe havens and power-fused words, like that of “no.”l We need to know our recovery is too important- WE are too important- to sacrifice health for disease in whatever dangerous, quiet moments are presented to us.

Be encouraged, dear student, as you take your next test.

Copyright © 2018 by Sheryle Cruse

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Detriment of Certainty

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...”

Proverbs 23:7

I like to play with words and phrases. A particular one recently popped up in my mind: the benefit of the doubt.

We’ve heard this expression before. It denotes largesse, a generosity to not write off a person or circumstance so quickly. As it rolled around in my spirit, its opposite phrase sprung to life: the detriment of certainty.

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

The old adage goes, “there’s no reality, only perception.” And, indeed, isn’t perception a major element in addiction? Genetics, brain chemistry and predisposition factors aside, aren’t we also altered by our personal view of life?

“... ‘According to your faith be it unto you.’”

Matthew 9:29

Doesn’t this influence us as to whether or not we reach for something external?

Faith, be it positive or negative faith, plays its role in self-fulfilling prophecy. Scripture gives us examples of both persuasions. It’s not to judge someone for their so-called faith failings. Rather, it’s to illuminate the reality of our human condition.

We have the capacity for faith, every single one of us...

“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

Romans 12:3

That, I think, may be the first pit stop to where we get off track. Some of us believe we don’t have “enough” faith, we don’t possess “the right kind” of faith and do not execute our faith “as we’re supposed to.”

But we’re all in faith school. Each of us is on some personal learning curve. Many of us have to unlearn some harmful stuff before we even begin to apply a healthier version of this attribute. ALL of this is messy, sometimes embarrassing and frustrating. And no one gets it exactly perfect.

Yet, “the detriment of certainty” can kick around in our brains, convincing us only the bleak outcome is that bankable sure thing for our health, our recovery and every aspect of our lives and destinies.

“The detriment of certainty,” a/k/a, a negative faith perspective, purports it’s hopeless. Scripture tells us human beings can have their tendency to go to the worst case scenario almost instantly.

“...‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’”

Numbers 13:31

“And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size... We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’”

Numbers 13:32-33

“The detriment of certainty” usually has its favorite words uttered, muttered or thought within our sentences: “can’t,” “won’t,” “should” or “shouldn’t” (take your judge-y, situational pick).

We’re all guilty of possessing negative faith. However, it can be a stepping stone to our educational, spiritual experience as human beings, provided we don’t stop and camp at the disempowering site.

And, even though this may sound like exhausting and frustrating news, it is, indeed, good news for each of us. We don’t have to remain stuck where we are. We can continue the transformation process.

Scripture, likewise, also tackles the more positive approach in what and how we believe. This exists when we choose to operate from “the benefit of the doubt,” of our imperfect faith.

 “...‘Go! As you have believed, so will it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour.”

Matthew 8:13

“...‘Take courage, daughter,’ He said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was cured from that very hour.”

Matthew 9:22

We are believing something. It’s ever fluctuating. Sometimes, we’re struggling, especially concerning the myriad of issues surrounding our addictions. Sometimes, we can only wallow in the imaginations which declare we are not “enough” to deserve, practice and live healing.

And, if that is where we find ourselves, Scripture has its healing balm of reassurance to even that “perceived certainty...”

 “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.”

Matthew 12:20

Spirituality is never far away from choice.

“... ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ He asked.

‘Yes, Lord,’ they answered.”

Matthew 9:28

Maybe, getting real, without any pretty red spiritual bows tied on, we are not honestly responding with a “yes.” Maybe our choice is the bleak “no.”

And, to that, I say, even that defined “poor choice” is not beyond the Most High’s reach.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Or, if Shakespeare doesn’t do it for you, how about this?

“But as it is written, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’”

1 Corinthians 2:9

Copyright © 2018 by Sheryle Cruse

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. My mother made daily threats about sending me to treatment.

Did you catch that?

My mother made daily threats about sending me to treatment.”

Mom was insistent in telling me I was the problem who needed to get fixed, not anyone else.

Oh, really?

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

A morbidly obese woman, stress eating, glossing over intergenerational abuse, addiction, anger and depression tells me everything and everyone else is hunky dory. I’m the only problem disrupting life.

Was this her intentional message? No, probably not.

Nevertheless, the hypocritical and hurtful sentiment resulted, reinforcing my toxic mantra, “It’s all my fault.”

My mother, in opposition of step one, fully asserted she was powerful over her issues, managing her own life quite well, thank you very much.

Many years later, when I told her I entered therapy, her response remained unchanged. She insisted she didn’t need therapy like I did.

And even when my book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder” was published years ago, she wasn’t entirely thrilled about its reality.

Yes, to a certain degree, she was proud of the accomplishment.

But she was also nervous about its existence. She confessed to me that, before she got my book, she didn’t want her name mentioned; she didn’t want people to know who she was.

And, as I asked her about how she felt about her own struggles and unresolved issues, this was her response:

 “I’m dealing real good. We can’t live in the past.”


Again, the conversation between the two of us hit an impasse. Mom was emphatic that, if she ever had a “weight problem,” everything was cured. Nothing more to discuss.

This wasn’t the first roadblock I’d run into concerning family, addiction and chaotic issues.

With the Twelve Steps, I encountered another obstacle concerning my “kin:” the spirituality issue.

Steps Two and Three, indeed, emphasize our mindset and connection to it.

2.      We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

  1. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Therefore, right away, we can bump into someone with a dramatically different perspective.

“... what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?”

2 Corinthians 6:14

Years ago, I was conversing with a family member who came from an atheistic point of view. We weren’t even discussing “spiritual” things. We were talking about current events. But, no matter what we talked about, he was convinced life was meaningless and had no Higher Power whatsoever.

His mind was made up. That was that.

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”

Amos 3:3

I gave him to The Most High. He could do a much better job reaching my relative than I could.

Amos 3:3, indeed, covers a lot of territory, permeating much of the Twelve Steps. Never underestimate the power of decision making and agreement.

Some people, unfortunately, never get there. Some people are slow to arrive at that place.

Regardless, the steps, including Steps Four through Ten, require the decision making and agreement with the Higher Power perspective.

4.      We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

  1. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  2. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  3. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  4. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  5. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  6. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

But make no mistake, there is a vast difference between deciding/agreeing and attempting to achieve our representation of perfection. Elohim knows better than to expect the latter from us.

Nevertheless, there is the desire from The Most High that we will take responsibility for our actions and move toward health, not away from it.

Again, for me, a large challenge is the strong denial streak running throughout my family structure. There are active addicts and users. There are still lies covering decades of trauma.

There is still the mindset of, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as he/she is.”

Are you sure?

 “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

The question persists: why is one addiction better or worse than another?

The desire which lures us to that choice addiction object is what we need to address. The desire- or the lust- for the addiction is the heart condition, not necessarily the pursued addiction object.

Therefore, there’s no sliding scale of that addiction object at hand; for instance, alcoholism is not legitimately “worse” than food addiction. A shopping addiction is not “worse” than gambling. They are all equally serious and painful afflictions.

And those afflictions signify an often more entrenched family or generational pattern of addictive natures going undiagnosed, underdiagnosed, untreated-or mal-treated.

I have childhood memories of one family member’s repeated detox stints. I remember before we checked her into the treatment facility, I needed to find all bottles of mouthwash in her home and dump them out. This family member, when out of liquor, drank Scope and Listerine.

But this was no more of a painful circumstance than that of another relative’s battle with his substance abuse. In a severely altered state, this relative decided to go horseback riding at night and was almost run over by yet another family member’s car.

Yet no one discussed any of these realities. It was the understood, silent agreement of “If we don’t talk about it, we won’t have to deal with it.”

When that is the consensus, there is little that can be done. And that further hinders us in Step Eleven...

We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Of course, if the mentality is silence when addressing fellow human beings, how could there ever even exist an openness to The Most High to acknowledge, deal with and change behavior? Mediation, prayer, deep self-reflection?

Repeatedly, within my family experience, it appeared no one was doing any such thing.

But that did not impede the fact family regularly attended church and held leadership positions.

It was maddening to behold. Scripture stating “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5) was never far from my thoughts as I heard about a relative’s “Christian” Sunday behavior, followed by their monstrous addictive actions destroying Monday through Saturday.

And again, no one talked about this.

The subject matter I initially brought up in “Thin Enough” seemed to startle a number of my family members. One relative even secretly mentioned how glad she was I revealed the addictive and abusive dynamics which had existed for decades.

Still, this family member did not openly support me and the recovery message I was coming from in the presence of other members. When it came to facing the family “at large,” I was still very much by myself.

Much of that, I believe, had to do with the fact that the recovery message I was coming from could only coexist with the acknowledgment of truth, even if it was ugly truth.

I have family in various stages of addiction and recovery. Some are acquainted with the Twelve Steps. I have no idea, though, to what degree they have embraced and applied those steps. That is individual choice.

But, based upon my personal experience with familial interaction, one of accusation, hostility and name calling, I can only conclude the majority of them are not ready to face or live those tenets, especially that of Step Twelve:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

It is a challenge to me to realize and maneuver around one lonely truth, especially concerning fragile recovery: not everyone is on the same page- or even in the same book.

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”

John 16:12

I, therefore, must navigate this imperfect terrain fully recognizing I will have to limit my interaction- and my expectations of- my family. If I want to be in a safe space of health and support, sadly, right now, it does not exist within my family.

I have not achieved any perfection in recovery myself. Flaws are as much a part of the recovery process as great strides are.

Still, I come to recognize the power of my own literal- and symbolic- feet.

“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

I have the power, the right and the inherent human worth to go elsewhere, to go to greater places of healing and health.

So, sometimes, the dust must be shaken.

Copyright © 2018 by Sheryle Cruse

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.

 “For he is the kind of person
    who is always thinking about the cost... his heart is not with you.”

Proverbs 23:7

I’m often described as intense, “type A,” perfectionistic and driven. Those assessments, as I experienced various forms of disorder, provided irrefutable evidence: self-destructive passions emanated from my heart.

And God certainly understands our finite beings, passion’s consuming fire and its pitfalls.

For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalms 103:14

We will want things in life. That is not a shocker to Him; it shouldn’t be to us either.

The sticking point, however, is to make the distinction between passions, which tend to be carnal and potentially harmful, and desires, which are life-affirming and often originate from a Divine direction.

“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”

Psalms 145:16

As an overweight, hurt and fearful child, I wrongly absorbed the belief being thin was my answer. My pain and insecurity drove my passion to be emaciated, to do whatever it took to have my ribcage jutting outside of my skin.

“...Diet and defeat, attempts and failure had become my way of life. That is, until one day, when diet became Victory for me...Each comment, lost pound, and lost inch gave me more of an incentive. As I lost weight, I found myself always in need of a new goal... I eventually became convinced that death—at least the look of starvation—was beautiful. I was envying the ‘beauty,’ the look of the malnourished, the tortured—even those in concentration camps...” *

But those beliefs and actions were not of God.

 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Jeremiah 29:11

Instead, my destructive passions were in diametric opposition to the Most High’s desire. He wanted to bless me with life and health; my sick heart only wanted death. My disordered eating was a death wish, a passive suicide.

Yet, indeed, Isaiah 55:8-9 declares humbling Truth...

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

I refused that principle as, mired in my diseased passion, I strove to get what I wanted, independent of God.

However, Divine Desire does not work that way.

 “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalms 37:4

Still, it doesn’t stop many from us from exerting ourselves over His sovereign plan.

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Exodus 20:3

Because I had actively chosen idolatry over a connected relationship with the Most High, I was getting harmful, counterfeit results.

And here was a revelation I hadn’t expected when I was at my lowest, two-digit weight: I was miserable.

 “What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork when he fashions speechless idols.

Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake! To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’
         And that is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
         And there is no breath at all inside it.”

Habakkuk 2:18-19

My idol had failed to make me forever happy, perfect and problem-free. My idolatry sold me life-threatening lies.

And that is what happens when our hearts run amok. Consumed by our chosen idols, we’re often unaware of what is happening.

“The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?”

Jeremiah 17:9

We are blinded, driven to self-destruction.

And this obscures yet another Truth, should we refuse to accept it. Our God is jealous.

 “Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

Deuteronomy 4:23-24

This jealousy, however, does not come from a spiteful place. Rather, it emanates from a mind-boggling, eternal love, a love we’d benefit from if we chose the Most High God instead of our idols.

The LORD appeared to us... saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’”

Jeremiah 31:3

Perhaps this is why, we are given the opportunity to search, guard and deal with our hearts...

 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalms 139:23-24

This opens the door for a richer relationship with the Divine.

 “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 11:19

It gives us the gift to discover who we truly are.

 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27

Since my rededication experience years ago, I have learned valuable lessons about about myself, my Creator and the personal meaning of an individual’s faith walk, even in the midst of tricky heart issues.

 I would love to say it is a one-time “cure-all,” an experience in which we are instantaneously healed and spared from any other painful situation.

But that is unrealistic.

We need to deal with our unruly and vulnerable hearts, employing the Divine Answer of John 14:27...

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

We must never forget our hearts are living creatures, capable of tremendous good...or evil.

At one time, my razor sharp, emaciated ribcage was a murderous beast, waiting to kill me. It was the manifestation of my deadly heart.

Indeed, my heart disorder was not far removed from the famous scripture, describing a prowling Satan...

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

This is the warning to us all. The heart is no small thing. It prompts us to desire and to respond. And the ramifications of that reality are not always pretty.

We are dependent upon the Most High God to help us govern, protect and guide our hearts through every life issue.

“... guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:23

We cannot do this alone.

And if we believe we can, we only reiterate the Truth of Scripture, but to our own blind detriment...

“The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?”

Jeremiah 17:9

Elohim’s Word has been described as “the owner’s manual,”  “the path of life and blessing” and “guardrails.”

Therefore, wouldn’t it be within our best interest to treat our every heart condition with it?

Each of us has a choice.

“... I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Deuteronomy 30:19

Our wild hearts are the question. May we then allow The Most High to be our answer!

*Excerpt from Cruse’s book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder”

Copyright © 2018 by Sheryle Cruse