Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mistaking Addiction For Happiness?


 

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

Proverbs 4:23

“Frankenstein” author, Mary Shelley’s quote recently stopped me in my tracks:

 “No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”

You could insert the word “addiction” in place of “evil,” and you’d have a fitting portrait of the chaotic addict.

For whether or not we understand it, face it or change it, the happiness lure is synonymous with our own addiction-prone hearts. We have more in common with Dr. Frankenstein and his obsessions than is flattering to admit.

We are creatures of what we treasure in our hearts.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34

If we apply Shelley’s quote directly to our dear scientist, we see how he has viewed the creation of life in a laboratory as his happiness, as “the good he seeks.” This was his addiction. So consumed, he did bring to life a creation compiled of assembled cadavers. A little electricity and presto! We have our grotesque monster.

His frantic behavior is not far removed from us, in the grips of our own personal addictions.

Case in point: our unique “bottom” experiences. Just superimpose our own debauchery incidents.

How low did we go? How out of control were we? How much did we damage and lose, all because we were thoroughly convinced we had found our happiness, our much-sought after good?

This dovetails into our next truth...

We tend to believe what we feel.

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

Proverbs 23:7

Dr. Frankenstein, perhaps, believed he was doing something “for the greater good” in his reanimated creation. Perhaps, he felt he could eradicate all pain, loss and death from life. That would be a good thing, right? And, many a commentary has explored how Dr. Frankenstein wanted to play God.

Hmmm... Playing God... It sounds a smidge familiar.

For, in scripture, someone else also wanted to play God...

“But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God. And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.’”

Isaiah 14:13-14

And we see what happened there...

“Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”

Isaiah 14:15

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”


Yeah, so there’s that.

And we can resemble that same spirit whenever we go full throttle in rationalizing our addictions.

Perhaps we say things to ourselves like...

“I have to do this in order to function. People depend on me to get results.”

“This is what I have to do to survive the hell I’ve gone through.”

Saying these things, we, therefore, arrive at our next checkpoint...

Our hearts may not be as honest as we think them to be.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Jeremiah 17:9

Did Dr. Frankenstein ever stop, anywhere in the process, and examine his motives? Did he pray? Did he search the moral implications of his passionate work? Did he think about the consequences?

From the story, it appears he simply went full steam ahead, convinced he was on the right track. He believed he was on his way to greatness. Nothing could- or should- stop him.

He was not objective; there was no way he could be.

And he definitely wasn’t looking for someone to call him out on his outrageous plans.

Nope.

Again, he made the mistake of seeing this “evil” as his harmless, even benevolent, happiness or good.

And, so do we, don’t we?

One theory asserts that addictions begin for one reason and continue for other reasons. But, in that process, we are never alerted as to when, exactly, that “change” happens for us. There is no Google alert to warn us how our curiosity, attempts at being social or meeting a perceived need now continue because we are in over our heads and need a coping device.

Ah, yes, coping. This brings us to the next dose of reality concerning our hearts and this so-called “pursuit of happiness...”

Each one of us comes from a heartbreaking backstory, which influences our choices.

“The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.”

 Proverbs 14:10

We don’t know Dr. Frankenstein’s pain backstory, per se. Still, he appears to be driven by something. Somewhere, in his life, perhaps, an unmet need festered, creating the obsession for control and achievement. He, again, embodies Shelley’s quote.

“No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”

There is no denying it, pain, likewise, motivates us, for better or for worse.

Many of us have experiences with abuse, loss, death and all kinds of tragic circumstances which shape us.

And, if we are not mindful, we can find ourselves driven to acquire some “consolation prize” with which to soothe ourselves.

We are convinced it is happiness, the good we certainly need to seek for our lives.

This often provides the ground floor for addiction to flourish. We believe our chosen happiness will eradicate, fix or soothe our heartbreak.

So, in this regard, Proverbs 14:10 not only illustrates the significance of our pain, but of our individual addictions as well. Each is as unique as a fingerprint. This unique significance prompts this necessity...

Each one of us needs to get searched.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalms 139:23-24

We don’t know, to what extent, Dr. Frankenstein was warned. But come on, creating eternal life, manmade style? That had to ruffle a few feathers and wag a few tongues, decrying, “madness” and “blasphemy,” among other less-than-enthusiastic responses.

Concerning the classic story, we know the tragic result. He plunged into the endeavor, animating this grotesque being with no plan for what would happen beyond that creation. There was no commitment to take care of the creature. None. People freaked out, attempting to hurt and kill what they did not understand, his monster. Dr. Frankenstein never considered that human response. Our doctor, in the realm of personal accountability, responsibility and consequences, did not want to search or be searched.

His focus was on his definition of happiness, however harmful it may have been.

Again, kind of like us. Because most of us aren’t interested in this searching, this “moral inventory.”

Nope. Just feed the disease, the craving, the desire which assures us happiness is found here. It is the goodness we seek, period.

Yet, this willingness to be searched- and dealt with- cannot be avoided.

“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper. But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”

Proverbs 28:13

We must look at ourselves in truth. Not delusion, not rationalization, not deceit. Truth.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:8-9

Without that, the tragedy of Shelley’s story may well be ours.

 “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

James 1:15

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“‘For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,’ saith the Lord GOD. ‘wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.’”

Ezekiel 18:32

Cue the next truth...

Each one of us is subject to getting our minds blown and our desires fulfilled by the Most High God.

Dr. Frankenstein did not stop to consider the rewards which come from focusing on Divine direction.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

He wanted to take the credit for his accomplishment. In doing so, he missed an incredible opportunity.

Again, there was probably not much prayer, asking for wisdom in his choices.

Instead, he was convinced his way was the right way. And, in doing so, he short-changed his potential to do something astounding, had he been Spirit-led, not ego-led.

And isn’t that what we do when we reach for our addiction instead of the closeness with our Maker? Our Creator is a loving Father Who wishes to bless and enhance us, not curse and harm us.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Connection with Him, taking top priority within us, allows for a greater chance of that fulfillment.

Addiction’s faulty promise lies in its short-term gratification, in its counterfeit resemblance of spiritual communion. Nevertheless, its promise can be a tempting proposition; after all, our addictions are usually within our natural reach. The Most High God, to us, feels more remote.

Unlike our addictions, connection with our Creator requires faith. Faith is not an easy, materialized product. Its basis is that of uncertainty and trust, asking for us to go beyond our finite senses. Often, that is neither gratifying nor comforting.

Dr. Frankenstein may have believed if he abandoned his addiction of creating “life,” all would be hopelessly lost. He didn’t entertain there could be a better way, a higher way, apart from his original set course.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

Likewise, in our addiction-minded states, we become obsessed with everything we will lose if we forsake our addictions.

We don’t stop to think about what we will gain.

But we need to keep first things first. There is a reward for doing so.

“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

We choose what we will believe about how our “Higher Power.” We choose whether or not we will believe the Divine to be better and more fulfilling than our addiction.

“No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”

Where are you and I in this statement?

Motives, definitions and choices are nothing to take lightly. We are on the spectrum of choosing and mistaking. Each of us is subject to our “happily ever after” good and what we believe that good will do for us.

Each one of us is capable of getting it wrong.

Only the Most High represents the actual good we seek. Let there be no mistaking that.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”

Psalm 34:8

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse

 

Focus on the Right Kind of Glass


"Boys Will Be Boys"



Proud of You


It's Louder


The Amusement Factor


 

Summer is all about amusement parks. Roller coasters, cotton candy, giant stuffed bears as prizes and the promise of fun at every turn.

Kinda like addiction.

In my Christian faith, there’s a quote that goes something like “sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.”

When I was a kid, I was lured into the tilt a whirl, the ultimate in spin-y rides, twirling and whirling at dizzy speeds for what seemed like forever while in its grip. Going into the ride, I didn’t expect that. I also didn’t know it wasn’t a great idea to load up on candy and corn dogs before hopping on. That was, however, until I was spinning forty-five seconds into the ride. Then, it became abundantly clear. And, you guessed it, my fun food made a return visit all over the ride and park. Amusement had turned into me feeling sick. Yay.

It wouldn’t be the last time I’d experience this dynamic.

Cut to years later, at age nineteen, fully engrossed in anorexia, believing the lie that being as tiny as possible was “where it was at.” Hence, the starvation, obsessive weight loss and, oh yeah, six hour-a-day mandatory exercise regimen, just for extra fun. I was convinced if I looked “just right/just thin enough,” then I’d finally be happy. I just needed to keep going, losing five more pounds here, ten more pounds there, until...poof! I was completely finished and perfect! A transformed swan and a fun life.

I even went so far as to make fitting into a certain blouse my goal.

By May of my freshman year of college, I was able to fit into a blouse I wore in the sixth grade. In this plaid, ruffled, high collar number, I felt invincible. I was “tiny Sheryle,” not “fat Sheryle.” Wearing that blouse kept my self-appointed pressure to “keep going” on a high setting. I didn’t see it that way, however. I was just going after fun. When would that be happening, by the way? I was on a nonstop treadmill (no pun intended) of waking up, torturing myself with hours of exercise, followed by more hours of torturing myself with mandatory starvation. I kept losing weight, eventually falling into the two digit number. But it didn’t matter. I wasn’t “there” yet. I had to keep going. I wasn’t having fun yet. But c’mon, let’s be real. I wasn’t having a life either.

But we’re not done with the amusement quest yet.

Cut to me, age twenty, now romping around in the wonderland known as bulimia. I just didn’t know that was where I was. In a desperate effort to manage pain, stress, feelings and the truth, I had morphed from the starvation of anorexia to the binging of bulimia. However, I only saw it as “damage control.” I was taking care of business. There was no way I had an eating disorder. I was pursuing happiness, in the form of relief. That meant I devoured EVERYTHING! It didn’t matter if it was my roommates’ food, a vending machine full of candy bars or dumpster diving (yes, really), I found myself flailing after anything which promised to make me feel safe, loved and happy. Sweets, carbs and all manner of forbidden food held that gleaming promise. I binged, chasing after it. But then, that promise under-delivered. I wasn’t left with happiness. I was left with a one hundred pound weight gain, deep depression and that sick feeling, yet again.

Cut to a few months later. Now, I’m twenty-one. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was finally “legal.” But I wasn’t focusing on adulthood. I only saw it as “yay, I can drink!”

Here we go again.

Having transferred to a new school, immersed in my theatre major, I decided, as a diet tactic, to be social and drink.

And so, Rum and Coke was my introduction. And then, well... ‘night, ‘night.

It should have occurred to me that alcohol and I weren’t “bff’s.” I was giggly and ridiculous after one drink and I blacked out a few too many times for my comfort-or fun. Perhaps I DID have fun; I just couldn’t remember it.

But, in the name of “fun,” I repeatedly gave it the old college try, that is, until one New Year’s Eve blackout session, having woken up fully clothed in a tub, I realized this alcohol “diet” was not fun.

Years later, into my recovery, I’ve had to look at myself in some hard glaring light. I see how I often have this “all or nothing” mentality to my personality and choices. I’ve had to straddle the tightrope of desire versus want, need versus craving, health versus self-destruction. And that’s not amusing. Neither is it perfect. I’ve had to face how the glittery promise of fun is not, necessarily, the pathway to life and blessing.

“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. A worker's appetite works for him, For his hunger urges him on.”

Proverbs 16:25-26

 

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”

1 Corinthians 10:23

That’s what God is for.

“For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”

Psalms 107:9

The promise of amusement, of happiness and of a pain-free life does not deliver. If we’re not careful, when it comes to our addictions and compulsions, we can, however, be delivered to a place or situation which is undesirable, unhealthy and destructive. We can get on the tilt-a-whirl, expecting fun and games, yet experience only wreckage.

 “(Fill in with your own chosen fill in the blank addiction/compulsion) will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.”

The illusion that instant gratification, via our destructive vices, will answer our lives can make us sick in our reality.

God has more for us than that, however.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

It’s not an easy process, but embracing truth can give us a great head start.

“The truth shall set you free.”

John 8:32

That includes how amusement plays into our addictive tendencies AND how God can be a part of our recovery, even IN SPITE of them.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

“Such a Pretty Face”


 

When it comes to eating and image disorders, the lion’s share of attention goes to the body. It is about the physique: how large it is, how thin it is, sized up against any particular person and/or cultural image standard.

So, it appears, there is no attention given to the face.

Yet, within the eating disorder context, my negative experience with the punim was just as painful as the unforgiving perception of my body. And it started early.

As an overweight child, several adults repeatedly made the same comment. Perhaps you’ve had it spoken to you.

“... ‘You have such a pretty face, if you’d just lose some weight…’ This comment dangled the hope of beauty, and yet placed the blame on me... for not achieving it. It was my fault...”

(Excerpts taken from Cruse’s book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder”)

 “Such a pretty face...”

To me, it is the epitome of the backhanded compliment. It has built-in judgment, expectation and pressure present, waiting on the owner of said “pretty face’s” response to “correct” the situation.

But sometimes, that results in an eating disorder. That’s how I responded, anyway.

For, each time that comment was made, I heard I was inferior. After all, adults made this statement. They knew what they were talking about. Certainly, they couldn’t be wrong. Therefore, I had to be.

So, whenever I looked at my face, I saw fat. My chubby cheeks were grotesque; any trace of a double chin was further evidence I was hopeless.

Yes, maybe, underneath these hideous layers of fat, I was, somehow, considered to be a “pretty face.” But it still didn’t change that, in the meantime, I possessed my ugly, overweight body, for which I had no excuse. If I were simply a better caliber of girl, the face and body could both be the way they were “supposed to” look.

So, as childhood grew into adolescence, I constantly dieted, attempting to make that happen. I had a gun-shy reaction each time someone called me pretty. I braced to hear the face qualifier. I waited for the “helpful” advice of the diet-and-fitness plan offered. I could never just rest in the pretty remark. There were strings attached. Those strings were always weight loss.

And, after many a failed diet and fitness regimen, come freshman year of college, my self-determined need to achieve “reinvention” dictated I must lose weight everywhere, in both face and form. No baby fat was seen as adorable or acceptable. Therefore, with commitment in place, I shed the much-detested weight before college’s start.

And, as I believed, I was reinvented. I was treated differently; I was treated better. Flirtation and compliments abounded in my new college life. And no “such a pretty face” comment was uttered. The reaction I received was genuine and sincere. I was intoxicated by this and even more determined. I could not lose this progress. I had to keep going. I needed to be even more chiseled, face included.

“... Each comment, lost pound, and lost inch gave me more of an incentive... 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... Each time I looked at myself in the mirror, all I saw was a fat baby picture of me with fat arms, legs and double chin. I’d spent most of my young life being that photograph. I’d do whatever was needed to make sure that it wasn’t the case now...”

So, I eventually dropped to a two-digit weight. And, with that emaciation, my gaunt face materialized. Sunken-in cheekbones and exaggerated “bug eyes” were just as evident as my jutting collarbone and thin limbs. It was difficult to know, exactly, what people were freaking out the most to concerning my appearance: my face or my body. I received numerous horrified gasps and stares from adults, as well as pointing fingers from filter-less children.

Yet, I reveled in my thin being, whether it was body or face. It was a revenge payback to all of those individuals who burdened me with “such a pretty face.” Do you see how pretty I am now? Deal with THAT. I dare you.

With anger and other toxic unresolved issues driving my behavior, I eventually morphed into my bulimic phase, which, very quickly, brought on weight gain. Physiologically ravenous, as well as emotionally desperate, frustrated and suicidal, I became an eating machine, scrounging college dumpsters and stealing my roommates’ food. I was out of control in a different way now.

It was devastating as I underwent weight gain in both my body and my face. I had ample experience with an overweight body before. That was familiar despair.

But the face changes seemed to have a pain all its own. “Such a pretty face” now roared back, putting me in my place for ever even daring believe I could be worthy.

And, I had a daily, constant reminder from which I could not escape. As I gained weight, I could cover my body. I could hide under baggy sweatshirts and layers. But my face? That was out there, changing, distorting, for everyone to see. I could not avoid that.

 “...Puffy ‘chipmunk’ cheeks replaced the hollow, defined cheekbones I’d worked for... I’d lost my sharp jawline and had acquired a double chin. Each morning I woke up and starred in horror at this fat girl’s face...”

The English proverb asserts “the eyes are the window of the soul.”

But, that is the tip of the iceberg concerning disordered eating and image issues. For, we often underestimate the face’s importance in its telltale symptoms of a troubled individual. Written here, on their face, we can also see the afflicted mind, personal will and unhealthy emotions which drive the life-threatening disease. As hallmarks of an eating disorder, we look for the skeletal limbs and the underweight body. But how much time and attention are spent considering the face?

With anorexia, it may be easier to detect the disorder, as, again, we go to the obvious thin criteria. A face is just too gaunt to be thought of as healthy or unaffected.

But bulimia and ednos (eating disorders not otherwise specified) may be more easily disguised in matters of the face. Still, symptoms which point to disorder are there, if we know what to look for.

Medical experts studying eating disorders confirm swelling and puffiness exist because of swollen salivary glands (parotid glands). It’s indicative of purging.*

So, to focus only on the body, at the exclusion of the face, for a valid diagnosis, is to do a disservice to the sufferer.

Disorder involves the entirety of the person: spirit, mind, body and yes, face. Do we take that into account as we each comfortably associate for ourselves what an “eating disorder” looks like?

There’s more to disordered eating and image issues than what we assume. And, when we make any cavalier statement about someone’s appearance, be it body or face, we can never tell just how that may trigger an individual. “Such a pretty face” can be the beginning of a painful, difficult lifetime of self-rejection or oppressive qualification.

“Such a pretty face” is not a harmless comment. We need to stop seeing it as such.

*“Subtle Signs of Eating Disorders,” Amanda Gardner; www.health.com/health

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse