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.”
“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.”
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.”
It’s not an easy process, but embracing truth can give us a great head start.
“The truth shall set you free.”
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 © 2015 by Sheryle Cruse