Thursday, August 31, 2017



When I was a little girl, I watched the royal wedding of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. I bought into the excitement and the promise of the fairytale. And yes, I wanted to be a princess. So, I woke up at four in the morning to catch the internationally televised coverage of the epic event and live vicariously through it. There I was, with a bowl of cereal in hand, watching that gilded carriage pull up, carrying the young Lady Diana Spencer and her father. And when she stepped out of that carriage? That incredible extravaganza of a wedding dress! Over the years, I heard people discussing that moment, likening it to an exquisite creature emerging from a large chrysalis. Yep, that’s about right.

As I watched the 1981 wedding and years later, the 2011 royal wedding between Prince William and Princess Katherine, I noted how the power of the fairytale continues to hit us hard. We still want to buy into the belief that if something appears beautiful, it’s perfect, pain free and “happily ever after.” I know I certainly bought that concept. It spilled over into my food, weight and body image issues until, years later, I found myself in the grips of disordered eating. I believed, wrongly so, beauty, a/k/a being thin, would make my life perfect and fairytale “happily ever after.” Unfortunately, I discovered that wasn’t the case. In that promise’s place, instead, were harmful, miserable compulsions, thoughts, self-hated and spiritual disconnection with God. Certainly, there was no reassuring feeling I was a beautiful, valuable princess.

And it’s not entirely lost on me the profound nature of the word “princess” in the “thinspo” movement. This destructive force has taken off now, largely due to the internet. With a proliferation of websites, blogs and social network sites, devoted to the encouragement and instruction of developing and maintaining eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, “thinspo “ has seeped into our consciousness. And, of course, it targets young girls and women, promising them a perfect, controlled, beautiful life, if only they could be as thin as possible. Therefore, disturbingly, often the term “princess” is used to describe those females who victoriously keep their eating disorders going and their weight numbers down.

Since writing the book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder,” I encounter many young girls and women, at various stages in their disorders and recovery. And yes, some of them claim to be “princesses.” I often get asked if I am one as well. I tell them I’m pro-recovery, not pro-eating disorders, but I don’t know how much of that registers. They still seem to have “princess”- a thin princess, anyway- on the brain. Some things don’t change, do they? Fixating on that perfect princess, in one form or another, can follow us in life.

Princess. Yes, most little girls want to be princesses. Think about it: fairytales, dress up, costumes, wedding days. All princess stuff. We’re groomed to desire the pink girly dreams, seemingly, right from the start.

What is a princess then? Is she beautiful? Sweet? Lovable? Let’s be honest, do you and I feel like those traits every single day? Didn’t think so. And is this princess the reflection staring back at us? Most of us would probably answer “no.” Whether it’s seeking that ideal through beauty and size, even to the extremes of eating disorders or looking at a tangible female role model to embody that image, “princess” is never far from our thoughts. And still, we have difficulty accepting our inherent value in God’s eyes.

So, let’s look at the late Princess Diana. She was, after all, more than that breathtaking bride in the fairytale wedding. Years after her death, we continue to see her impact. In the 1980’s, she educated the world by touching and hugging people with HIV, something unheard of from a royal family member at the time. She sent the message that loving human touch is safe and vital to anyone who is suffering. And that included the mystifying disease of AIDS. Sounds like a princess to me.

And just before her death, she also brought attention the anti-landmine cause worldwide by walking through Angola, dressed in protective gear. Is that act becoming of a princess?

And, of course she raised two young Princes, William and Harry, both who continue her legacy of charity and service. Attributes of a princess?

Look at her life; look at who she was, apart from her title. Yes, she was beautiful, glamorous and, by royal title, indeed, a princess. But she was also a daughter, a friend, a girl, a woman, a wife, a mother.

And she was imperfect also. That imperfection surfaced as she dealt with her own eating disorder of bulimia. Yes, a princess had an eating disorder. That wasn’t in the perfect fairytale, was it? Did that reality turn us against her, make her any less appealing? No. In fact, we connected with her vulnerability and her humanity. Those of us dealing with eating disorders and recovery also empathized with her struggles. Being a princess didn’t prevent her from experiencing those painful challenges.

When she passed away in 1997, she was named “the people’s princess.” But that title had more to do with her compassion and her kindness expressed to others. It didn’t hinge on physical appearance or weight. It was about her heart.

So, are we, like her, princesses in our worlds? What does that mean to us? Is there the association of “thinspo” attached to it? Is there unrealistic beauty pressures attached to the definition? Are we only princesses, only valuable if we reach and maintain a certain criteria? What about our hearts? Where does that factor into the princess designation? Look around at your loved ones, your family and your friends. We just don’t get how much we’re loved and valued by others, do we? We just don’t get how much we’re loved and valued by God!

“Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…”

Isaiah 43:4

“The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

                                                             Jeremiah 31:3             

No matter who you are, what you’ve been or done in your life, God has a soft spot for you, in which He sees you as His Princess. He sees ALL of you, every facet; you are this wonderful jewel!

So, the challenge, I suppose, is for each of us to view ourselves as a “princess,” recognizing that the word speaks to our uniqueness, not a crown on our heads, not ever changing beauty trends, not “thinspo” pro-eating disorder mindsets.

I have a different definition of the word. Yes, then. I’m a Princess. You are too! Walk with your head held high; you are a child, a princess, of the Most High!

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse



20 Years Ago Today...

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Eating Disorders: It Takes One To Know One


Featured in August 17th’s Christians In Recovery, Cruse examines the truth of Ecclesiastes 1:9, concerning addiction, recovery and not being alone in one’s experience.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Your Neighbor's Bowl

Pins and Needles


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).”*      

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.

What was my next memory? I was on the floor, screaming, while my irritated dad used his pliers to pull out each needle and pin from my feet.

I learned, wrongly so, two main things in that incident: 1) I was “too much trouble,” destined only for pain and 2) I deserved this pain because I was a bad girl. And these theories were further confirmed by the constant abusive tension within my home. Pain and fear were two things which could not be voiced nor soothed.

“Children who have experienced complex trauma... often internalize and/or externalize stress reactions and as a result may experience significant depression, anxiety, or anger... even mildly stressful interactions with others may serve as trauma reminders and trigger intense emotional responses.  Having learned that the world is a dangerous place where even loved ones can’t be trusted to protect you, children are often vigilant and guarded in their interactions with others and are more likely to perceive situations as stressful or dangerous...”*

So, the coping mechanisms of consumer addiction, emerged in by both my mother and me. Disordered food, body and weight issues were just the tip of the unhealthy iceberg. “Consuming” represented the Savior to us: bingeing on comfort food, shopping, applying any external resource to our pain and fear.

Still, no matter how much- or what- I consumed, I believed the harmful lie: I was bad, I was wrong, I was to blame. The best I could hope for was to attempt to self-soothe and create my own version of “something to look forward to.” Addiction promised to make me feel happy, loved and safe. No one and nothing else would or could.

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

 Proverbs 14:10


How about you? What formative experience traumatized you, even to the point of pursuing an addiction as the healing balm?

Was it abuse?

Was it the loss of a loved one?

Was it divorce?

Was it poverty or homelessness?

These are just a few possible “reasons” why we drink, smoke, inject, eat, gamble, shop, overachieve and have unhealthy relationships with unsafe people. For most of us, there exists at least one critical moment which altered us. It changed our view of self, others and even The Most High.

Each of us has learned wrong spiritual things; we get it wrong. We get it wrong because we know, only too well, our own painful experiences.

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

 Proverbs 14:10

But, we also have the capacity to know something else as well. We have help.

“Elohim is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Psalms 46:1



Jeremiah is often referred to as “the weeping prophet;” he is well-acquainted with humanity’s tendencies toward destructive choices.

But, even in that bleak realization, Jeremiah still asserts the presence of hope, even in the hopelessness...

“For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”
Jeremiah 31:25

There exists a familiar statement about adversity: “The only way out is through.”

That means we have to acknowledge and experience the scary thing we fear most.

We have to “go there.”

None of it is easy; none of it is fun. It’s much more appealing to just turn to our elixir. Let the drugs, alcohol, food, behavior or relationship erase the pain and ugliness instead of dealing with our most personal damage.

The trauma, perhaps, happened in a second, a one-time event. Or maybe it’s been a reoccurring, deeply enmeshed pattern still active in our lives now. Regardless, there is no shame in admitting we are affected. It doesn’t make us spiritually defective, morally bankrupt or “bad people.” It makes us vulnerable human beings.

And vulnerable is not necessarily the same thing as “sinful.” Vulnerable is about being fragile dust in the sandstorm called life. And our Creator is not caught off guard by that reality.

“For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.”

Psalms 103:14

What wounded you? What paralyzed you? What changed you?

Whatever the alteration has been, you and I are loved, accepted and deemed valuable by The Most High.

And whatever we have for experiences, He is not intimidated by any of it.

“Behold, I am... Is there anything too hard for Me?”

Jeremiah 32:27

No exceptions whatsoever.

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse



Blame or Stewardship?


“Blame holds us back. Responsibility moves us forward. Constant self-blame is just as irresponsible as insisting that others are always to blame.”

Thom Rutledge

For those of us struggling with addiction and disorder, it is not too long before we encounter blame. It is an insidious creature; it is virtually impossible to escape.

Since our addictive natures are usually heavily intertwined with other complicated life issues, like abuse and trauma, blame often surfaces as a coping device, used to enable us to simply function in our lives. Survival is as far as we can go; healthy flourishing appears to be an out of reach luxury.  

Rutledge’s quote is a “no brainer,” at least, to our logical minds. It’s that emotional world, however, which trips us up and prevents us from facing, addressing and handling blame within our addictive reality, in a healthy manner.

I know this is a large chunk of the recovery work I, myself, do. And honestly, the jury’s still out on how well I am doing with it all. Objectivity is quite difficult to achieve.

But, a key factor which helps in my recovery process is that of Stewardship.

“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.”

I believe we cannot even hope to attain any rung on the recovery ladder if we don’t, at least, acknowledge that blame is in the room, no matter how subtle or obvious it may be.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

No one is unscathed by it. It’s been there from the start. Check out the Creation Story in Genesis just to see its origins for humanity.

And, before we get too caught up in despair and discouraging feelings about blame, telling ourselves, “it’s too difficult; it cannot be done,” the challenge invites us to keep an open mind about the stewardship principle, what it is... and is not.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Stewardship is defined as...

“the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care”

Again, before we get too overwhelmed, we need to recognize the absence of one particular word in that definition: perfection.

And that has been a guiding and healing recovery revelation for me: stewardship is not perfection.

That’s an important thing to remember in this addiction/recovery reality. In our human, imperfect experience, there is no such thing as perfectly healed.

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

 Proverbs 14:10

Another recovery adage I have come across as I bump along in life is this: “Hurt people hurt people.” And, of course, the emphasis here, in any recovery domain, is the necessity of forgiveness. It’s the other side of the blame coin.

We’re told over and over we cannot move forward or begin to heal if we refuse to forgive. And that includes the forgiving ourselves.

And so, the statement, “Hurt people hurt people” becomes the self-inflicted wound all too easily.

I know I may be taken to task here for being too self-indulgent when I say, for that reason alone, our choice to value better stewardship of the blame issue is to our individual advantage.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”


We need to get downright mercenary with our stance on it. We need to take that approach because it is, indeed, the most personal.

Everyone else aside, recovery and blame issues ultimately reside solely within each of us. And, no matter how we may try, we still cannot escape ourselves.

And, one more thing concerning stewardship as a treatment to the addiction/blame factor: it is the opportunity for us to use our gifts.

I direct you to the passage of Matthew 25:20-21...

 “And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”

I know it may be an extreme stretch here, but if we view our addiction struggles through the filter of being gifted with talents, the stewardship principle takes on an even more personal and meaningful tone. Our recovery is, in fact, the significant soul work we need to do to better ourselves- and others.

Maybe we can even see the resemblance to our Savior’s Gethsemane moment. No, we wouldn’t choose this pain for ourselves; likewise, our Savior, Himself, even tried to bargain against HIS purpose.

“Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’”

Mark 14:36

Nevertheless, we have the lives and the struggles we have. So, the question remains: what are we going to do about that?

The Most High never placed any limits on the promise of 2 Corinthians 3:18:

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

A transformation process is in effect.

We are different today than we were yesterday.

And tomorrow, we be different than today.

Blame- of anyone, including ourselves, curtails the full potential of our glory transformation process. Blame does not benefit us. Yes, pain happened to us; injustice happened to us. And it terrible and agonizing. But it is not unique.

“…time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Ecclesiastes 9:1

So, if we can challenge our thinking about the blame issue, taking on stewardship concerning even it, perhaps, we can view it as part of the deeper spiritual work which has been entrusted to us.

That’s right, I said entrusted.

Addiction- pain- blame- the stewardship principle itself- ALL entrusted to you and I right now.

What are we going to do with that?

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse


Pay Attention

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Misogynic Response to “NO”


Featured in the August 2017 issue of Recovery Illustrated Magazine, Cruse explores how misogyny and abusive attitudes negatively impact a female’s recovery experience.