I Can’t Hear You

addictOver the last few weeks I’ve been doing some talks and seminars, many on eating disorders.  As well as talking with sufferers, I’ve had the privilege of speaking to their loved ones. Partners, siblings, friends and parents: many of whom are desperate to help, but just don’t know how. And the hardest thing is, there are no easy answers.

At the height of my eating disorder, I loved my parents, my husband, my friends and my church.  Yet beside anorexia, they meant nothing.  When you’re addicted, nothing matters but you and your fix.  You’ll claw and  lie and steal to get it – because that’s your life and there is nothing else.  The reality is very different, but inside my head, this is all I need.  It calms me down and it lifts me up. It numbs the bad stuff and it makes me feel something.  It makes me feel powerful, beautiful and in control.  It’s my medicine and it’s my poison too.

People ask me, ‘what did it feel like to be in the grip of an eating disorder?’ It’s hard to explain.

– like your brain is melting and can only hold one thing. Like you’re tired but just can’t stop.  Like your old life is a dream and other people aren’t real: they’re gesturing to you, but you don’t care because you’ve stumbled upon a kind of sorcery.  Like you’re higher and freer and lighter than the rest and you’ve got the secret of the universe – but others want to take it from you.  Nothing matters but keeping hold of this power. And so you strain with all that is in you to bend their will to your own.

If you’re caring for someone with an addiction, it’s very difficult to resist this ‘pull’.  What I mean is the draw they exert to make you agree with their version of life – and to help them get what they feel they need. With the best will in the world, it’s very very difficult not to be sucked into the addict’s world.  Madness becomes normal – and in trying to support the person, you can end up supporting the disorder too. Glen talks about seeing me at my worst, like someone hunched over herself in a dark corner.  His instinct was to join me in the dark and hug me from behind. But what I really needed was for him to turn me round to face him.  And to lead me into the light.

This is a powerful image.  But in practice, it’s very difficult to do. If you threaten my addiction, you threaten my life.  And instead of you killing me, I’ll try and kill you – with my words, my anger, my tears, my promises, my lies and my threats. If someone is addicted and doesn’t want to get help, you can’t save them.  But you can pray for them.  You can stay strong yourself by getting support from others. And you can let them know that you’re there if and when they change their mind.

It sounds like hopeless advice to carers to say ‘Only Jesus can step in. ‘ But  ‘Only Jesus’ is the heart of our faith! Jesus is One who has descended into the pit to be with us. Others can’t fulfill that role but Jesus really is enough and both the sufferer and the carer need to see that. The sufferer’s trust in Jesus means not saving themselves (through their disorder). The carer’s trust in Jesus means not being the saviour. But the fact remains, there is a Saviour. And He can work in the darkest places.



13 thoughts on “I Can’t Hear You

  1. I wish i could feel Him stepping in. Well i guess he has in a kinda way, but in a way that has messed my head up and left me feeling alone and frightened. And that old lament of ‘why me?’
    I just got diagnosed with type two diabeties.
    This means more medication than ever.
    It means i ‘have’ to eat three meals a day, and meals that have to fit in the ‘food that is ok for a diabetic’
    It means my head is screaming at me cos i’m making myself eat, cos thats not what my head wants.
    It means that every time i want something, I have to stand and decide if its gonna be worth it to my health.
    It means I have to give the person I hate most in the world good things and food and everything.
    It means everything has flipped and its not fair.

    Sorry, not a helpful reply i guess.

  2. Destruction is a terrible thing, and it is always what happens when we refuse to turn to God. Self annihilation, the tearing out of the hearts of those who love us, the grieving of God Himself.

    I unfortunately also know this all too well. Up until recently I have been soothing the pain of being alive in a fallen world by addiction. The self soothing was never enough, never satisfying, and I was killing my wife. As for myself I got progressively deeper and darker and felt estranged from God. God was not listening to my prayers I was sure, and I was left with hopelessness and a desire to no longer exist. Unfortunately this despair led to further soothing. It would have ultimately ended with death.

    If my wife had not been Jesus to me and “pointed me to the light” through her pain (bless her, I have been too selfish to love her well) I would likely have continued my plummet into annihilation.

    It isn’t fair what we addicts do to our loved ones. When we stop acting in our chosen drug, we often pick up a new one to sooth us. Until we believe that through Jesus we are enough, we will turn to ANYTHING to mask the pain. Jesus really is the only answer.

  3. thank you emma…
    thanks for sharing from Glen’s perspective as a “carer” as well.. i think we all have the propensity to try to “identify” and instead of leading to the light…. and its hard for someone who hates conflict.

    so thank you for reminding me :)

  4. ‘Kerrycakes’,I’m especially struck. Have you thought about how you’re so shattered fighting against having to feed, do ‘good things’ for the person you ‘hate the most’? It took me ages to realise that actually, nobody and no thing else in the whole of existence before me and after I leave this world benefits from that hate. God says we are ALREADY chosen, named, ‘accepted in the Beloved’. Who is telling you to love or hate? What might it feel like to try swapping roles for a day to experiment with a new competitiveness? I fight to love Jesus. I only do it because he says I’m loved by him so that pressure is off me. Thank God, literally. I don’t know how I’d learn to cherish all the flaws, struggles, scars, hypocrisies, vanities and uglinesses that I think I see when I think of ‘me’. Learning to risk loving myself as ‘Him’ is a different vigilance. I’m wick at punishing apparently because the eating disorder is never satisfied. So what? I abandon pleasing that force – there’s no payback. I choose to steward and care for me as God’s body and heart and soul. Now, I live, I learn to love, I fight to keep and share and depend ONLY on that love. No fear compares to the fear of missing out on such a risky and rewarding beauty. It’s not easy. BUT is what you do now, easier? xx

  5. It is easier, in my head. My head tells me that I’m not good enough, not good enough even for jesus, and definatly not good enough to deserve looking after. I’ve hated myself for a very long time, and do not see a way that I can ever like myself, my hate and detest is so great. I don’t want to feed myself, I don’t want to give myself good food. And that does make it harder to do what I am now required to do, which is too feed myself properly. I am doing it. I am trying as hard as i can. Its been nearly four weeks since I was diagnosed, and the majority of the time I have done three meals a day, taken the medication along with what I have before. But my head screams against it, and maybe I am childish, but I do have moments when I cry to God, WHY? why me? have you not given me enough to bear that now you gave me this? Its been a bombshell, and while I know I will get through this, and that the Lord will give me strength and Jesus will carry me, but I had always thought i would ‘mend’ this part of myself in my own time, when there are less things I need to fix, when my mental health was much better and more controlled. But I guess the Lord wanted it now, when my burden already feels so big. I will get there, but i think there will be a lot of lamenting in the meanwhile.

  6. Emma, thank you for this. It is really helpful, especially the last paragraph. I am definitely struggling just now with wanting to be able to fix everything for my friend and that’s exactly what I need to remember- only Jesus!

  7. Kcakes
    Why now? Because His ways are not our ways. His timing is not like ours. He has something for you, and He is getting you ready.
    Surrender is the only thing we can “do”. He already did everything else. Sometimes this makes us really mad because we wanted to “do” it, whatever it is.
    When God gets tough it’s usually because something really good is coming around the bend and He needs to get ourselves out of the way.
    I hope this doesn’t sound harsh, I’m talking to me too.

  8. It doesnt sound harsh Caroline. I guess as with any addiction, being told that you have to let go of an eating disorder, like any addiction, leads us to want to hold onto it much harder. I guess I have to teach myself to ‘let go’, hoping as you said, God has something in his plan for me. As much as I would have likes to do this in my own time, maybe for me left to myself there would have never been a ‘optimum time’ but I’d rather had not had such a bombshell right now, when my life is already turbulent! But then maybe a bombshell is what was needed, i dont know. but, I am fighting, i am not perfect, but the last near 4 weeks i have managed 3 meals near every day. so I am fighting. its just very very hard. But I am very sure the strength for the fight is not my strength, but strength from God. Cos my strenth is puny and I would not have made such progress on my own.

  9. Kerrycakes
    4 weeks of eating healthy against your own desires? Praise God! Habitual sin (any addiction) is very strong, but not stronger than our Lord who conquered all sin at the cross.
    It is very painful to give up that which we have believed gives us life. In fact, I can think of nothing more painful, (and I’ve given birth seven times!) But, just like a birth, the pain, is actually doing really good, hard work, and you’ll never get the baby without the pain. Just like a birth, coming out of an addiction is a gradual process and a bit different for each person. Just like a birth, we gather strength from those who have gone before us, knowing we too can do what needs to be done when our time comes.
    Jesus is our midwife, familiar with suffering and pain, he leads us gently, does not leave our side, and even lets us see our great progress from time to time.
    I don’t know if this helps at all! I am so thrilled you are doing this hard hard work today. It encourages me in my own recovery. love and prayers!

  10. Thankyou, yor words give me hope, and the knowledge that I’m not alone in this, fills me with gratitude. I agree, this is harder than giving birth, and It does feel like a new birth in lots of ways. I know I have to do this, and I know that I can’t do it without Jesus. Prayers are appreciated, :)

  11. Chris and kerrycakes thank you for being transparent and sharing yours hearts. Our 16 year old daughter has been battling this for two years. We have grown alot through this, knowing that Jesus is in control and our daughters submission and reliance on Him is between her and Him. We continue to pray and encourage her to look to Him as her everything.

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