“This place would have been a mess for me when I was in college,” I told my son and his dad after eating in his college cafeteria.
It’s one of these free range cafeterias most universities have now. Every food imaginable is available. You can eat anything you want, as much as you want.
A problem for a binge eater, bulimic, or food addict.
That’s me no longer. I overcame bulimia years ago, but going into an environment like that is similar to a recovered alcoholic being at a party with an open bar. The sights, the sounds, the environment all bring you back to a place in time when you were different. With one exception.
It’s still part of you.
Familiar sights, sounds, and opportunities bring back feelings from that time in my life–the shame and emotional bondage I lived with for years during adolescence and young adulthood.
That simple statement was a gift I gave my husband and son, of which they may never know.
I don’t talk about my eating disorder history much. It’s part of my past. But it stays with me. It’s one of the reasons I don’t keep our pantry stocked with lots of sweets or baked goods, why I often drive when I’m angry or hurt, or why I sometimes go to bed early rather than eat out of boredom.
Living in freedom from any addictive behavior isn’t a quick fix. There’s not switch you just flip which says, I’m healed! Changing behavior and dealing with emotions or problems is hard work.
It’s lifetime work.
Food addiction is, perhaps, the most common addiction among Americans. Obesity is at an all time high in the United States. Some wear it on their bodies, some hide it through starvation, purging, or excessive exercise.
Yet food is the center of most cultures. The signature foods of the Amish-Mennonite culture where I live are some of the best comfort foods around. We market is and obsess over it.
For many, it’s serious stuff. If this is true for you, you’re not alone.
The cafeteria experience reminded me how hard I’ve fought to live physically and emotionally healthy in an over-indulgent world where everyone looks perfect and hides their mess.
I hid my mess for years. It’s exhausting. For me it was food, for you it might be something else. Abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, self-harm, an abortion, out of control emotions, anger, pornography or sexual addiction. Overcoming these behaviors or experiences is a choice. Living without shame is also a choice.
If you’re an overcomer who chooses a whole, healthy life, you are a gift.
You’re a gift to yourself because you choose not to be defined by your past.
You’re a gift to your family because you choose to be healthy.
You’re a gift to others because you see things differently. You understand brokenness.
It’s easier to stay broken, to choose quick fixes, and to justify unhealthy emotions or behavior because of your wounds.
It’s the challenge of a lifetime to invest in a whole, healthy life. If you’re an overcomer, you can be proud.
Worldly success is defined in outward accomplishments.
But overcoming brokenness, addiction, trauma or shame will reap heaven’s rewards, which are greater man’s.