When I was in my late teens, in a rare moment of vulnerability, I confided in an older Christian woman about my struggle with an eating disorder. My healthy, athletic body had turned rail-thin. Exhaustion and aching, atrophying muscles took over. Baggy clothes no longer hid my private efforts of controlling food, and I could feel everyone’s eyes scanning me top to bottom, measuring how sick I was. I hated feeling exposed like that. I was out of control and my life was in danger.
But I had no clue how to stop my addiction. Good Lord….He knows I tried.
Having been an extremely private person, my confession was no small feat. I was embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted with myself for not being able to be “normal.” Just eat. And don’t throw up. How hard can that be, right? You might as well have told me to live under water. It was that impossible to do.
So there I stood with my jugular exposed to this woman, admitting my secrets in a Hail Mary attempt to get help. Addiction had whittled my worth down to nothing. My self-loathing held the knife to my neck, getting a head start on the slicing.
Unfortunately, death spoke to me that day. I squirm with knots in my stomach every time I remember her words.
“It’s a sin,” She said in a flat, as-a-matter-of-biblical-fact tone. “You’re living in sin.”
I stared blankly. It’s a sin. That’s it? That’s all you can say? That’s your summary of me alternating between starving myself and throwing up every bite of food? That’s all you have to say about me standing here in front of you exposed with the burden so heavy I can’t bear it any longer? Jesus, I’m barely over 95 pounds and I can’t stop this freight train. Really? It’s a sin. Just cold, hard sin? If God had appeared in the flesh and slapped me across the face, it wouldn’t have wounded me more. That woman unknowingly buried me that day. She closed tomb of secrecy on me, leaving shame to devour me in my private hell. I felt nothing but pure humiliation and completely severed from God.
It would be another ten years before I’d trust another soul with my battle; and another fifteen years of addiction, losing a tiny bit of myself each day, before I received the healing that saved me.
Because most addicts suffer from depression and severe anxiety, confession is painful and scary. We expect rejection. We know judgment is coming. Yet the most tender, wounded parts of our hearts yearn for understanding and a soft place to fall. So when our vulnerability falls on the hard stone of someone’s icy judgment, it can feel like a death. The death of the hope of getting well.
Through my botched confession (and the subsequent ones that ushered healing), I learned there is no short cut around vulnerability; it is paramount in an addict’s life. No matter the addiction (food, porn, work, alcohol, sex, drugs, fill-in-the-blank); if people want to get well, they must share their most vulnerable moment of truth. It is sacred. It is holy. And if we’re privileged to sit across from someone who’s confessing the darkness, we need to handle that precious, brave soul with the utmost care, respect, and love.
Because Love is what heals, not judgment.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Proverbs 18:21
Lori Lara is a writer, blogger, trauma survivor, and black belt martial artist. She’s passionate about sharing the hope and healing of Jesus through her raw journey as a mom and wife recovering from PTSD, depression, and addiction. Lori is a contributing author for Hope in the Mourning (Zondervan 2013) and The Multitasking Mom’s Survival Guide (Chicken Soup for the Soul 2014). She’s a guest writer for MOPS International and numerous recovery blogs and websites. Lori lives in Northern California with her husband Robert and two sons. You can find her blog at www.lorilara.com. Email: Lori@lorilaraphotography.com.