Posts Tagged ‘addictions’

I am working through a Bible study right now written by Beth Moore called Breaking Free. I tried to do this study back in 2004 when I was in therapy and working through flashbacks. I dropped out after the fourth week – it was just too intense for me at the time in my life.

Now, I am doing this study again (the updated version), and it has me hopeful that I can “break free” from more of my issues and break more chains left by my abusers, such as my eating disorder, weight battles, insomnia, etc.

The Session Four video was particularly powerful. I watched it right before I went to sleep, and I dreamed about it all night long. The video talked about the dangers of “making peace with our bondage.” Some examples Beth Moore used were an aversion to sex, being overweight, and eating disorders. Ouch! She pointed out that one lie that so many of us buy into is that nobody has been able to beat this, so why should I believe that I will be delivered?

I must say that I do struggle with this mentality, as I believe that most people do. For example, remember when people believed that it was not possible to run a mile in under four minutes? That is, until somebody did it, and then lots of other people did it, too. The main barrier was the widespread belief that doing it was impossible. A part of myself believes that it is not possible for me to overcome my aversion to sex, beat my eating disorder, overcome my anxiety, etc. However, I know that some of you have overcome these obstacles, which tells me that it is, in fact, possible.

Beth Moore covered another topic that really spoke to me. She said that, to reach our milestones, we must first make it through our “moments.” It is my “moments” that continue to sabotage my progress. I will have soy milk and orange juice for breakfast and a Lean Cuisine for lunch. I will work in one or two light healthy snacks. I make to 5:00 p.m. feeling very good about myself and my body. Then, I have my “moment” where my ADHD son is driving me crazy, my husband is cranky, etc., and I turn to food, wine, or Xanax to get me through that “moment.” Most of my day is fine – it is those “moments” that undermine me every time.

I am going to keep working through the Bible study and see if I can finally find freedom from the “bondage” of an eating disorder, etc. I am sooo sick and tired of being enslaved to it.

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On my blog entry entitled Masturbation as a Form of Self-Injury after Sexual Child Abuse, a reader asked the following question:

Faith, thank you so much for this blog. It is so nice to hear that I am not the only one who does this. That in itself brings a huge weight off my shoulders. My biggest question is though, how do I go about stopping an…for lack of a better word…addiction that has been going on for years? ~ Gia

Although some people might fear that self-injury through masturbation is a more extreme form of an addiction/compulsion, it really is just an addiction or compulsion just like any other. Whether you struggle with an eating disorder, self-injury, or an addiction to porn, drugs, or alcohol, your addiction or compulsion is being fueled by your avoidance of facing your painful emotions.

The first step in stopping an addiction or compulsion is understanding what emotional need it is meeting. The bottom line is that all addictions and compulsions work for you on some level. My most troublesome addiction/compulsion is my battle with binge eating. As much as I complain about battling my weight and my lack of control at times with food, binge eating has always worked for me. When I was in a lot of pain as an abused child, food offered me comfort. As I “stuffed down” food, I was really “stuffing down” all of the emotions that I was not yet ready to face.

Once you understand why you are drawn to this particular addiction or compulsion, the second step is to find other ways to meet the same need. For me, learning that it is okay to feel the emotions has been instrumental in weaning off the binge eating. Now, when I get angry, I yell or punch pillows instead of eat. If I feel sad, I cry instead of eat. Since I am no longer trying to “stuff down” my emotions, the pull to binge eat is much less strong.

Third, you need to develop alternative coping strategies. For example, if I drink a glass of wine (I have no alcoholic tendencies) or take a Xanax, I am much less likely to binge eat. Both substances give me the same relief without the calories. Other more positive strategies for me include doing a Sudoku puzzle, talking with a friend, or exercising.

Fourth, build up your confidence in the alternative strategies. I give myself a 15-minute “cooling off” period. I tell myself to try other options for 15 minutes. If, after 15 minutes, I still feel the need to binge eat, I give myself permission to binge with no guilt. Then, I start fresh the next day. I have found that, most of the time, my other strategies will meet my emotional needs, and I don’t need to binge eat after all.

Finally, if you do succumb to the addiction/compulsion, let go of the guilt. You are not going to be free of a lifelong addiction or compulsion overnight, and you will always be vulnerable to it. Recognize that it is okay to lean on your addiction or compulsion from time to time, but keep trying to find other ways to meet your needs.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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(c) Lynda Bernhardt

I am fortunate in never having an issue with substance abuse after child abuse. I have struggled mightily with an eating disorder and wrestled with self-injury. I also battled suicidal urges off and on throughout my teen years. However, for whatever reason, I never turned to substance abuse to self-medicate my pain from child abuse.

I do believe that I would have been vulnerable to substance abuse if I had not been careful to guard myself against this. I still remember how fantastic I felt the first several times that I drank in college. Wow, did it feel good to finally let go of all of my anxiety and my need to be in control. When I drank, I could release all of that tension, and it felt wonderful.

However, I knew that I could not drink unless I was around people I trusted. I did not want anyone raping me while I was drunk. Also, I could sense my vulnerability to becoming dependent upon alcohol and chose to be careful. I refused to let any substance enslave me.

Over on isurvive, my favorite message board for adult survivors of child abuse, there is a forum called Dependence & Compulsion. I used to visit that forum to talk about my issues with an eating disorder and self-injury. At first, I did not even read anything written by people who struggled with substance abuse. I feared that I would have nothing to say because I had not wrestled with that particular issue. However, I soon learned why this site has one forum for all of these issues – they have much more in common than many people realize.

No, I have never been an alcoholic, but I “get” why alcoholics feel the need to drink. It is the same reason that I feel the need to binge eat. While the crutch we lean upon is different, the underlying pain is the same.

This opened up a whole new world for me. I could finally understand why a person would have trouble breaking an addiction to alcohol or drugs, not because I had been there with alcohol or drugs but because I had lived this with food. Of course, the one big difference is that there is no physical withdrawal from food versus a very difficult physical withdrawal from many substances. But the flip side of the coin is that a person can go through life without ever having a substance again. That is not possible with food.

The more that child abuse survivors can appreciate the struggles that they have in common, the better able they will be to help one another along their road to healing. Empathy removes judgment and replaces it with compassion.

Related topic:

Aftereffects of Childhood Abuse: Substance Abuse

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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