I used to be a food addict. I love saying that sentence, so please indulge me as I say it again. I used to be a food addict…until Jesus set me free in March 2012.
My journey to freedom has taken many years and in that time I’ve learned many things. One that stands out to me is that in order to appreciate freedom fully, you first have to understand the preceding captivity. In my experience, the greater the darkness the brighter the light seems when it comes.
Part of my personal darkness was that I didn’t know how to deal with difficult emotions. I would do anything rather than feel them. I ate them away, piling on huge amounts of weight. Once I started eating I could not stop. Food was an anaesthetic and its anaesthetising powers had me imprisoned. It is near impossible to describe to someone who has never had an addiction what it actually feels like to be in the grip of one. The poem below is my attempt to put into words how I felt as I struggled with something that was beyond my control.
Unbidden thoughts arise, so sorrowful and sad.
Volcanoes of pain that threaten to erupt.
Searing red-hot lava expands within my chest.
The god of addiction requires his sacrifice.
From somewhere deep within, he cries ‘appease me now’.
‘Appease me now or this pain I’ll surely spew’
This pain, I don’t doubt, will rip me quite apart
So I do what I must do this idol to placate.
At the start of my journey I didn’t realise how dark my darkness was. I thought I could overcome my problem with a little will power. But that was the problem. I thought I could overcome it. But I couldn’t. Eventually I realised I was fighting a losing battle. And that is when I realised just how dark my darkness was. I thought I was worthless and no good. I even made a list of all the things about me that I thought were not good enough for God. I gave God this list, expecting Him to agree with me. But all He did was tell me how much He loved me despite every last thing on my list. I wept that day. I was overwhelmed by His grace and compassion.
I started to seek freedom, hoping rather than knowing it was possible. I tried and failed to rid myself of the unhelpful addiction to food by pushing countless doors. Some opened and helped me take a small step forwards but many didn’t open at all. However, I didn’t give up my search. Jesus said, “Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7) so I kept seeking.
“Keep on keeping on” I told myself as I pushed yet another door.
In 2005, God in His mercy caused one of those wonderful God-incidences to occur. I discovered New ID (www.newid.org ), which is a 6 week Christian eating disorders course. It gave me the message that I was not alone and that freedom was definitely possible. I thank God for this course because He used it greatly in my life. However, it was another seven years before I would find freedom.
Ultimately, it was finding deeper intimacy with God that finally set me free. For years, I was seeking healing from my compulsive overeating. But I wasn’t seeking God Himself. I was seeking healing not seeking the healer. In 2009 I lost my faith for a year when I struggled with the devastation of broken dreams. I stopped believing in God but in an unexpected way it was this that set me on the final part of my journey to freedom. You see, I suddenly realised I missed God. I missed Him so much it hurt. And that made me start to seek Him, really seek Him for His own sake. And there is no prayer God is quicker to answer. Just like the father in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 at the first glimpse of our turning towards Him He is running with all His might to meet us and hold us in His loving divine embrace.
After coming back to faith in January 2011, I was finally seeking God for who He is not for what He could give me. I longed to know His love. I longed to find more intimacy with Him as Father. I devoured books about the Fatherhood of God. I listened time and again to Christian meditation CD’s that drew me into God’s presence (my favourite is Liz Babbs, A Quiet Place).
One day in March 2012, while sitting in Church, I knew I finally trusted Father God enough to let Him remove my food addiction for good. A wise Christian friend, Wendy, listened to me as I prayed, asking God to take it away. She then prayed for me too. I haven’t binged since then. Not once. The temptation to stuff myself with food still came knocking at the door of my mind occasionally. But when it did I found that if I went to the fridge I didn’t want to eat. It is a miracle!
Over the last year I’ve lost 2 ½ stone in weight without trying, and the weight is still coming off, very slowly but I am losing it. There have been hard lessons to learn as well. I’ve learned to sit with the difficult emotions and feel them rather than eat them away. This first year has been very challenging while I have learned this new skill, but it’s been so wonderful too.
I’ve been a Christian for over thirty years and it is only in the last year that I’ve found freedom from my addiction. It’s been a long painful journey. It has taken patience, dedication and a great deal of hard work but it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life so far. The thing that has been so challenging is learning to trust Father God with the very deepest part of me, learning to live in intimacy with Father. Once I did that, He took the addiction from me, because I trusted Him enough to let Him do so. I don’t know what Father has in store for me but one thing I do know. Freedom tastes so very good!
Lynda Alsford is a Church Army Evangelist and lives in Sussex very near the sea which she loves. She enjoys various creative crafts and loves reading. She went through a major crisis of faith in 2009-2010 when despite being a trained evangelist she stopped believing in God. Her first book, ‘He Never Let Go’, describes how she evangelised herself back to faith once more. She is currently working on her second book, ‘Being Known’, which portrays her struggles with, and eventual freedom from, food addiction through finding deeper intimacy with Father God. Find out more about her and her books at her website and blog.