In 2013, I attended Shades of Hope, an addiction recovery center specializing in eating disorders. There were bulimics, alcoholics, anorexics, and then there was me. How did I end up here? The answer might surprise you: control.
A few years earlier, I was in Las Vegas speaking at the Lifestyle Intervention Conference. Tennie McCarty, the founder of Shades of Hope, was speaking. I was eager to hear her, as she had reached out to me about endorsing her book. I was interested in finding more out about this lady. I sat near the back row and opened my ears. What I found was that she spoke my language! Her methods of treating addiction were much like our methods in The Journey Training – she allows you to “experience” the words she is saying.
About two-thirds through her speech, she said it: “There is only one difference between an anorexic and a compulsive overeater, but other than that they share exactly the same traits. Control: one controls by restricting food and the other controls emotions by numbing with food. But it’s all about control.” This hit me like a ton of bricks as my mind wandered back 35 years when I was 16 and fed-up with my fat. I decided to eat nothing but salads and drink diet pop. In turn I became anorexic and lost 70 pounds that summer. I remembered my father saying, “You’re anorexic! Stop losing weight!” I had forgotten until that moment.
I had also forgotten about being 150 pounds at 5’11” tall and my large build, looking in the mirror and thinking, “Just a little more.” I still thought I was fat, and I was going to control this thing until I was satisfied. Looking back over my life, there’s only been a few times I’ve been satisfied with my weight, and it only lasted a few weeks. I’d soon return to my dismay, making my plans of how I’d control it.
Addicts are control freaks
Yup, you heard me right! One of the first things Tennie said was, “Your addiction is about control. We are control freaks, and it might seem strange, but you’ve got to give up control to gain recovery.”
I didn’t get it at the time, and the reason I am writing this is I had a revelation of what she was saying. Life is giving; it will give you freedom and time to figure it out. When you “fail” a life test, God always will allow you to return and re-take the test, giving you the opportunity to learn a lesson you need to learn. You might think how could a loving God let you go through pain and risk instead of giving you specific direction to change your life? The revelation I had is it’s all about control – my control – that I have to be willing to surrender in order to gain the freedom God wants for me.
When I was young, my parents often gave me advice and instruction. I often thought they were just trying to control me. This is why I can now sympathize with my kids David and Mary Claire when they say, “I know, I know! You don’t have to tell me!” Inevitably, they will test my theory and learn a lesson. I hope that someday they’ll understand that anything I tell them is intended for their good, and not about my control over their lives.
Unfortunately, that lesson they learn often comes with a little pain. That’s the “experience” I was talking about in the beginning of this blog. You can be told the stove is hot, but until you experience it you don’t truly believe it. I can describe feeling a cool breeze on your face on a hot day, but until you feel it yourself it’s only words – knowledge in your head. But once you feel it, it makes the journey from your head to your heart and becomes a belief. Someday my kids will believe that I have their best interests at heart. It just may take a while.
Prayer and control
That’s the revelation I had: that my prayers are actually my willingness to let go of control for my life, and asking God for His plans! It’s a belief that God has my best interests at heart. If I listen for His plans and am willing to forego my own, I’ll be a whole lot better off. For years I’ve been the “prodigal son”, not quite believing Him – trying to control my own life and addiction.
“It’s just a choice” is what I often hear from people, and I respond with, “No, it’s an addiction – a disease.” Well, they were right in one sense: that giving up control is a choice. It’s the first steps in the 12-step program! I can’t, God can, ask God. That’s prayer. Asking God to reveal your next step, and being willing to release control to Him (Proverbs 16:9). All these years with God, I’ve been my kids – “I know, I know! You don’t have to tell me!” Well, things are about to change!
The first 3 steps of AA:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or food, drugs, sex, etc.)—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.