I recently read the testimony of a man who was talking about his struggle with addiction. He said he began his recovery the day he chose to show up differently in the world. The words, “I chose to show up differently” deeply resonated with me when I first heard them. That was because God had used several events to awaken deeply buried pain caused by unresolved traumas I had experienced earlier in life.
For years I had masked pain from the traumas in different ways. I masked it with an eating disorder that led me to sway between severe anorexia to compulsive eating. I masked the shame I experienced over the traumas with a hyper-critical spirit that served o focus others’ eyes away from the messiness of my life and soul that could have potentially bubbled over at any given moment. Third. I masked the fear of being hurt again with self-protective behaviors like defensiveness, obsessing over real or imagined offenses, shutting down, or completely withdrawing.
During an anorexic phase of my disorder, I went to get a haircut and when the stylist finished washing my hair, my neck muscles were so weak I couldn’t lift my head without using my hands. The weakness jolted me into seeing my health was in jeapordy. As I struggled, I also realized I was tired of living a life centered around diets, exercise, and self-contempt. Friends and my church community didn’t know how to help, so I made the brave decision in the face of the fear I was experiencing to seek Christian counseling when it wasn’t a widely accepted thing to do. Essentially, I was choosing to start showing up differently in my world.
I entered counseling, thinking there would be a quick fix. Maybe it would be the sharing of the trauma that would set me free from the pain it caused. Maybe it would be the confession of the severe self-contempt with which I was struggling that would set me free. Maybe it would the acknowledgement of just how out of control my disorder was as I was seeking control over my life, my emotions, and my body. Maybe it would be the tears I eventually shed as I grieved the losses caused by the trauma and the poor decisions that I had made in response to it.
Looking back, I now realize I was looking for a magical decision like the decision to show up differently to be the “cure all.” The “cure all” would be whatever would helped me become like a person who had never been traumatized and who had never developed an eating disorder. Over the course of my healing journey, I grew to accept and then grew to embrace the truth that my recovery wasn’t about a one-time decision to just show up differently in my world. I would have to make the same decisions over and over on a daily, hourly, and sometimes moment by moment basis. I will share a few of the decisions I have made.
I chose to show up differently when I chose to talk honestly with my therapist about the different traumas I had experienced as a child, as a teen, and as an adult, facing and accepting the real story I had been living.
I chose to show up differently every week when I was willing to grieve the life that I had been wishing I had had instead of the one from which I was recovering.
I chose to show up differently when I decided to face the truth of how serious the disorder was and agreed to work with a doctor and a dietician to get my health back.
I chose to show up differently when I agreed to experience and sit in the pain that I had buried instead of numbing it with eating disordered behaviors.
I chose to show up differently every week when I participated in groups with others who had experienced similar traumas and eating disorders instead of isolating.
I chose to show up differently when I revealed to my therapist the depth of the self-contempt I was experiencing and began to choose daily to believe I truly am who God says I am.
I chose to show up differently when I began to use my voice in relationships by asking directly for what I needed, desired, or preferred and allowing others the freedom to honor the requests or not.
I chose to show up differently when I quit trying to control everything and everyone around me through co-dependent tendencies that I used to calm anxiety.
I chose to show up differently when I began to explore and embrace emotions God created me to feel and to manage them by identifying and changing cognitive distortions.
I chose to show up differently when I had a dream in which every woman that I passed had no mouth and dead eyes and woke up begging God to give women their voices and wrote books to help others.
I chose to show up differently when I began to ask the Lord in faith, to show me where He was in all that I had experienced and began to see how truly beautiful and good God was and is in the midst of the ugly horrific things experienced.
I chose to show up differently when I began to rest in God’s love instead of trying to earn the love that He had already sacrificially given to me.
I chose to show up differently when I realized I had been trying to elicit love from other broken people who didn’t know how to love well and began to focus more on how I can love well by letting Jesus’s love flow through me.
I chose to show up differently when I acknowledged the hard all around us every day and chose to believe our God is bigger than the biggest mountain put in front of me, His love stronger than the vilest hate swirling around us, and His spilt blood is deeper than the sin I commit.
To be honest, this list is not exhaustive and is comprised of things that I have to choose repeatedly day after day, moment after moment so that I can show up differently, hoping to reflect the heart and the character of my God rather than a wounded broken human. I remember getting angry when I realized there was no quick or permanent fix. That anger makes me smile now because I know it is in my weaknesses and in the having to choose again and again to show up differently that I have come to experience God’s love and strength the most.