Suffering in Secret Shame - Rhona Epstein

Suffering in Secret Shame

Morning has come and you awaken in sickness and shame. The self-condemnations begin—your weakness, lack of willpower and inability to keep your word. You feel worthless. As you look at your reflection in the mirror, you hate what you see.

You promise yourself that you will never do it again. You pray on your knees. Yes. You can do it. As the day progresses, challenges arise—your stress grows. Temptations seem to appear from nowhere—even friends tempt you.

You resist. You resist. You resist, but you feel yourself weakening.

Just get home, you repeat to yourself. Once you’re home you’ll be safe from the stress, the temptations. But, your home has hidden temptations that call to you in intimate, compelling ways. The temptations know you too well. Too well.

You promised yourself. Swore by everything holy. Prayed to God above. The resolve, the promises and prayers dissolve with your first bite.

Bite? Yes, if the story above made you think of a drug addict or alcoholic, you are not far off. The story is also typical for the food addict.

If this story is one you have experienced too many times to count, then I can assure you, there is hope.

Can people be addicted to foods? Yes. Certain foods can affect the brain of some individuals causing similar chemical reactions as heroin.

In homes—from wealthy to poor—Americans are taking the first bite of food that will lead them into a binge. That bingeing will set into motion a serious, but predictable series of events which creates such shame they are afraid of sharing their pain with anyone. It is estimated that in any given month, between six and fifteen million adults will binge out of control.

Meanwhile, food manufacturers have broken the chemical codes of enhanced flavors and textures. Add to this, these companies hire advertising geniuses who partner with psychology and behavioral experts to create an appeal—craving—for unhealthy foods. Foods that have been so altered chemically that by Biblical standards they are no longer food.

My recovery experience is why I am so passionate about this issue and why I chose this profession. I know the tricks many use to cover bingeing. I, too, suffered in secret and shame, yearning for someone to know how to cure me. I sought counselors, but for most well-meaning folks, their treatment actually acerbated my problem.

I am addicted to sugar. One tiny bite of any sugar-infused baked goods such as a cookie, brownie or cake will trigger my addiction, like one grain of cocaine to a drug addict, or one drink to an alcoholic. For me, this is a trigger food that I had to eliminate from my diet.

Others’ trigger foods may be savory, like pretzels or chips. Others’ may be triggered by both types of foods. You may be like me, or the millions of others in this country.

The science behind this illness has recently come to the forefront. The chemical changes to a human brain when on sugar is akin to an opiate. No longer anecdotal, food addictions are a growing problem that reaches into both the secular and Christian world.

My first step toward recovery at the tender age of seventeen, was walking into a support group. Finding a gathering of people with the same struggles as me was life-changing. Hearing their stories gave voice to my pain. Discovering that members were victorious over the very foods that had held them prisoner gave me direction and purpose. I could be free!

Where can you begin your journey?

Attend a food addictions’ 12-Step Program meeting (you can even attend by phone, see www.oa.org). Find a counselor specializing in food addictions. It’s not about your promises or willpower, it’s about knowledge, support and faith.

You can be free of the bingeing and from food addictions that have kept you in bondage and shame. You can awaken to a new morning of hope.

Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
Isaiah 61:7 (NIV)

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