Victory Over Shame With God’s Strength
I thought I was going to take my secret to the grave. In fact, I knew that my secret was what would put me in that grave.
I proclaimed how I found freedom from drug addiction for years on my various small platforms, only to be secretly imprisoned by a raging eating disorder and food addiction.
I hadn’t lived in the absolute freedom that I spoke of so often to others. Instead, I replaced one addiction with another. In psychology, this is called transfer addiction. You do the steps and abstain from the substance that had you hooked, only to find yourself engorging on an excess amount of sugar after a particularly rough day. Same rush, same crash, but only one was illegal.
It’s not illegal to overeat, but gluttony is a sin. Sins always lead to more and more. Before I knew it, I was lying to my husband about the money I was spending on my binges. I would make excuses for why it took so long for me to get home from work. I went to great lengths to hide the evidence.
After each binge, I would feel so ashamed. Belly full to the point of nauseousness, I didn’t know what scared me most, continuing to live this way or getting caught and giving it up.
You see, food consumed my every thought.
It is how I grieved with loss.
It is how I coped with stress.
It is how I celebrated life.
I chose hot crispy french fries instead of grieving the death of my first son, who died at birth. The grease and salt numbed my tongue and my pain. I chose cartons of ice cream instead of learning how to manage my stress properly. The giant scoops of decadent and creamy goodness would temporarily distract me from the problems that awaited solutions. I chose large overstuffed plates of food to celebrate all occasions, almost as if to punish myself for being happy.
I planned my days around food. I mapped out the routes I would take to and from work around food. I even sacrificed sleep while working as a night shift nurse so I could binge in secret when the house was empty.
Luke 12:2 TPT says, “Everything hidden and covered up will soon be exposed. For the facade is falling down, and nothing will be kept secret for long.”
What is hidden in darkness will be brought to light, and God had to literally put a spotlight on my sin in order to save my life.
The bright white flash of the camera assaulted my eyes as I sat in the dark kitchen. Momentarily stunned, I pulled my arm out of the trash bag, hand gripping the open bag of cookies. Relief swept over me, seeing that most of the cookies were salvageable. Shame quickly replaced that sweet relief as I looked up to see my young son holding his phone towards me, taking pictures. “Mom, what are you doing?”
I had thrown the cookies in the trash just hours earlier, sobbing, ready for a change. My weight was at an all-time high. My heart rate was constantly elevated. Every joint in my body screamed at me with each step I took. I went doctor hopping to every specialist you can imagine to find relief from the physical agony I was in daily. Not one asked me about my eating habits, checked my mental state, or told me to lose weight. Instead, as a last-ditch effort, I was given a diagnosis of a hormonal disorder mixed with a genetic disorder, prescribed meds, and sent home.
The depression grew worse, and I found it harder and harder to tear myself off the couch. I wanted to stop and get control back; I proclaimed as I threw the cookies in the trash.
But in the early morning hours, as I lay in bed when my family was asleep, worthlessness and sadness came to visit like they have so many times before. The only way to quiet the emotions was to give in to the cravings. These cravings were like unwelcome guests you couldn’t get rid of, so you might as well do your best to enjoy the company. That night all I could think of was the pack of cookies sitting in the trashcan.
And so I did what I had done so many other times. I woke up quietly and snuck down the stairs to eat in secret.
Now, sin exposed, my eyes locked with my son’s. I felt naked like I needed to cover up. Is this what Adam and Eve felt like when God came looking for them after giving in to temptation and eating the apple?
I recognized the look in his eyes. It was the same look my loved ones gave when I was on drugs. I saw heartbreak in his eyes, and I felt it in my soul. Still, while I didn’t want to continue to hurt my family, I was petrified to seek help.
The following day I checked in to an intensive outpatient clinic for eating disorders. In the middle of a pandemic, while my son sat in the other room doing school work, I sat in front of my computer from 8 am to 4 pm with other people who battled their own demons. I confessed my sin to my family and friends, who lifted me in prayer.
I will tell you; nothing snuffs out shame’s fire more than confession.
Shame is what the devil likes to dangle over our heads when we are battling things we can not fight on our own. We need God’s strength, the support of our loved ones, and professional help, but shame whispers in our ears to never tell your big dirty secret. “If you tell,” it hisses, “People will judge and hate you for it. They will never understand. You can stop on your own. There is nothing wrong with what you are doing. You are disgusting.”
As soon as you confess, shame no longer has the power.
That is why any addict working the steps must first acknowledge and admit they have a problem. It is the first step toward freedom.
The journey has not been easy. I am still working on the steps, and I regularly see a therapist. Over the past couple of years, I had to allow myself to feel all of the brokenness I spent a majority of my life numbing, and it hurt. But when the pain became unbearable, He would comfort me and tend to the soul wounds.
I live one victory at a time, not by my strength but by relying on His strength to carry me when I am weak.
1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
He has given me ways to deal with temptations. He placed people in my life for such a time as this. Amazing friends, strong therapists, and even strangers turned confidants who have also struggled with the same issues.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or addiction, help is available.
Drug addiction: https://recoverycentersofamerica.com/
Eating disorders: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
Christina Zambrano is a wife, mother, and nurse turned administrative manager for a mental health practice. Her writing has been published on Her View From Home, Girl Defined, and more. Her latest pastime is creating reels her teenage son finds “cringy.” She can be found on Facebook and Instagram.
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