I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with codependency, food issues, and other addictive/compulsive behaviors to seek escape. My name is Sabrena.
My childhood was filled with chaos I could not control and feelings too overwhelming for a child to handle: loneliness, abandonment, fear, anger, resentment, and sadness– to name a few. My father was an alcoholic, and my mother codependent. They loved my sister and me, but fell very short of supplying the love, attention, care, and direction we needed. As a result, I turned to coping mechanisms that helped me survive in the moment. Ultimately, this caused cycles of greater damage, more negative emotions, and escalation of addictive, compulsive behaviors.
At a very young age, food became my comfort– my first drug of choice. As I ate, I didn’t have to deal with my feelings; I could block out how bad my life was. It helped me when I was sad, lonely, depressed, angry, and confused. As I began to gain weight, other kids called me names and made fun of me, which only added to my home life’s pain. This hurt caused me to turn to food for comfort even more. I became discouraged and loathed myself when I looked in the mirror. I had major body image issues, and by the 5th or 6th grade began a lifelong battle that included extreme dieting, bingeing, and additional weight gain in between every loss.
I developed many other coping behaviors as well. I started picking at my skin compulsively, especially at the skin around my fingernails. This was done absent-mindedly when I felt overwhelmed by stress, fear, or boredom. As a teen, I became obsessed with my appearance, boys, and relationships to deal with the lack of love and attention I received at home. I discovered pornography and self-gratification to escape feelings of stress and loneliness. I filled my time with friends, boyfriends, and activities, staying away from home as much as possible to escape depression and hopelessness. Codependency and the need to achieve became deeply rooted, boosting my low self-esteem and self-worth. By the time I was a teen, I had also built a wall around my heart and emotions to protect myself from further damage and hurt.
As I mentioned, boys became one of the means of fixing what was broken in me. From the time I was 13 years old until I married at the age of 19, I always had a boyfriend. With each one, desperately desiring the love and attention I craved, I codependently gave more physically and emotionally than I desired to give. I wanted to do things God’s way but had no idea how to put up boundaries or enforce them. Although I tried to speak up for, fight for, and take care of myself, I gave in more often than not, afraid of making them angry and losing them. In the process, I lost myself instead.
My husband also came from an alcoholic father and carried his own issues with anger and control. For 20 years, until we got involved in Celebrate Recovery, we damaged ourselves, each other, and our children as we carried our issues from our childhood trauma and coping mechanisms with us. Throughout that time, God was working on and in me. I was attending church, praying, and eventually began to follow Him. But Celebrate Recovery is where we both found true transformation and healing through Jesus Christ.
In all my life, I was never comfortable with myself or my choices. I always lived for other people. Of course, this was not because I was unselfish, as is easy for those who struggle with codependency to believe. I did it for the same reason anyone engages in compulsive and addictive behaviors: I did it hoping I would feel better; that I would be happy, but I never was. The behavior or substance never meets the need– only Christ does.
Through the process of recovery, I have learned that sacrifice isn’t saying “yes” out of shame, guilt, or compulsion to make others happy when I really want to say “no.” As I have learned, I can say no. I can also choose to say yes from my own free will. Jesus didn’t die for me out of shame, guilt, or compulsion, but out of love, with complete confidence in himself and his choice, with nothing to gain for himself, and everything to lose. His sacrifice was not about filling a hole in himself. I have learned instead to live by Matthew 5:37 “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ [be] ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” I can trust God and myself, and I know I am learning true sacrifice: acting out of love, giving freely with no expectations of others to fill me and satisfy me.
As I continue to work the recovery process, God is showing me how to face life without having to escape from it and my feelings. With the tools of recovery and the support system of my husband and my sisters in Christ, who work the program alongside and with me, I continue to heal and grow stronger every day. I am thankful today for all Christ has done in my life and look forward to what He still has yet to accomplish.