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Freedom from Bulimia

I'm still free from bulimia after NINE years!
My healing adventure with Theophostic ministry began just after Thanksgiving, 2000. Since the autumn of 1979, I had been obsessed with bulimia. For 21 years—my entire adult life—my every waking moment was focused on looking for opportunities to binge and purge, planning the binges, bingeing, purging, cleaning up, covering up, over and over. I told a network of lies that were too intertwined to keep straight. Bulimia controlled every aspect of my life; it permeated every corner of my mind. I went to great lengths to maintain and hide my addiction—shoplifting, stealing from my husband and children, charging thousands of dollars on credit cards—whatever it took to keep bingeing and purging. My husband loved me and I was a mother of six children, but I felt incredible shame, especially because I was a Christian. I regularly wondered if I had committed the unforgivable sin. In my moments of clarity, I would look around me, see my husband, children and all the trappings of the "good life," and wonder why I seemed willing to throw it all away and to cause great pain to the people closest to me in the pursuit of... I didn't know what exactly. I just knew I felt I had no choice but to keep on living in this insane way. I didn't know how else to live.

For two decades I sought help from every help source I heard about. I tapped into the best resources the world and the church had to offer. I looked for answers from Freudian psychotherapy, hypnosis, cognitive therapy, behavior modification, endless self-help books (both secular and Christian), support groups, 12-step programs, six different antidepressants, five 30-day stays at inpatient treatment centers, hundreds of prayer sessions (soaking, prophetic, inner healing, confessional, intensive, deliverance... you name it), and a stream of counselors (pastoral as well as traditional therapy). In every instance, I was offered "answers;" I received a myriad of advice, directions, character-building exercises, and more information than I knew what to do with. I would embrace each program, absorb everything they had to give me, and then return to my world with renewed hope, determined to make it work. But always, without exception, I eventually found myself back in the "pig sty," continuing in my old self-destructive pattern.

I tried my very best to cooperate with each program and each counselor; I was able to achieve varying periods of "recovery"—during which I could abstain, with great effort, from bingeing and purging, but it was a constant mental battle. Whether it lasted for a few days or a year or more, each "recovery" ended in a crash of defeat, perpetuating my shame and increasing my hopelessness. All my therapists ultimately grew frustrated with my lack of success; they were helping me in the best ways they knew how, so it must be my fault that I kept failing. Their confrontations heaped shame on me: "You're just not surrendered enough;" "You're just not trying hard enough;" "You're such a controlling person;" I don't know what more to do with you if you're not going to cooperate;" and "You obviously don't want recovery badly enough." Even ministers with well known healing ministries gave up on me, saying they just couldn't help me.

With a history of failure behind me and only a shred of hope to urge me on, I found another healing ministry in 1996. The priest and his wife, as well as the whole ministry team, gave me the very best they had to give. They spent countless hours working with me, praying, loving, worrying, counseling, consoling, directing, even scolding me when they thought it was necessary. They gave me their all. I tried to reciprocate; I tried to cooperate with their efforts to help me. I continued to fail, feeling horrible shame at failing and for disappointing those who were seeking to help me. Unfortunately, some of the methods they used to help me included shaming, blaming, and verbally demeaning me for my repeated failures. I couldn't shake the conviction that my life was based on very deep, very ingrained lies that I had believed since early in my life. I didn't know what the lies were, but I knew they were in operation. I remember saying, "I don't think I can get any better or behave any better until these lies are exposed and replaced with God's truth."

I continued in counseling with them, although I'd become so discouraged with my failures that I'd periodically quit, even staying away from church because I felt like a filthy hypocrite. I got my only "fellowship" through our local Christian radio station. I started hearing commercials for a counselor who was reporting to have witnessed miraculous healing results with her clients. My whole body would feel pulled toward the radio when I heard her describe some of their healings. I was aware of flickers of hope under the layers of discouragement and fear of trying and failing again. Out of loyalty to my priest, I asked for his permission to seek outside counseling.

My priest asked me to first get a thorough physical because I was severely underweight from excessive purging and quite exhausted. The physician, a Christian, referred me to a Christian behavioral therapist. I decided that I'd check out both the physician's referral and the woman I'd heard on the radio, then choose between the two. I saw the referred counselor three times before she announced, "Your case is one of the toughest I've seen; you need a long stay at an impatient treatment center. You need to be prepared for a long, uphill three-year battle, but you should be able to cope better after that." When I told her that another counselor was supposedly having fast and thorough results from some kind of praying, she scoffed and told me that there weren't any shortcuts. I was devastated. I'd already experienced five different 30-day stays at treatment centers, all of which had reaped only short-term "success." I wasn't willing to leave my six children, including an eight-month old nursing infant, for 30 days with absolutely no guarantee of improvement. I cried all the way home, saying, "Lord, there's got to be another way to be healed that won't harm my children. I give up. It's up to You.

When I got home, my husband listened to my frustration and encouraged me to call the counselor I'd heard onthe radio and make an appointment. She answered the phone, listened to my pain, and set an appointment time with me for two days later. I asked her what kind of praying she did, because I was sure I'd been exposed to every type of inner healing prayers in existence. She said, "I help you to come into the Lord's presence. Hegoeswithyou to the place where you are believing a lie, and He replaces the lie with His truth." I heard bells go off in my head! This was exactly what I'd felt I needed more than a year before this.

In the session I felt panicky, fearful, desperate, anxious, helpless, even terrified. My stomach felt as if it were tied in knots, my face frowned up, and I clasped my hands tightly together. The ministry facilitator administered the TPM process with me and after a few moments, I found myself in a distinct memory in early childhood. I reported what I saw/sensed to her. She asked what feelings I was experiencing. I said I had a fear of impending doom, as if something really bad was going to happen to me, and somehow I had to do something about it, only I couldn't because I was so helpless. I felt as if I was horribly empty, starving, deprived of something very necessary.
Suddenly I realized my childhood self making a vow, "When I am able to help myself, I'm going to make sure that I am never deprived again!" She asked me to repeat the lie, and to tell her how true the lie felt. It felt very true.AfterweidentifiedtheliesIwasholdingsheinvitedtheLordtorevealHistruthtome. I then had the impression that I was leaning up against someone, with large, strong arms encircling the area around me. Then I felt and saw the arms gently washing me much as a mother does during her baby's first bath, to help the child be unafraid of the water. Several times, the arms gently pushed the waves of water toward me, like a rocking sensation, then the arms wrapped around me in a gentle, yet firm, embrace. I knew instinctively that this was the Spirit of Christ. Then I heard Him say, "I am the one who will keep you from deprivation. You do not have to take care of yourself; I will take care of you."

Suddenly, all the anxiety, fear, emptiness, etc. left, leaving an assurance of peace. I reported all of this to theministeryfacilitatorand she asked me to state the lie out loud, "When I am able to help myself, I'm going to make sure that I am never deprived again." As I repeated the lie, she asked me how true the statement felt now. It felt ridiculously false.

I left that appointment feeling different in a way I couldn't explain and I didn't want to analyze it. I felt as if I were being carried. I had been bingeing and purging out of control for weeks, months and years before this time. The next day I awoke, still feeling carried, with no desire to binge and purge although I had the opportunity to do so. I continued with ministry appointments for the next few weeks. During each session the Lord revealed more lies and gently and simply replaced them with His truth. As the days passed, I found myself not only not bingeing and purging, but not even thinking about it. I didn't feel the slightest desire to do so. As more and more lies were replaced with truth at the experiential level, not just a head level, my faith grew, slowly and surely. I immediately felt a strong desire to go back to church. I shared my healing with excitement. I wanted to read the Bible, to pray, to worship, to praise, to be closer to my husband and children and to actually experience "life" between meals!

Three weeks into this "new thing," my husband Mark and I sat down with our children to openly talk about what life had been like with a raging bulimic mother, and what was happening to me. They'd already noticed and commented on the difference in me. When I asked if they had any questions, my eldest daughter asked, "Mom, what do we do if we find you bingeing again?" I was about to say something along the lines of, "Tell your father," when I heard the following words come out of my mouth, "I don't ever have to do that again. I'm free."

Mark did a double-take, and I said, "What did I just say?" At that moment, I knew Jesus had completely and permanently set me free from the bondage of bulimia. I also knew He would be faithfully free me from other lies that were still affecting me, and that He would continue to renew my mind for the rest of my life. I was thrilled, excited and blessed beyond belief! After all the years of suffering, of others suffering because of me, of countless people praying on my behalf, of living a life in bondage to lies), I was free.

For over two years now, I've been completely free from bulimia—from the behavior, the thoughts and the feelings associassociated with it. I've gained and maintained an appropriate healthy weight and even enjoyed a healthy pregnancy). I eat when I'm hungry, I eat whatever I desire, and I easily stop when I'm satisfied. I've had no temptations to binge or purge and if the memory of the behavior rises, it feels absurd and unattached to me. It's no longer my identity. I have absolutely no fear of relapse. My healing isn't dependent upon me because He who set me free is keeping me free—with no self-maintenance required!

Dena Brehm

February, 2007 Update:

Since my bulimic healing in 2000, I've been through some rather intense life-challenges... but not once, not even for a glimmer of a moment, did I experience a temptation to binge or purge due to the stress. It never occurred to me... I can honestly say that it's simply no longer part of my life, nor part of who I am. My entire identity is transformed, as more and more He enables me to see myself through His eyes of truth. I have much more healing to obtain -- this isn't a place of arrival... I'm committed to this healing as a way of life, a journey with Him. While I don't officially facilitate TPM (no sign hanging from my front door - yet!), God has a way of bringing other hurting people into my life, and I pray as He prompts me to... I've been blessed to see Him go deep, time and again, bringing that wonderful peace and calm into the lives of others! What a gift!
I love this ministry. I love the simplicity of it, the practicality of it, the mystery of how He uses us to cooperate in His healing work. I love the transparent humility of its founder, and how his own life reflects his integrity.
I love how I've come to know God as He is, and how He's allowing me to become more and more the woman He created me to be. May the adventure continue!
What is a secular textbook definition of bulimia nervosa?

"Bulimia Nervosa is a condition that is most commonly found in girls of later adolescence and early adulthood. It is very rarely found in men. It is characterized by episodes of binge eating; eating large quantities of food in a short time. This behavior may be very severe with enormous quantities of food, most typically carbohydrates being consumed. To prevent the otherwise inevitable consequence of weight gain there are periods of food restriction and often vomiting, laxative abuse or excessive exercising. When vomiting is used then the binges may become multiple with repeating cycles over several hours in which the sufferer eats until full, then vomits and eats again. They generally find their own behavior disgusting and are deeply ashamed of it so that it almost always occurs in secret."Dr. Peter Rowan MBBS.MRCPsych.

Editor commentary (Dr. Rowan is not affiliated with Theophostic Prayer Ministry.)

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