Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we’re talking about addiction, compulsion, and loving those who suffer this cross. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
My first experience of an eating disorder occurred when I was seven years old. After coming home from school one day, my parents gathered my siblings and I into our family room for a very hard conversation. They had decided to send our sister, a young teenager at the time, across the country to a treatment center for those struggling with eating disorders, a place they felt would help her with her anorexia.
Until that moment, I hadn’t realized that my sister had any kind of disorder. Something my parents had been observing for some time.
As a seven year old, I didn’t fully understand what this meant. But over the next twenty years, I would learn.
I don’t think I had seen many of my siblings cry before this family room discussion. We all experienced great vulnerability as we watched her spiral in and out of more treatment centers than I can count. We even strategically planned out family interventions. Needless to say, for most of my lifetime, this eating disorder prevented my sister and I from having a strong and healthy relationship.
The Suffering That Ruled My Life
At times, I let my suffering rule my life. For too long I had a cold and bitter heart towards her, allowing resentment to build. Everyone in my family—even my sister herself—prayed that she would hit rock bottom. We all knew that would be what it took to help her get better. Then, a couple of years ago, it finally happened.
My sister’s body was so weak and malnourished that she ended up in the hospital. For a period of time she was so out of it that she didn’t even recognize or react to my parents when they went to visit her. Despite the severity of her state, I found myself livid with her, with zero desire to speak to her or talk to her again.
Learn and grow in our Faith and love for the Lord.
In time, I could feel my anger eating at me, so I sought out a Catholic therapist. Through a couple of sessions with him, and eventually therapy with my sister, a new seed was planted in our relationship. It took baby steps, and a lot of vulnerability. But slowly, ever so slowly, I saw new life springing up both in my sister and in a friendship with her.
Her rock bottom experience was one that she describes as feeling like she had died. She said that she could see her life flash before her eyes, and the reality of the possibility of falling out of God’s sanctifying grace became very real. In all of this, what struck her is that God did not abandon her. And in His mercy, He gave her a second chance at life.
Since this experience, she has found renewed healing and strength through frequenting the Sacraments, drawing close to the Saints, having a more consistent life of prayer, and transparency in her relationships.
She finds great comfort through the priest, in persona Christi. Especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is a powerful Sacrament for her, because while it is humbling, it forces her to really come face to face with her sins and name them. Here she finds great comfort in God’s forgiveness and His second chances.
Encouragement from the Saints
My sister said that what has helped her most in times of struggle, are recalling the many times that God’s abundant forgiveness is expressed through the lives of the Saints.
She has grown close to two in particular. She drew close to Saint Faustina through reading about God’s message of mercy in her diary, The Diary of Saint Faustina, as well as Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart.
A quotation by Saint Faustina which gives her inspiration is:
Jesus, source of my life, sanctify me. O my strength, fortify me. My commander, fight for me.
My sister shared with me how her experience really taught her of God’s presence and faithfulness. It showed her that if anyone ever abandons their prayer life, it is never too late to come back, because when we ask, God is faithful.
Each and every day, she continues to ask for His grace.
One of the biggest healing components that has brought my sister and I closer together is transparency. Secrecy is imprisoning. With addictions and eating disorders, there comes a lot of shame and guilt, but there is power in openness, honesty, and asking for help.
The Whole Person
While this life of faith has proved essential to my sister’s recovery, I cannot leave out the help she continues to receive through an experienced therapist and dietician.
During early recovery and high dress, her support team is especially important. Her recovery and healing requires an integrated approach to taking care of her body (physically), mind (mentally), and soul (spiritually). An approach which is healthy for all of us.
Is there something in your life that you feel called to seek God’s healing from? He is waiting for you, and there is grace in the Sacraments.
If you want more on the Church’s rich teachings on these engaging topics, our best-selling study, “Blessed Conversations: Rooted,” dives into the Catechism’s teachings and now offers a video companion series along with it featuring Theological Editor Susanna Spencer and Managing Editor Nell O’Leary. Get it here.
This post was contributed anonymously.