Witness: That Exact Moment

witness that exact moment

I once came across an image of a toddler crying while looking at a “demon baby” decoration. The photo’s caption read…

“It’s not often you have a picture of the exact moment you started needing therapy.”

Sooner or later, we encounter some “exact moment” of clarity; for those of us who are struggling with addiction, this can often come packaged as an intervention.

And it is here we encounter the power of a witness.

Scripture instructs us of its significance, especially when it’s reoccurring…

“…In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1

Throughout my life, I’d had various “witness” moments. And I certainly was no stranger to this reality as I grappled with my eating disorder issues in college. These moments communicated how, like it or not, I needed help.

First Witness: My Conscience:

First, there was the witness of my conscience. Even before any confrontation with people, I was plagued by my own uneasiness.

As I went down the treacherous road of anorexia and its emaciated weight loss, by my sophomore year, my physiological, mental and emotional responses to that starvation eventually surfaced in the form of bulimia- and its desperate behaviors.

That included not just lying and bingeing/purging, but also theft as well.

“…At this time, I was obsessed with food, weight, control, and maintaining my secret world. I feared someone discovering my secret obsession—especially the roommates I’d stolen food from. I was scared all of the time… But did that stop me? No… “ (Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder”)

In spite of my attempts at denial, I couldn’t shake the fact I was out of control and wrong in my behaviors.
Typically speaking, when it comes to addiction, things rarely start out in dire straits. Indeed, the evolutionary process of addiction- to anything- is that it is often a slow, gradual, concession by concession, kind of reality. It is the proverbial frog sitting in gradually increasing hot water until, eventually, the boiling water kills the creature.

It starts as…
…the occasional drink…
…the recreational use of drugs…
…the “harmless” diet, just to lose a couple of pounds…
…the “fun” game of gambling…
…the lifestyle choice which doesn’t seem to hurt anyone else…

But, no matter how “in control” we believe ourselves to be, no matter how positive the object of our affections may feel, it doesn’t change that nagging feeling something is “off.”

Long before I started stealing from my roommates, long before I was emaciated or obese, I felt my view of food and self were abnormal. It bothered me how much attention I gave to the issues.

Why couldn’t I eat like normal people?

Why was I so uncomfortable in my own skin?

Why did I feel the need to punish myself through starvation, over-exercise, ritualistic routine and self-hatred?

So, yes, often we are the first witness, pointing out how something is askew within us. There can be this uneasy knowing, this anxiety and this restlessness which nags us. We’d love to present to the world how everything is well, how we’re happy, we’re the life of the party and yes, of course, how we’re in control. And, maybe other people even believe that to be the case. However, that means nothing when all is quiet and we’re left alone with the truth of ourselves. Then, the doubt creeps in.
If only we could convince ourselves how yes, all is well, right?

And, in our desperation, we focus our entire beings on convincing ourselves there is no problem. And, perhaps, that may work…for a time.

And then, we get another occurrence.

This was certainly my experience.

Second Witness: Roommates:

After months of ignoring my own conscience, reality had another witness: actual people, a/k/a, the roommate dynamic.

“… at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” Deuteronomy 19:15

At the start of my college career, things looked rather typical. Rooming with girls my own age? Not exactly breaking news.

For my freshman year, things were, indeed, uneventful. My roommates did not express concern for my dieting; there was no intervention.

And, because anorexia’s hallmark behaviors of starvation and control were in full effect, I was not eating much at all. I functioned under the premise of “live and let live.”

Therefore, my delusion, reiterating how all was well with me flourished as I plummeted with anorexia. Month after month of my freshman year, I became increasingly thinner. Yet my roommates were quiet.

That all changed, however, by my sophomore year, with my stampede of bulimia.

“… I knew their schedules by heart. I’d wait for them to leave for class. I’d hurry home, skipping my own classes to ensure enough time alone. First, I’d raid stuff that I didn’t think was noticeable: a handful of cereal, a three-fingered scoop of peanut butter out of the jar, some cans of soup at the back of the shelf… But I couldn’t stop… I had to eat as much as I could before they came home…”

Now, with more extreme, desperate behaviors going on, it was no longer possible for my roommates to remain silent.

“… ‘Sheryle, we need to talk.’ I’d brace myself…”

Years’ later, I feel for them. It must have been quite confusing and upsetting to deal with me. No one and nothing prepared them for living with a lying thief who seemed unrepentant.

At the time, I believed their gripes against me were personal attacks instead of concern for my health. I rationalized how this was merely petty complaint stuff. It was much easier to tell myself that instead of actually owning how-hello- I was stealing from them and that might actually be a legitimate problem to complain about.

Ah, denial, river in Egypt…

So, I rowed, rowed, rowed my delusion boat, gently down the stream when it came to witness number two.

Perfect set up for third times the charm, huh?

Third Witness: (C’mon, No Man is an Island)

“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” Deuteronomy 19:15

I ignored my own feelings and thoughts, as well as the direct confrontation of people with whom I had been sharing space. I thought I could dismiss these occurrences as simply annoying, nothing else. I could continue to live my life as I saw fit.

So, I wasn’t prepared for other people to have eyes and common sense when they encountered my blatant sickness.

“…I began to receive concerned looks from teachers and classmates. They gave me looks that said, ‘I know…’”

Having shrunken to a two-digit weight by the end of my freshman year, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to calculate how there may be some chaos going on if “Little Miss Emaciation” rapidly becomes obese during her sophomore year.

And, make no mistake about it, “Little Miss Emaciation” did catch a bit of attention…

“…One of my guidance counselors asked me to step inside of her office as I passed through campus one day. Panic! She knew… Once inside of her office, she started out with some initial chit chat, but I felt the ax coming down…

…’I’m concerned about you, that you may be bulimic’…

…‘No, I’m not.’

‘I’m just concerned about you,’ she continued carefully.

‘I’m fine,’… ‘I’m okay.’”

Once again, I was on my merry way. Convinced there was no problem whatsoever, I continued to binge, purge and steal.

And, months later, my roommates had enough. Unbeknownst to me, they met with campus counselors and planned an intervention.

“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” Deuteronomy 19:15

Another witness situation: fire in the hole!

“…It felt like an ambush. We met in one of the college boardrooms, and even the seating arrangement singled me out. I sat alone at the end of the long table. My two roommates and the counselors sat on the opposite end of the long table… The four expressed concern for me, and my roommates confronted me about my behaviors. I was asked to seek professional help that the school could provide for me. I reluctantly admitted what I had done and agreed to seek treatment…”

Now, of course, things weren’t so simple, neat and tidy. I talk about the complicated recovery process in my book. There was not the “happily ever after” instantaneous result from any of these intervention “witness” episodes. Nevertheless, these exact moments were critical to my awareness, participation and ongoing recovery.

I have also learned an empowering truth: we all have them.

Who/what are your witnesses?

How are you responding to them?

How many witnesses have you encountered concerning your behaviors?

Have you experienced any “exact moment” yet?

Right now, we may be trying to fight their existence. This isn’t about condemnation of anyone. However, where there is smoke, there is usually fire.

Are you and I confronted about a particular circumstance more than once? More than twice?

“…In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1

It is these exact moments which can change our lives for the better, if we allow them to function in that capacity.

Hopefully, we can all witness that reality for ourselves.

Sheryle Cruse bio new