2011 - June

Jenni Schaefer
Author of "Life Without Ed"

Yes, this article is called, "God." Some people would prefer that I use a different word. Some would rather that I not talk about it at all. But much of my recent personal growth work has been about learning how to speak my truth, and that includes claiming the word, God, for myself --- not for anyone else.

I choose to call my higher power, God.

When I refer to God, I use the pronouns "He" and "Him," but I embrace and understand why some people use the feminine versions of these words. When you see the words "God," "He," or "Him" here, translate them into what they mean to you. I have a good friend who considers himself to be an Atheist, but he still uses the word, God, to mean an inner dwelling within him.

I used to be afraid to share my spiritual beliefs with anyone. I certainly would not have written this article. I was afraid that someone would disagree with me and that I would offend people. I was also scared to share something that I didn't quite know how to explain and that I couldn't fully understand myself. For a long time, I did not even have a personal relationship with God. What I had was everyone else's relationship. I took on other people's beliefs about spirituality without giving the topic much thought myself. Not surprisingly, I didn't get much out of this type of an inauthentic connection.

Ultimately, I wanted my own relationship with God, but for the longest time, I was not willing to really do anything about it. (Wanting is different than willing.) I expected a miracle to occur and for me to all of the sudden feel close to God. But like most things in my life that have actually been worth it, I had to put forth a lot of effort and become willing to do whatever it takes. I had to look for God in the way that I had sought recovery from my eating disorder, with the same intensity --- spending a similar amount of time and energy. I could not expect God to do all of the work. Just as with any relationship in my life, it had to be a two way street.

When I was a child, prayer had always been a powerful way for me to spend time with God. As I grew older and my eating disorder took control over my life, I eventually lost the ability to be still and to pray. Somewhere deep inside, I knew that God still wanted to communicate with me in prayer, but I was just too busy—with bingeing, restricting food, and hating my body. Sure, when I was in a bind, I was always willing to throw out a quick foxhole prayer:

God, if you will just get me out of this, I promise to...

I wanted to start praying again regularly and more deeply—I didn't have a clue where to start. I told a friend, who is in Alcoholics Anonymous, that I was having difficulty in the prayer department, and she said, "Jenni, apply your neurosis to the right place."

In other words, if I was going to be obsessive about something, it might as well revolve around praying. I began writing in a prayer journal each morning. Then, I started talking to God throughout the day. I still do both.

Attending Twelve Step meetings was one of the most valuable ways for me to find my personal connection with God. In Twelve Step rooms, I listened to countless individuals share their unique spiritual journeys while simultaneously hearing the message that my path might be different— and that's okay. It took awhile, but finally, after going in and out of those rooms for years, I actually worked the Steps with a sponsor for the first time. Pain and suffering pushed me to fully commit to the program. And, like many others before me, I found a new level of freedom in my life. I felt closer to God.

I have to actively seek God on a regular basis, or I lose my connection. The more I seek, the more I discover. I still can't explain my spirituality anywhere close to perfectly (and I don't need to), but I can share a little about what I believe and about what has been beneficial to me. I can claim my truth. I am no longer afraid.

About the Author

Appointed to the Ambassador Council of the National Eating Disorders Association, Jenni Schaefer is a singer/songwriter, speaker, and author of Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life and Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too (McGraw-Hill). She is a consultant with the Center for Change in Orem, Utah. For more information, visit www.jennischaefer.com.

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Comments (1)
1 Thursday, 28 July 2011 18:36
sheryl sayles
I would like to applaud your boldness. God,Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit delivered me from a 35 year alcoholism and addiction to cigarettes. It didn't happen over night, I had to make efforts to stop going to the liquor store, stop hanging around my drinking buddies or just doing the drink and hangover dance for whatever to be drunk reason. I was a chronic relapser. You know I got sick and tired or being sick and tired.Instead of going to the refrigeration for a beer after praying,crying and feeling sorry for myself, I started reading my bible. On my journey to recovery,I was sort of hesitant about telling others that the Holy Spirit was strengthening and guiding me into complete recovery.Someone had said that I didn't have a religious bone in me.. Well I didn't need religion, I needed a relationship. I'm free,thanks to the Holy Spirit. With a humble, thankful attitude I can go now any where,without urges and have fearful thoughts of returning to that hell hole. I don't ever want to discourage anyone,especially my athiest friends, because I know that He works with all of us, on His soverign terms, diffently, just as no one, individually,and differently responds to Him. Thank you for claiming the truth. s.s.

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