Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Freedom from Self-Injury

Anonymous asks: How did you stop cutting?... because I self harmed for almost 5 years before I got saved July 22, 2012, and I kinda thought I would stop on my own, but it had become an addiction and I'm still struggling with it. I've told Christian counselors at my college and they are helping, but I don't think they fully understand how hard it is to stop. I went 7 weeks without any SI, but I recently failed. And what's really bad is that I still want to cut, but as a Christian I know I NEED to stop. What motivated you to stop despite being addicted to it? 

If any readers do not know my testimony, before I was saved, I struggled intensely with self-injury and suicidal thoughts.  I was depressed, I felt completely disconnected from any kind of relationship with God, and guilt and shame weighed heavily upon my shoulders.  When I gave my life to Christ, he helped me conquer my addiction to SI (self-injury) and gain freedom in him.

Don't let me deceive you.  The temptation to return to cutting and self-harm was often overwhelming.  The shame and horror about who I had become and what I was so eager to do to myself daily left me feeling unlovable and unworthy of the Lord's forgiveness.  With Christ's help and to his glory, I have not cut since 2007. 

Everyone's story is different, and while I can't give you an exact formula of how to end self-injury, I can give you some encouragement and some advice.

1.) You have been set free.  If you have given your life to the Lord, you are not a slave to anything, not even the worst of addictions.  You have been made free in Christ.  Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." 

My friend once compared the struggle with sin to this story: Before you gave your life to the Lord, you were wrapped in heavy chains that bound you tightly and painfully.  When Christ saved you, he broke those chains.  The cold, iron links that once kept you restrained and exhausted literally fell to the ground, powerless against you.  You were made free; a whole world of light and joy had opened up before you.  When you fall into your old temptations and addictions, it is as if you rebind yourself with the chains that once burdened you.  They are not locked.  You are free to go at any time.  But you've known little else, so you hold the chains upon yourself and abide by their weight and burden.

But my friend, you are free.

As long as we live on this earth, we will be tempted.  Addictions do not go away overnight.  It took me months and months to stop falling back into my old ways of SI and self hatred and suicidal thoughts when things went wrong.  But in Christ, there is always freedom.

Even Paul the Apostle struggled with his old temptations and sin nature.  In Romans 7:15-25, he says, "I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  ...Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

It is possible to overcome your addiction.  When you face the overwhelming desire to cut or the heavy burden of shame that you might feel after you do mess up, do not give into thinking, "I'm addicted.  I can't stop.  I'm a slave to this."  No, my friend.  You have been set free.  Christ is your deliverer.

2.) Do not be ashamed.  Sometimes you will fall back into sin.  You will still mess up.  There wasn't a specific moment when my addiction was completely through.  No, there were times when I would set a goal for myself not to cut anymore, something would happen, and I would mess up again.  And again.  Even when I didn't mess up, I was still angry at myself for wanting to cut.  Why should I want to harm God's temple?  Why should I have the desire to hurt my body? 

Nothing you do is bad enough to make Jesus stop loving you.  Hebrews 13:5 says, "God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"  This is a promise He made.  Nothing you do can cause these words to fail.

Romans 10:11 says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame."  One of the biggest hindrances I faced in overcoming self injury was my own shame and guilt.  When you begin to embrace the fact that not only were you saved by Christ, but that you are endlessly and overwhelmingly loved by him despite everything you do, the temptation to cut will become smaller and smaller in the wake of God's mighty love for you.  After all, as Isaiah 49:16 says, "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."  You are loved. 

3.) Find accountability.  One of my biggest fears was the people I knew finding out about my struggle with SI.  I thought they could never fully understand.  I was terrified about what they might think or how they would judge me.  Surely they would consider me a freak and unworthy of love because of the terrible things I had done to myself.  So when I needed it the most, I often cowered from the idea of sharing with friends my struggles.

We were made for community.  Galatians 6:2 says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."  James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."

If you have shared with a counselor about your struggle with SI, that's a great start.  But I encourage you to share with at least two trustworthy friends who have a strong relationship with the Lord, friends who do not currently struggle with SI, and friends who are willing to live life with you and hold you accountable.  Good friends walk with you, pray with you, and encourage you in a way that counselors usually cannot.

It's a terrifying prospect to open up to someone who might judge you, but I challenge you to take that risk.  Allow a friend to enter that place in your life you don't want anyone else to see, and ask him or her to help you conquer it.  

4.) Get involved.  The more you are alone, the more you will be tempted to fall back into old ways.  Loneliness, depression, and shame were my biggest triggers when I struggled most intensely with self-injury.  If I was sitting by myself in my bedroom, dwelling on my struggles, I would fall into them so much more often.  When I was out with friends, sometimes forcing myself to smile and have a good time, I'd often forget the desire to cut.

When you are tempted to fall into self-injury, deliberately go outside on a walk, even if it is late at night.  Call a friend.  Go to coffee shops and meet someone new.  Go grocery shopping.  Stroll through the mall.  Spend time with friends, even if you don't feel up to it.  If you are out doing things, you won't be in positions where you can cut, even if you want to, and the number of your mistakes will happen so much less often.

5.) Keep in daily conversation with the Lord.  If I made a mistake, I would often feel too ashamed to approach God.  I felt newly-soiled.  My iniquities seemed to be pinned onto my chest like a scarlet letter, branded into my skin with each scar.  How could I speak to God after having done something so ugly, so horrible?

Even if you have nothing to say to God, let him speak to you.  Simply listen.  Don't allow your struggle to distance yourself from the only One who can help you overcome this addiction!  Before you even make the mistake, you have been forgiven.  Isaiah 1:18 says, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

Make an intentional effort to spend daily time in the Word and in prayer.  Praise God, even when you don't feel like it.  If you don't have words to pray, sit in silence and listen.  Read at least a chapter of the Bible a day (try Psalms and Isaiah and Galatians, for starters), even if you feel like you're getting nothing out of it.  Jeremiah 29:13-14 says, "'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back from captivity.'"

Never forget that the Lord desires to commune with you, despite every mistake you've ever made.  Draw near to him, mess and all.  He longs to set you free.

---

I know this was long, but self-injury is an issue that weighs on my heart.  If you have any questions, prayer requests, or redemptive stories about your own struggle with self-injury and God's victory in that, share in the comments below.  I'd love to pray for you and rejoice with you (or cry with you, if that's what needs to happen).

You are loved. 

3 comments:

  1. I greatly appreciate your post. It definitely put things in perspective =)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much for your post! It was a blessing and encouraging reminder to me!I've struggled with cutting since I was a teenager, and even in my first couple years in Christian college, and couldn't understand why I could never overcome this obstacle in my life. The desire literally controlled me. I went without cutting myself for 8 months by simply my own will power before some difficult situations set in and I gave in again. Soon after I realized that I was not truly saved, and after I finally became saved and gave my life completely to Christ, I finally slowly saw victory in that area of my life! While it certainly has not been easy, the fact that I have been finally truly released from that bondage has made a difference! It's so good to be free! One thing I have learned is to constantly depend on Christ! It is His strength, not mine, that will gain the victory. thank you for that reminder!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is such an incredible encouragement to me. As a Christian who even now is desperately struggling against the daily urge to cut, I empathise so much with this. And it also gives me so much hope! You have a true gift at expressing yourself, because this outlines exactly how I feel! Prayer for the lonely Chstian teenage girl from Australia would be much appreciated

    ReplyDelete