Are you ready for something really honest, really messy? I think I am finally ready to share this piece of myself with you in more detail than I ever have because I hope, I pray that my experience will be encouraging or helpful for at least one person.
I am a recovering addict, yes you read that right. Not drugs, not alcohol, not sex. I am recovering from a self-harm addiction. This addiction has held me loosely for the past eight years and has gripped me tightly from time to time. This confession may bring many questions to mind. What does that mean? What is self-harm? How can someone be addicted to that? Well, I hope to answer those questions for you, just bear with me.
“Self-harm is the deliberate infliction of damage to your own body and includes cutting, burning, and other forms of injury. While cutting can look like attempted suicide, it’s often not; most people who mutilate themselves do it as a way to regulate mood. People who hurt themselves in this way may be motivated by a need to distract themselves from inner turmoil or to quickly release anxiety that builds due to an inability to express intense emotions.” (Psychology Today)
This is a pretty good explanation of what self-harm is and some reasoning behind it. But I will go into more detail, hopefully, to give you all a better understanding of why inflicting pain actually feels good.
First, let’s talk about addiction. Now, you probably know this, but I will go into it anyway just to refresh your memory. When you do something you like, such as hug a cute puppy, get given a wonderful gift or have a really awesome success of some kind, it releases dopamine in your brain to make you feel happy. (Dopamine is the happy hormone.) This hormone is also released when you drink alcohol, do drugs, look at pornography. And for me, when I cut myself. This release of dopamine becomes a push to keep doing whatever gives that release, and if the activity is done often, it becomes an addiction, an addiction that must be done more and more to give the same effect as it had initially. This is what breeds unhealthy addictions, including self-harm. So why does it feel good to hurt myself? THAT is an excellent question.
Hurting myself became an addiction, a coping mechanism, and there are several reasons for that. The Lord has allowed me to go through a lot in life, a lot of pain and a lot of suffering. But this pain and suffering has been mostly internal and emotional. In these seasons of suffering, I did not know how to handle the internal pain or battle I was facing. Internal pain that was overwhelming I was unable to understand. Even though I always knew the Lord was on my side, I didn’t know how to turn to him for comfort in the way I should, in the way I truly needed to. And so, I turned to razor blades and scissors for comfort, a physical pain that I could see, that I could grasp, that I could CONTROL. This was a big thing for me, control. Not being able to control the internal battles that I was facing because of uncontrollable circumstances made me crave control. And this is what I learned to control, the amount of cutting, the severity, the blood that freely flowed, the placement, the people who knew about it. It was the control that I desperately craved. It was an outlet for the pain I could not understand. And it even became a way to punish myself in times when I felt as though I deserved it. But something I began to learn is that when you succumb to an addiction as a way to gain control, you slowly relinquish control to said addiction, and it becomes your master as you seek to master it.
And the punishment aspect is completely obsolete. I do deserve punishment, and the payment is blood. But it is not my blood. I have to remind myself of that all the time. It is only the blood of Jesus that washes away my sin.
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Another part of self-harm that is alluring, and sometimes almost intoxicating for someone who has become addicted is the release of blood. It is as if the release of blood releases the feelings and emotions that cannot be articulated in words. Bleeding becomes cathartic, it becomes almost sensual and almost a spiritual experience. This is because I am turning to my razor blade for comfort instead of to the God of all comfort.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3)
Being addicted to self-harm is difficult. It is difficult to break free, as my mindset towards hurting myself has changed. It has become ok for me to injure myself, I don’t even question it, it isn’t weird, it isn’t unheard of, I’ve done it over and over again and become desensitized to the consequences. What are the consequences? Well, I have become ashamed of the parts of my body that hold visible scars, I have an unhealthy mindset about the “okay-ness” of causing myself physical harm, and I have learned how to turn to something other than my gracious and Heavenly Father.
So, what about right now? I am still recovering. My mindset is changing, my dependence on God is becoming stronger and stronger, my ability to say no to the pulls of my addiction is growing and the peace of God is infiltrating my thinking. The Lord is renewing how I view myself despite the scars I bear, and he has helped me see that his blood is enough.
“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
Why am I writing about this, about something so messy and so personal? Because I know I am not the only one who has succumbed to this addiction. I know I am not the only one who turns to an addiction instead of to Christ. And I am not the only one in recovery. If anyone reading this resonates with this, please do not hesitate to reach out and comment or send me a private message. The Lord’s best is not addiction. The Lord’s best is freedom and peace, and that is attainable through Him and Him alone.