I found a used hardcover book which intrigued me so much it ended up in my bi-weekly bag-of-thrift-store-books: The Compulsive Woman by Sandra Simpson LeSourd, published in 1987. The book no longer had a jacket/cover so I had no idea of its genre. But when I read the title I actually laughed out loud. And then I got a case of the giggles and said aloud: Man oh man do I need this book. I felt myself being looked at funny, over the racks of donated sweaters on the other side of the thrift shop. Whoops. I said that kinda loud, so I smiled gamely and went back to perusing titles…thankfully the other book nuts at the shelves were too engrossed themselves and didn’t hear me.
Since I am also a ‘compulsive woman’, who throws used books into shopping baskets with abandonment, I knew the book would be worth the quarter it cost me.
Turns out it is a Christian self-help book; not that surprising since the thrift store I found it in is a Christian based outreach and often has donated Christian books. However, this is not the usual Christian self-help book. It includes a biography of the author’s life–a completely honest and transparent story that doesn’t sugar coat anything she went through. And what a story it is! It was pleasurable to read through, as it read like an autobiography (interspersed with some solid self-help charts, quizzes and resource pages), I broke my own rule and read it in the evening (usually I read fiction and lighter things a few hours before bed. Keep self-help books, which are heavier reading, for daylight hours).
That was last week. I have since ordered and received a used copy of her follow-up, entitled ‘The Not So Compulsive Woman’. What I have read so far of the second book is also easy to read and very helpful for me. Here is the thing which resonated the most, for me, from The Compulsive Woman:
- Compulsive people will move from one addiction to another if they don’t root down and address the core pain (usually from childhood trauma or dysfunction) which caused them to choose compulsions-as-coping-mechanisms in the first place.
The author was addicted to many things-alcohol, food, cigarettes, TV watching, shopping and at one point she also joined a cult. Whenever one addiction was overcome, it just segued into another. She was using her own willpower to change, rather than admitting defeat and gaining insight into her past and her own personality. After she gave up smoking she replaced that with a chocolate addiction which had her compulsively baking brownies in the middle of the night. She shares about it on page 121:
I had thought willpower was the answer–if only I were strong enough. I know now why that was a typical, erroneous, thought of a compulsive person: “Willpower as a pure act,” writes Dr. Theodore Rubin in The Winner’s Notebook, “invariably comes from compulsive drives and contracts and further contributes to compulsion. there is no real self involved in an attempt to overwhelm a disastrous situation by an act of ‘strength’ alone. It just doesn’t work. Insight, on the other hand, involves real knowing of self and real self-involvement on the deepest level.”
What are compulsive drives and contracts? It sounded a lot like making inner vows to me, which I wrote about yesterday.
Again, this idea that we just move from one compulsion to another…and ‘switch addictions’ is an ongoing theme of the book, and it has also been something I’ve touched on a lot in my own therapy/recovery process.
Which is why I included a couple of posts on this subject before I write anymore posts about My Anxiety Diet. It is important not to just switch compulsions, making more contracts or inner vows with ourselves only fuels overall compulsion, when making any major lifestyle changes.
Real change comes from insight, from knowing ourselves, from being gentle with ourselves. And for me, that insight and knowing and acceptance of myself can only come through Jesus. He died on the cross in order to save me from…ME. If He can save a wretch like me, then everyone who admits their sins and calls on Him for salvation can also be saved.
Do you know Him? Does He know you?
I am praying for my readers and I hope that you will pray for me as well. Pray that God continues to give me insights into myself so that I do not fall into the compulsive traps of more ‘self-will’ rather than insightful surrender to the true Healer, and true restorer of balance, health, and life.