Last Fall, while studying for my pain medicine board recertification exam, I learned some new things about substance abuse that can help those of us who have non-narcotic-related weaknesses (like overeating, gambling, over-shopping, etc). I learned that anxiety is the most common diagnosis that precedes relapse into substance abuse. Anxiety is even more of a risk for relapse than is depression!
When you experience anxiety, if your weakness is addictive pain pills, you reach for your favorite pill, like hydrocodone, to soothe your anxiety. But if your drug of choice is food, you reach for cookies or potato chips. Different people have different types of pacifiers to help them deal with their unwanted emotions, but, deep down, it’s still the same animal.
Do you want to know what helped me overcome some of the anxiety that led me to stress-eat once upon a time? It could be the same thing that helps you overcome your own secret problem right now, so pay attention.
A long time ago, I learned that I don’t necessarily have to do everything that others want or expect me to do. It’s not possible to please everybody all the time. I also learned that I’m not necessarily even supposed to try to please everybody. Sometimes, others’ expectations of me are downright unfair or irrational.
Realizing that not every battle was mine to fight took a lot of pressure off of me and massively decreased my anxiety. God didn’t necessarily create me to do all the good things that I could be doing with my time or to rescue everybody who wants my time or my help. God created me because He loves me. I’m his beloved child, not a “tool.” He loves me just as much as He loves the people He wants me to help.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much peace I feel, knowing that I don’t have to “do” to be good enough for God [or for myself and other people].
How about you? Do you feel like you’re nothing more than a tool? Do you feel anxious if you aren't involved in fifty thousand do-good projects? If so, maybe your overextended schedule and resultant anxiety are leading you to stress-eat or to down a fifth of vodka to drown your sorrows. Maybe your anxiety even manifests as physical illness or pain through the mind-body-spirit connection.
If I just described you, hear me, now: you are not just a tool. You are God’s beloved child—fearfully and wonderfully (though imperfectly) made, just like me. Rest in that scriptural truth, rather than in a box of Ho-ho’s or the handful of pills the next time you feel compelled to take on another good but unnecessary, time-consuming project that could ultimately destroy your health.
See also: Depression And The Christian Patient