(Posted in the Changing Lives Newsletter – May 2013)
Lisa was always good at making money. It seemed that everything she tried, she did well. She succeeded effortlessly and made a comfortable living by the young age of 17. She met her husband at work, fell in love and got married.
But after her wedding, Lisa worried about her appearance. She restricted food and overexercised to lose weight. Four years after giving birth to her two daughters, her marriage fell apart and her relationship with food took another turn. She began purging everything she ate. Eventually, the habit took control over her entire life. “It’s an addiction like anything else. When I was done with all my obligations for the day, I would turn on the TV, sit and eat, binging and purging until I went to sleep at night,” says Lisa.
Her health was failing as well as her relationships with those around her. After spending most of her fortune on expensive houses, vehicles and vacations, her savings account dwindled. “At that time, I was running my own mortgage company. Though I was doing really well, I was spending over $100 a day on food. I was a workaholic, negating my responsibilities as a parent,” says Lisa. Her eating disorder became so severe that she couldn’t think straight and could barely work. In 2006, she weighed 80 pounds and was waiting to die.
Lisa’s daughters, then in high school, wanted nothing to do with her. For the next three years she was in and out of treatment facilities and hospitals. There were months when Lisa would be in a facility and her daughters lived alone in her small, rented apartment. “I have so many letters from doctors saying that I wasn’t going to make it. My heart was failing,” says Lisa. Her only thoughts revolved around food and her daughters.
Finally, out of money, with no way to pay the next month’s rent or to afford her eating habits, Lisa sought help. She heard about the STAR Transitional Program offered at The Crossing. She had three weeks until her rent was due. In May 2012, she went to The Crossing and was put on a waiting list. Just days before facing eviction, she was able to move in.
“I was so scared and nervous. I came here wanting to maintain my lifestyle. I couldn’t imagine a day without binging and purging, but I had no other place to go,” says Lisa. She did try to keep her old habits. But one of the requirements of the program is that each participant meet with a counselor. Loyce, a volunteer counselor at the Mission, began meeting with Lisa each week. “I met Loyce and loved her. She is an amazing mentor. She prayed for me, and one morning I woke up and decided, ‘I’m not doing this anymore.’ All of her prayers were heard,” says Lisa.
By August 2012, Lisa had stopped binging and purging and felt free from that burden for the first time in 15 years: “The Crossing played a bigger role in that than anybody did. It was the community, as well as the support that I had from the staff…there were people I was able to reach out to. The Crossing made me realize what life is all about.”
Lisa’s biggest loss in the last 15 years was her relationship with her daughters. They moved out, started college and became young women. It crushed her that she wasn’t a part of their lives. But as she continued to grow and heal, they saw changes in her. In October 2012 Lisa met with her oldest daughter, Arielle, for lunch. At the end of that meal Arielle looked at Lisa with tears in her eyes and said, “Mom, I see hope.” Lisa felt it, too.
Now, she sees her daughters twice a month when they visit her at The Crossing: “The fact that I have this relationship with my daughters—I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s like heaven on earth. And it just keeps getting better. This is what community does. It’s so powerful,” says Lisa.
In five years, Lisa sees herself closer than ever with her daughters. She sees herself healthy, living in community, having a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Missions, and working with children. “Getting my degree has nothing to do with money. I want a simple life and I want to teach children,” says Lisa. The Crossing provides the opportunity for STAR participants to earn a degree on-line through City Vision College. Lisa plans to take advantage of this program and start classes in the next few months!
For now, she’s volunteering at a children’s center every week, feeling more fulfilled than ever before: “Through it all, my whole life, I never felt like God left my side. If there is something going on beyond my control, I let go and let God. Whenever I’ve prayed, I’ve always gotten an answer.”
To post a note of encouragement for Lisa on the Mission’s Facebook page, visit Facebook.com/DenverRescue.