Karrie’s Story: Sliding Into Addiction
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Bob and Karrie Wood, leaders of the Celebrate Recovery Ministry at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Karrie tells how she slid into an addiction to alcohol and bulimia and suffered silently from sexual abuse.
Karrie Wood tells how she slid into an addiction to alcohol and bulimia and suffered silently from sexual abuse.
Karrie’s Story: Sliding Into Addiction
Bob Lepine: There are unhealthy ways that people go about trying to satisfy the deep longings of their soul – ways that can lead to dependence or addiction. That's what happened with Karrie Wood and with food.
Karrie: Very early on, what starts as a little curiosity or an instant choice – for instance, I just felt insecure, so I thought what else can I do? I thought I'd have a snack. And what ends up happening is that snack I found for comfort, and so it started to become a pattern, and once it became a pattern it became the addiction.
Bob Lepine: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 28th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll learn today how Karrie Wood wound up looking for love and more in all the wrong places.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I remember – I don't know if this was maybe a decade ago, but it seemed like the term "dysfunction" was kind of a big buzz word a decade ago, do you know what I mean?
Dennis: I do.
Bob Lepine: Every day you'd turn on Oprah or Dr. Phil – well, Dr. Phil wasn't on then, but Donahue or whatever the show in the afternoon was, and it was all about the dysfunction of your family, and the reason I remember this is because my mom one time – she was laughing about this – she said, "Every family was dysfunctional, weren't they?" I mean, at some level we're all dysfunctional, so what's the big news story that you grew up in a dysfunctional family, everybody did, right?
Dennis: I remember you coming into the studio one day and saying that very thing – you quoted your mom, and we both agreed the Bible is about people who are dysfunctional. Another word is sinful. They've made wrong choices, and, you know, Bob, you and I have been talking about doing a series of broadcasts for folks who are recovering from an addiction or recovering from some sin. And, frankly, that pretty much captures about 100 percent of us, doesn't it?
Bob Lepine: We're all in recovery. In fact, discipleship in Christ is really recovering from our patterns of sin that have been with us since birth, right?
Dennis: At least it is for me, that's what I've been doing. And we've invited a couple to join us on FamilyLife Today – Bob and Karrie Wood, who I go to church with at Fellowship Bible Church. Bob, Karrie, I've been looking forward to having you on the broadcast. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Karrie: Thank you.
Bob Wood: It's so great to be with you today.
Dennis: It's good to have you guys. Bob and Karrie head up a ministry, just a little ministry that started out at a small, little insignificant church out in Southern California called Saddleback Community Church, called "Celebrate Recovery." Now, how many people go to Saddleback now?
Bob Wood: It's about 20,000.
Dennis: Twenty thousand people go to church there and celebrate recovery – had about how many people going to it?
Bob Wood: There's been about 6,000 people approximately that have gone through it over the years.
Dennis: Amazing. Celebrate Recovery is a ministry to people who have – well, they're recovering from relationships, drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse, any number of issues – pornography – and Bob and Karrie, I would like to say migrated from Southern California to Arkansas to head up that ministry here. And in the state of Arkansas we now have 50 churches that have Celebrate Recovery ministries, and most of that has occurred because of your leadership in the state in the past couple of years.
Bob Lepine: And one of the reasons the two of you have such a heart for this is because it's a big part of your own background. In fact, Karrie, when you were 24 years old, you reached a point in your life where you kind of came to the end. Life wasn't working, and you didn't know how to make it work, right?
Karrie: That is very true. In fact, I was currently teaching. I was teaching kindergarten, and I felt that my life was always going to be full of sadness and despair, life was always going to be hard. You know, I really had this philosophy in my life that life was not going to be good. It was always going to be troublesome, it was always going to be difficult, and I was never really going to experience happiness.
Bob Lepine: Were you a pessimist or were you depressed or what was going on?
Karrie: I think at that time I just felt completely lost and broken. There wasn't much to me anymore. I was in an abusive marriage, and my life at home was very dark and very troublesome and when I was at work I kind of shut myself down and didn't really relate to anyone. I forgot who Karrie was. I completely lost who she was. I stopped making my own friends, I pushed away my family, I stopped doing the things that were fun for me. I just became so engrossed in trying to make my family life at home peaceful and keep it on momentum and do well by it, but I really worry that this was all life was going to offer me.
Dennis: Karrie, did you escape to something? Usually when people are in that kind of desperate pain, they run from that darkness, as you described it, toward something that masks or hides their own hurts. What was that for you?
Karrie: Absolutely. There were actually two things. One is one I had brought with me all through my childhood. I started it when I was age 7, and that was an eating disorder specifically known as bulimia, and I focused everything on my weight. If I could achieve that American lifestyle of thin and beautiful, then everything else around me would be well. I also thought that the chaos in my marriage was difficult for me so I thought if could focus on that I could make it through life. The thing I added, though, was joining my husband in his addiction with alcohol, mainly to make peace. I felt like if I couldn't beat him, I may as well join him, and drinking throughout the evening just so that I could make it through the evening whole and peaceful and all at the same time hating it. But I didn't know any other way to get through what I was going through at that time.
Bob Lepine: Let me rewind the tape here, because to start with an eating disorder at age 7 is pretty unusual. Would you describe your early childhood as troubled?
Karrie: Very much so. My dad was and unfortunately still is an alcoholic. His sin made him choose a lot of bad choices from marital affairs to being absent from our home. I would go to bars with him and just sit there, and he would drink while I sat with him.
Bob Lepine: And this was a regular part of life for you?
Karrie: It was.
Bob Lepine: Where was your mom in all of this?
Karrie: My mom was having her own bout of depression with it as well, and not knowing herself any other way to go. And at some point she finally said it was enough for her and for me and wanted to do everything in her power to do right by me and make our home safe. And so they ended up getting divorced when I was four.
Dennis: Did you go with her?
Karrie: I did, and my dad actually left the home, and my mom and I continued there for a period of time, but things got tough financially, and we needed to find new ways to survive that way, and so we ended up moving to another state with some friends of hers trying to make ends meet and, unfortunately, the gentleman that lived next door was not the most healthy man, either. During that time I experienced sexual abuse from him and physical abuse from him, and I realized later there was an affair there, but as a child what I mainly understood was why is this strange man hurting me? Who is he in my life? I knew he wasn't my father, but yet he was a disciplinarian in my life, and I felt very troubled by that.
Bob Lepine: You are 5 or 6 years old at this point?
Karrie: At this point I was in third grade.
Bob Lepine: And is the memory of the first time you were sexually abused seared in your memory?
Karrie: Absolutely. I mean, I can picture the time of the day, I can picture where I was, I can picture my emotion, I can picture him coming into the room, I can picture it as if it was happening right now.
Bob Lepine: And what were you thinking as a third grader?
Karrie: Absolute terror, absolute terror. I wasn't sure what he was going to do.
Dennis: Karrie, you've actually been exposed to something your father had done like that when you were five years old?
Karrie: That is correct. What had happened was my dad had come home early when I was with a babysitter from one of his drinking bouts, and I had unfortunately witnessed him trying to sexually abuse my babysitter and witnessed that when I was about four years old.
Bob Lepine: Okay, I'm adding up everything you've described so far, and there is a lot there.
Karrie: There is.
Bob Lepine: At age 7, you began binging and purging with food?
Karrie: At age 7, at that point, we had moved away from this family. We had moved then into a home of my grandparents. My grandmother was an alcoholic, and her moods were so up and down I didn't quite know how to deal with that. I was also very young, so I didn't understand it, either. I just knew to isolate, and so while I isolated I ate. And it was over that time when my mom approached me to ask me if I was overeating and what was going on in my life, because she really cared and wanted to help me with that.
Dennis: This was back before these subjects really became hot topics in the culture.
Dennis: I mean, a 7-year-old little girl having a problem with food – there was a lot going on emotionally in you because of everything Bob was talking about. You had also been emotionally and verbally abused by your father, and so you turned to food as a place of finding control and a way to comfort your own soul.
Karrie: Absolutely. It was the one thing I could control in my life.
Bob Lepine: Explain that a little bit, because as a 7-year-old you're not making a conscious choice thinking, "I'm going to feel better by eating," but somehow there was something in your mind say, "If I eat I will feel better." What's going on there?
Karrie: I think that's the cunning and baffling part of an eating disorder is very early on what starts as a little curiosity or an instant choice. For instance, I just felt insecure so I thought, "What else can I do?" I thought I'd have a snack. And what ends up happening is that snack I found comfort and, all of a sudden, I realized this might could work. And so it started to become a pattern, and once it became a pattern it became the addiction. And I didn't understand all of the hurt that I was feeling from all of that abuse, and so I did know that having a snack made me feel better, and so since I couldn't control anything else around me, I knew I could control me. And the one thing I could control about me is what I ate or did not eat.
Dennis: You know, what I want every parent to hear in the midst of Karrie's story is that a little girl's heart was made to bond to a mommy and a daddy. They need that relationship, and when that kind of healthy relationship doesn't occur, that really is a setup for that little girl to run to other – well, to food, the opposite sex, there's sexual experimentation with the same sex that's occurring all because of the desperation of the human heart, and hearing a story like yours, picturing a little girl, it causes me, as a dad, just to have a check to say, you know, we, as fathers, have been commissioned with a very important assignment. We are to love our children in such a way that we don't provoke them to anger; we don't provoke them toward an addiction of food or boys or alcohol or drugs but instead meet the needs of their souls.
Bob Lepine: You know, truly, if you think of it this way – it's like a scab or a scar on the soul of a little girl, what you've described – the failure to bond with a mom or a dad or some of the other things you were experiencing, and any little girl is going to look around and say, "What can I put on the scar on or on the scab to make it feel better?" You were looking at food and thinking, "Well, this is helping. I feel a little better after I've eaten it," but the cycle that begins with bulimia is you'd eat and then at some point you said, "This is not good," and so you'd start purging. What was it that made you think, "I need to throw up?"
Karrie: Well, what's amazing about bulimia is the active eating and purging, but purging doesn't always mean throwing up. It could be an absence of food for a period of time, it could be diet pills, it could be excessive exercise, it could be a lot of different ways of removing the food that your body just now took in. And, for me, it wasn't so much the vomiting, it was the starvation. I would go eat for a while, and then I would starve for a while. And where all that stemmed from was the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse I had experienced from these past men, which I realize even talking with you today, comes from that need, like you said, about the little girl wanting her dad. And so I would trust these men because I thought maybe they could fulfill that father figure in my life.
Bob Lepine: So, again, to put this in context, you'd grown up with, first of all, a family that's disintegrated, the experience of sexual abuse, the experience of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of your father, watching him as an alcoholic, and now you're starting to have some unhealthy patterns with food. What was the next chapter for you?
Karrie: The next chapter during that time was my mom had met a new potential husband. Unfortunately, he was an alcoholic as well, and my relationship with him didn't start off well. There was a lot of emotional abuse from him. They did soon marry, and they were married for about 11 years. And during that time his alcoholism caused him to make a lot of bad choices, and he became sexually abusive not necessarily by touch but by his words and his comments.
Dennis: What was behind that? I've read your testimony, which, by the way, we're going to put on FamilyLife.com, Karrie's testimony, but you said in your testimony that he had a constant inappropriate use of sexual remarks directed towards me. What's behind that? Why would a man do that?
Karrie: I can't answer that for him, but what I can say is that when it got to a very inappropriate level, I was in early high school and becoming very self-aware of my growth, and he would make comments that were inappropriate about who I was, how I looked like, what I should wear, almost as if I was a woman not connected with him at all, forgetting that he was a father figure in my life.
Dennis: Did he try to dress you in a provocative manner?
Karrie: He felt that some bathing suits should have been in a different format than some of the ones that I was wearing.
Bob Lepine: So he wanted you to be more sexual than you were comfortable being?
Karrie: It wasn't until you just said that that I realized that's exactly what he was thinking.
Bob Lepine: I also have to ask you this – your mom and your dad had divorced when you were 4 years old. Your dad had been an alcoholic. I would think if your mom was ever in a position again where she is looking at a potential mate, a drinking problem would be a red flag – been there, done that, don't want to go back to that, and yet you know and I know that oftentimes instead of walking away from that kind of thing, instead of turning from it, the next husband winds up being very similar to the first one – same kinds of issues, same kinds of problems.
Bob Lepine: Why is that?
Karrie: Well, I have learned from my own experience that when I don't fully look at what lies underneath – my own wounds, my own pains, the things that drive me, that I'm going to continue a pattern, and although after her divorce with this gentleman, she did not choose another alcoholic, I did. And that's a profound thing, and I know that I chose an alcoholic husband early on in my life because I had not yet dealt with all of the pain and the scars of the alcoholism I experienced along with the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
Bob Lepine: It's kind of like that's what you'd grown up knowing how to relate to people who acted that way.
Karrie: Exactly, and physical appearance was everything for me in this marriage.
Bob Lepine: And he was a good-looking guy.
Karrie: He was, but he was more of – he would tell me what to wear, how to have my hair …
Dennis: Like your stepfather did.
Karrie: Exactly, and so, to me, that was normal. It didn't feel right, it still hurt tremendously, but it was familiar.
Dennis: Karrie, I really appreciate your honesty and being willing to share your story because it really reminds dads of what God has commissioned them to do. It is a sacred trust, a sacred trust, and when a man goes against that trust and breaches the trust, the damage, as our friend, Dr. Dan Allender says, goes deep.
Karrie: Yes, it does.
Dennis: It goes to the soul, and, Bob, we talked to hundreds of thousands of people here on FamilyLife Today. We may be talking to a man right now who may be abusing his daughter. We may be talking to men who may be abusing their daughters, not sexually or verbally or emotionally in quite the same harsh way that occurred in Karrie's life, but they may be doing it by neglect, just by not being there.
And, you know, I think the challenge of the day for a dad is to recalibrate, pull back and ask the question – what's God given me? What assignment in life has He given me? And, you know, if you've got your own stuff, and you've got your own addictions and maybe it's pornography, maybe it's alcohol, maybe it's sex, I don't know – I don't know, we've all got our challenges – you may need to get involved in a small group of men like Celebrate Recovery in your church where you begin to get real, get honest, and find a way to begin to reconnect the heartstrings with a little girl and maybe with a little boy.
Bob Lepine: You know, we're also talking, probably, to a lot of adult women who had some level of this in their background, and they've never stopped to consider the way that scar on their soul continues to mark their behavior today, mark their choices today, how they just kind of reflexively reach out in wrong decisions because of the scar that is there. You know, if you had a leg wound, you'd begin to walk with a limp and, after a while, it may be that your leg heals up, but you still walk with a limp.
Dennis: Have a limp.
Bob Lepine: Because you just got used to it.
Dennis: We all have limps.
Bob Lepine: That's right.
Dennis: And, you know, that's what the ministry of Celebrate Recovery is all about, and one of the reasons why I wanted to have Bob and Karrie and, trust me, Bob has been in the studio here with us.
Bob Lepine: Remarkably quiet.
Dennis: We're going to get his story later on in the week, but I wanted to do this series of broadcasts not just to minister to you as a listener, but I believe God is hand-selecting a group of listeners who need to start this remarkable ministry in their local church, and they can start a Celebrate Recovery ministry, and we want to encourage them to go to FamilyLife.com. There will be a link on there to celebrate recovery, and where you can get additional information for how you can start this ministry to men and women, the process of recovering from their brokenness.
Bob Lepine: It's pretty well laid out on the website. All you have to do is click the red "Go" button that you'll see on the home page when you go to FamilyLife.com, and once you get there, there's information about how to connect with the folks at Celebrate Recovery. Their website lays out fairly clearly what you can do to start a group like this in your church. There is also information on our website about a resource that a lot of parents have found helpful. It's a book called "Hit By a Ton of Bricks," that describes stories of families where alcohol and drug abuse have been a part of the family dynamic, and moms and dads have had to come together and figure out how do we help our son or our daughter, or how do we help one another out of the snare of alcohol or drug dependency.
Again, there is more information about that book on our website at FamilyLife.com along with a link to the information from Celebrate Recovery. Again, go to the home page, FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go," and that will take you right to where you can get more information about the resources that are available. And if you stop and think, you may know a friend or some other family where this is an issue. You may want to pass the word along about our program this week so that they can tune in and listen or point them to our website at FamilyLife.com.
You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Someone on our team will get you whatever information you need about these resources. They'll pass the information along to you.
Well, we are in the homestretch this week here at FamilyLife as we wrap up our fiscal year on Thursday, and we've had a lot of our listeners who have been contacting us in the family-to-family challenge fund that has been going on this month. We've heard from moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas and husbands and wives who have been calling to challenge other folks in their situation to help out FamilyLife with our financial need here at the end of our fiscal year. We are ending up the year about 18 percent behind where we had hoped to be at this time in our fiscal year and, as you can imagine, that has us looking hard at ministry opportunities for the months ahead and asking some hard questions about whether we're going to be able to move forward in some of these critical areas.
And those of you who have already called or gone online to make a donation, we just want to say thank you. Your support is helping move us closer to where we had hoped to be, and we appreciate your sacrifice in doing that. If we've not heard from you this month, can we ask you to consider between now and Thursday making a donation of any amount to help with the ministry of FamilyLife Today and to help us finish out our fiscal year in a strong place. You can donate again online at FamilyLife.com if you prefer, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation over the phone. We want to say thanks in advance for even considering helping with this financial need, and we do hope to hear from you, and we appreciate your support.
Well, we're going to pick up the story tomorrow where we left off today and continue talking with Karrie Wood about how she got from where she was to where she is, how God intervened in her life and turned things around for her. I hope you can be back with us for that tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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