The moment Staci Semper collapsed onto her kitchen floor in a fetal position, before the screaming, pleading, and wailing began, it did quickly pass through her mind that here—in the kitchen, is where this would have to take place. The kitchen was the epicenter of her tragedy, the one she lived daily, the one she had finally come to realize she could not endure one more day.
It all began at 12-years-old as two horrors developed within her: acute acne and a cruel growth spurt. At 5’9” and covered in pimples, she was the Quasimodo of her school. And while other girls were getting interest from boys, she was seen as nothing more than someone to look past.
Assurances from her mom and dad that she was indeed beautiful did nothing to quiet the terror in her mind that she would be the ugly duckling forever. “You have to say I’m beautiful!” she would yell at them. “It’s your job!”
“You have to say I’m beautiful!” she would yell at them. “It’s your job!”
By high school, the acne started to get under control, and the height contrast between her and her classmates began to lessen. In fact, a few moments of flirtation by boys began to occur, and suddenly she started to get a bit more comfortable with who she was. It began a phase of artistic expression that focused on creating as many eye-catching getups as possible. Her fashion repertoire ranged from goth black to colorful, girly dresses accessorized to the hilt, as well as haircuts and colors, and piercings done to get the most reaction possible. Altering and painting on clothes into fashion oddities became her thing.
Things were going much better for Staci, even good enough to catch the attention of a handsome college student who became her boyfriend. But her progress was suddenly halted when he began to comment on the parts of her body that he found unappealing. “You’re gaining weight. You might want to exercise more and stop eating so much,” he would say. Tragically, the fact that she was 5’9” and rail thin did not cause her to fight back. She simply accepted it. Suddenly, in her mind, she was ugly once more.
After graduation, she headed off for New York city’s famed Parson’s School of Design to seek fame and fortune as a wedding dress designer. Attending fashion week, she noticed the models and fashionistas and realized that at 5’9 and as skinny as she was, the fashion industry revolved around the emaciated female body. Every girl was thinner than the next, where hip bones and rib cages could be seen but garments flowed beautifully. She resolved that she needed to take drastic action to lose weight.
She experimented with cocaine, counting calories, rejecting all carbs and fats, and drinking nothing but diet shakes throughout the day. But it was when she learned about the weight-loss ease of binging and throwing up that she found her answer. Everything took too much thought and effort. Purging seemed perfectly doable.
And so, she perfectly did it—becoming expert at it. She ate ridiculous amounts of food and purged into large plastic bags that she would store in her bedroom for throwing away when her roommate was gone. She knew where every single-person bathroom was in Manhattan. She knew just how much food to eat, and how much liquid to drink, and how much time to wait to make the throwing up the easiest. It was an awful way to live, and her parents were scared to death. But she weighed 98 lbs., and in her mind, it was worth it.
But she weighed 98 lbs., and in her mind, it was worth it.
It was then that a classmate began to invite her to church. No matter how many times Staci refused, it didn’t seem to dissuade the young lady from asking. Finally, Staci accepted for no other reason than to shut the girl up. But a funny thing happened. She ended up really liking it, and she began to go regularly. Soon Staci asked Jesus into her heart.
Initially, Staci was excited about her new life in Christ, but tough times were just around the corner. She began having extreme money troubles, apartment issues, employment woes and left a toxic relationship with her live-in boyfriend. Staci put on the prayer full-court press and trusted her new God to reach out a healing hand.
In time, He moved mightily: Staci found herself in San Diego in a new apartment, working for the Union-Tribune, going to Rock Church and making lots of new friends. It should have been a golden era, but it wasn’t. At the end of each day, her raw throat (from vomiting up to six times a day) reminded her that she did not let God have control over that part of her life. And the guilt and shame were eating away at her.
She had prayed for deliverance before, but suddenly, her sickness against the backdrop of all the wonderful things God had blessed her with no longer made any sense. It had to stop—but she was powerless against it.
And so, at the end of her rope, she fell to her linoleum floor and screamed so loud and long that her voice ricocheted off her kitchen walls. It became a prayer that was a mixture of demanding that God intervene and surrendering to His power. Tears flowed down her face as she told God that she was going to stay there until He blessed her with deliverance—it was her Jacob-wrestles-with-God moment. Over and over she cried out until the hardness of her floor began to make her boney frame ache.
When she got up and looked in the mirror to see what damage had been done to the blood vessels in her eyes, she felt not one bit different. She didn’t feel delivered in the least.
But about three hours later, something remarkable happened. She realized that it had been about a half hour since her last meal and purging had yet to cross her mind. The miracle is, it never would again.
Through the miraculous hand of God, Staci has been delivered from an addiction that plagues approximately 4.7 million females and 1.5 million males in the U.S. It’s a near-impossible disease to pry loose on one’s own, that is why she is so grateful that on the day she truly surrendered, God responded.
Today, Staci works as a graphic designer for the Rock Church and counsels young girls on how to deal with body image issues. It is a battle that requires constant self-care and compassion, and in doing so, she constantly reminds herself (and encourages others) that “it has to do with embracing God’s view of you to regardless of the opinions of popular culture. God thinks you’re beautiful... and He made you specifically the way you are– for a reason.”
Staci passionately believes that as soon as young girls accept and embrace that, the sooner they can truly live.
If you have any specific questions and would like to contact Staci, email [email protected]
See Psalm 139:13-18 (ESV) for encouragement.