My battle with sexual brokenness began long before I discovered porn.
I grew up in a home where I constantly felt unloved, rejected, afraid, and ashamed. I could never do anything right and I was always in trouble. My mom hated me and my dad acted like I didn’t exist. The verbal and emotional abuse of my mother left me feeling heartbroken and anxious on a daily basis, while the neglect of my father left me feeling worthless and alone. My home was not a safe place, in fact, my home was the place where all of my problems lived and thrived – and I desperately wanted to find a way to escape them.
Since I couldn’t find the comfort and safety and love I needed from my parents – and since my relationship with God at the time was completely nonexistent – I began to search elsewhere to get my needs met.
That search during my sophomore year of high school led to promiscuity, nude photos, nights of underage drinking, sexual abuse, and eventually, rape.
That became one of the worst years of my life. I was a broken and worn out 15 year old kid who just wanted to be loved and valued for who she was, but every “so-called solution” just led to more hurt, confusion, loneliness, and pain.
So I decided to try one more thing… pornography.
Porn quickly became my sweet escape. I would come home from soccer practice after school and I would immediately lock myself in my bedroom. The rock music would blast from my radio (drowning out the yelling and fighting coming from my parent’s room) as I’d sit on my bed, and a number of pornography videos would fill my computer screen. At first, I felt gross – unsure of why those images aroused me and curious if I was the only female in the world who looked at this kind of stuff. But the more I explored and the more I watched – the more it took over my life and the less I cared.
The only thing that mattered to me was that I finally felt comfort – and when I added masturbation to the mix, I also felt relief. That combo quickly became addictive. I wanted to remain in that state of ecstasy and afterglow forever, but I couldn’t. The feelings of release brought on by the intense orgasm rush would rapidly fade only to be replaced by feelings of intense shame, self-hatred, and disgust. The one “cure” that seemed to be easing my pain was also destroying my life. The guilt began to eat away at my insides while I spiraled down into a deeper depravity. Over time the videos got worse with more violence, objectification of women, homosexuality, and perversion – and the masturbation became more impulsive. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of my addictions that I never spoke about them to anyone. Porn and masturbation became two heavy burdens that I carried around secretly, and the weight was suffocating me.
At 17, I decided to become a Christian. I fell in love with the Gospel message of grace that a friend had shared with me at school, and I wanted to know this guy named Jesus who apparently loved me unconditionally. I remember reading a paraphrased version of Romans 5:8 that said, “I have loved you even in your darkest time,” and it shook me to my core. I never thought that anyone could love a girl like me – a girl who felt worthless, dirty, gross, and abused – but it sounded like Jesus could. I knew I needed His help to overcome my addictions and my sin, and I knew that He was the only One who could offer me the love and healing that I could never find in other people, so I gave up the secular life and became a believer.
But I didn’t give up porn.
During this period of my life, I was distraught. I couldn’t understand why Jesus didn’t simply take my addiction away. He knew how much I hated porn, He knew it was destroying my life, and He knew that I wanted to be free, so why didn’t he heal me? Why was I still addicted to porn and masturbation as a Christian? What was wrong with me? Would I ever be free?
Those questions haunted me for years.
Throughout college, I secretly suffered with my addictions while attending church on Sunday mornings, leading bible studies on Wednesdays, and volunteering with youth camps during the summer. I was living a double life and I felt like the biggest hypocrite alive. All of the Christians around me seemed so “perfect” and so “holy.” I felt like I couldn’t be honest by showing them my true self because they’d probably just reject me. I was so worried that if my Jesus-loving friends knew about my addictions, they would hate me, judge me, shame me, or kick me out of church. Fear kept me in bondage and I was too ashamed to ask for help. So, I fought alone. I tried to stop, I made rules, I set boundaries, I created punishments, I used accountability software, and I would even yell at myself in the bathroom mirror.
None of that worked… until one day when I decided to give up.
Yep, you read that right. I gave up.
I was in the middle of yelling and cursing at my Heavenly Father in prayer, while lying flat on my bedroom floor in despair when I heard Jesus speak. It wasn’t audible, but I knew that the revelation I had in my mind and heart was coming directly from Him. He said lovingly, “Hey my girl – stop trying so hard. Stop trying to save yourself. Stop trying to heal a wound that you can’t heal. You are not strong enough for this, but I AM. You can’t do this in your own strength, but you can do it with My strength. Please let me help you. I love you.”
At that moment on my floor (after tons of tears), I made a choice to surrender. For years I had been trying to cover up my “bullet holes with bandaids.” I was trying to heal my wounds and my trauma and my shame with shallow coping mechanisms, and it was backfiring badly. Those wounds that I carried were becoming infected and my pornography and masturbation addictions were only making the pain worse. I had to stop trying to heal myself, and I had to let the Perfect Healer take over.
That’s the moment when my true healing began.
My pornography and masturbation addiction lasted about 7 years until I could finally declare my freedom. This restoration process required blood, sweat, and tears – and sometimes even throw up. It required lots of grace, tons of truth, and some intimate relationships with a few wonderfully authentic people. I had to learn how to be completely honest with myself, God, and others as I sorted through my struggles. The costume and the mask I had been wearing to hide my addictions had to come off and that was risky, but it was also incredibly worth it. I had friends who showed me love on my worst days, friends who knew the ugliest qualities about my addictions and didn’t shame me, and friends who constantly reminded me of my identity in Christ. I also had an incredible counselor who taught me that I didn’t have to fight alone, that I was worthy of love, and that healing from sexual sin and brokenness was possible. (He’s still my counselor today!)
Now don’t get me wrong – I relapsed a lot, I gave in a lot, and I triumphed a lot. There were days when I felt like a failure and there were days when I felt like I could truly do anything through Christ who gave me strength (Phil 4:13). This journey has not been a perfect one, and it’s far from over – but it has shown me that nothing in this world (no addiction, no trauma, and no hurt) can conquer the power of Jesus’s redeeming love in my life.
I still have to make the conscious decision to “give up” and surrender every single day. My mind is still being healed and renewed from my trauma and my addictions, and I am still learning how to embrace and celebrate my God-given sexuality as a Daughter of the King.
And lastly, I want to share a few words of encouragement for my dear friends who are reading this….
You may feel alone, but you are not alone.
Healing is possible.
You are loved.