My story began when I was just twelve years old.
My family didn’t talk about sex. I was a sheltered and curious girl. Thus, when I stumbled upon soft-core porn one day (on good old dial-up internet) it started to fill the blanks. I was fascinated by this new online world of naked bodies. When I was offline, I scoured novels for steamy sex scenes and even took these books on family holidays, to read over and over again. This continued for several years until I replaced porn with real relationships and sexual discovery. Core to my journey into addiction was an extremely rough patch I experienced in later high school, during my ‘real relationships’ phase. I experienced intense, ongoing bullying and witnessed a horrific assault, which resulted in a mental breakdown. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and struggled with an unstable and vulnerable emotional state throughout my senior years. Upon graduation, I was excited to escape the school system which had damaged me so, and experience freedom. I chose to pursue this ‘freedom’ by entering into a long-distance relationship with a near-stranger, despite my family’s apprehension.
He pressured me into having sex, despite being aware I intended to wait for marriage.
He wore me down and convinced me I had very little value besides my ability to please him. Even in that aspect, he made me well aware I was incompetent, even for mindless sex. My body was not up to standard, and I was humiliated into changing myself to please him.
There was no intimacy involved in what we did.
There was never a moment where I felt cared for, nurtured or valued. I barely even felt desired. There was a distinct lack of eye-contact, there was much more aggression than necessary and he did not once consider my pleasure as important. With the wisdom of hindsight, I no longer believe this boy had harmful intentions. He had a misguided and damaged understanding of sex and relationships. I see this as the result of his pornography use, and his particular social culture. Nevertheless, that relationship became the force that threw me back into the arms of pornography, in a more damaging way than ever before. A friend watched this play out from a distance. Finally, he could no longer bear the damage being done to my heart and suggested I break up with Mr Long-Distance. I was so unempowered in myself, I didn’t think this was even an option. His words were the courage I needed to break free. Unbeknownst to us, our God had a much larger plan in play. Seven years later, this truly platonic friendship developed into a relationship. After some time, Lukas would propose to me on a beautiful mountaintop and finally call me his wife. God’s timing and ways are so wonderful and generous. Before that joy would come along, however, I had many years of struggle and healing ahead.
Once single again, I had space to feel my repressed emotions, and ask the unnerving questions:
Why was sex so terrible? What was wrong with me? What did I do wrong?! …And what was an orgasm, for that matter? I quickly rediscovered masturbation and pornography in my seeking. It taught me ‘what men wanted’, what I ‘should’ look like and do. It showed me the full extent of my inadequacy, and I hoped I could use it to change myself. More than this, it became a means of escape from the deep sense of shame and self-hatred that festered within me. The rush of dopamine made me feel alive for a few moments. It allowed me to feel in control when I felt lost and vulnerable. There was no risk of rejection or being told ‘Hey, you suck at this!’
I relived traumatic sexual and relational experiences, but this time I was ‘in control’, not them.
My life became consumed with a combination of increasingly graphic porn, and a shame that covered every fibre of my being. I tried to stop. I couldn’t. I had become chemically and emotionally dependent. The shame grew heavier. I felt I couldn’t tell anybody. Because, porn is a guy’s issue, right?
I truly thought I was the only woman watching it, and struggling to stop. I kept it my secret.
Until I was graciously given another opportunity to break free. During a Sunday church service, the Pastor spoke on recurring sin and shame. Without mentioning pornography at all, the Holy Spirit used his words to minister to my soul. I felt an overwhelming sense of love and being known. That evening, I knew God saw deep into my soul and mind. He saw every struggle and image, and still loved me. I fell to the floor in tears and wonder. A stranger came to hold and pray for me. Later, I would discover she too, had struggled with serial relationships and pornography addiction. She had overcome with God’s help though. She encouraged me to share. I confided in a friend, and she surprised me by saying ‘me too! I thought I was alone!’ So, the long and arduous road to recovery began. And I had a friend to walk with me.
Getting free from porn hurt like hell.
It took years of relapse and painful confessions. It took counselling, prayer, rigorous accountability, filtering software, tears and hard work. I had to deal with my PTSD and every wound that fed the intimacy disorder I had developed. Throughout the mess, Jesus loved me. He never stopped showing me kindness, even at my darkest. His Holy Spirit showed me gentle and persistent love in unique and undeniable ways. He told me that He knew it all and still cherished me! He taught me that my struggle didn’t hinder my femininity or worth. As I received this love, my shame began to seep away. My intimacy with both God and those around me was restored. This healing paved the way for me to use the tools I had to truly seek freedom. It wasn’t easy. Having God on your side doesn’t instantly solve every problem. But it does mean you know grace. It does mean you are accepted and loved unconditionally, even in your darkest hour. It’s been five years since I’ve compulsively used pornography, but my story isn’t over yet.
In November 2019 I published Restored: A Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Pornography.
All throughout my recovery, my dream was to publish a practical recovery guide just for women. It was to be everything I ever desired when I felt lost, alone and consumed by addiction. In November 2019 this dream became a reality. It was a thereputic endevour to reflect on my whole life story and what led me into a healthy and whole life. I am grateful for the process. Healing never really finishes, it just goes deeper. You can purchase Restored here.
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― Brene’ Brown
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