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.
I was so very young the first time I had It. A teenager! I look at girls who are fifteen now, and they are but infants to me! The first time I had sex, I was fifteen. And I was raped. At the time, I had no idea. I thought he was only one or two years older than me; that he liked me. He said lovely things to me; and, boy, did he make me feel special. But…one night I woke up after being drugged and raped, was put in a car and then dumped in an unfamiliar location with no phone. I later found out he was twenty one…and I didn’t feel so special anymore. I was left completely emotionally shattered. This was the first key moment in my journey down a dangerous sexual path.
Naturally, this event rocked my world. I was insecure, afraid and had no self worth. I was from a Christian home, I went to a Christian school, I went to a Christian church: I was the Christian girl. Yet none of this stopped the overpowering emotions and the choices I began to make in my life. I was so broken. I began to sleep with any man who would tell me I was “pretty”, anyone who would show me attention. But by seventeen, I had experienced my fair share of men and the broken things they could do, and began to hate them. I began to sleep with women. I was still filling my brokenness with others- with that little three letter word. That dirty, little three letter word. Sex was dirty. It was bad. It was shameful. It was lustful…It was never loving or gentle. As I got older again, though, I began dating some amazing women. Sex felt better. It was loving and good…but still not quite right. There was something about it that I still used to block out the world. It was my escape. It was my secret.
It was coming back to Jesus about four years ago that I realized I must stop this destructive path. I need to stop. I need to find clarity and love in Jesus, not in bed. I would just love to say I woke up the next day feeling liberated, and have been that way since- but, it didn’t happen like that. It took me a long time, still, to have the courage to stop having sex, and I kept stumbling along the way. Once I had stopped having intercourse, I just swapped to watching pornography instead. Again, I was escaping the pain, I was living in secrecy and shame. I became addicted to pornography as I had with sex. Through confessing my struggle to my best friend, meeting one-on-one to talk with her about my fears and hurt, and praying together, I have begun to heal and recover. I am daily accountable to her, and vice versa. After years of friendship, we discovered we had been fighting the same fight against sex and pornography, alone! Now we face it together, stronger. I mean it when I say every day is a struggle. Every day I’m tempted, and every day I have to stop myself. But every day I do that, my faith grows stronger and I grow deeper into love with Jesus.
I am so blessed to have a beautiful new church family, who have never judged me, but let me be free and honest about my struggles. What a blessing from God! I wish I could go back in time and tell that little girl that she is loved, and valued and worthy of protection. I would tell her about the wonderful plans God has in store for her future. But alas, I cannot go back and change the past. But I sit today, in awe of my creator, and thankful to be on the road to recovery from sexual addiction.
The people I associated with and the very liberal ideals of my school meant that our lunchtime talks consisted of the different sexual experiences we had with our boyfriends or how many boys we’d had sex with. Looking back, all of my sexual experiences and talks are simply to just fit in with other people and feel wanted/loved. Even now, I still will find myself regaling my old tales with my non-Christian friends because I guess I want to feel that I can contribute something to the conversation.
After breaking up with my boyfriend last year, I downloaded that dreadful app… The one that starts with T… The one with the flame. Yep, Tinder. I spent night after night swiping right and left. Hoping I’ll find a nice guy to talk to and have sex with. It was like an addiction. I was ashamed of it though. I had sex and sexual relations with numerous guys within a very short amount of time, to fill the hole in my heart left by my breakup. Then came my European trip. Whilst it was an amazing experience, it also was terrible. Travelling with a couple meant I felt very alone. Alcohol was very cheap in Europe and thus, I spent a lot of nights at bars getting drunk and being picked up by attractive, foreign boys. Spending nights in their hostel rooms, to never see them again. Within six weeks, I had hooked up, had sex, you name it with 7 men. I felt dirty and disgusting and tainted. Like no one could love me. My heart continued to yearn for love from someone. Two months after coming back, a friend invited me to come back to church. Funnily enough, this friend I actually met on Tinder and now we are both Christians (new ministry maybe? Haha).
Since finding my love for God and knowing he loves me, weirdly enough, sex hasn’t been a struggle for me. His love has filled my heart and has allowed me to set my heart and mind on things above. I feel very blessed to not struggle with this now, like I thought I would and to have support from friends and powerful messages and worship at church to help me grow in God. I worry though that if I meet a non-Christian guy and end up dating him that this will be a struggle again. I’ll be putting that in God’s hands though to give me strength and solidarity in my faith. Tinder has been uninstalled since I came back to Christ! He is so good.
I was in the middle of a long distance relationship and felt a deep sense of loneliness. My fiancé (now husband) was nothing but loving towards me, but my heart longed for a deeper love. I needed the love that could only come from Jesus, but at the time I didn’t ask for it. I turned to the earthly pleasure of porn which I thought would make me feel whole again. I wanted to control my happiness, but it only led to confusion, frustration, and an overwhelming sense of guilt. I felt lost, and that I was basically just one giant failure.
All of this was happening during a very transitional period in my life. I was switching majors in college which led to hard, tough decisions. I was also part of a Christian leadership team that had advisors who I felt were not sincere in trying to help me grow spiritually. Meanwhile, my home church was switching between pastors. It felt like I had no stable spiritual leadership anywhere. Most (all but two) of the relationships I had in college felt skin deep. My fiancé was living two hours east, so it was hard for me to communicate my feelings of loneliness because I didn’t want to make him feel guilty for choosing a job so far away.
Guilt wore on me every single day for the next few years. I wanted to tell my fiancé desperately, but I feared it would hurt him so bad he’d want to leave me. I loved him so much, and I never wanted things to feel strange or things to become distant between us. Most of the times that I was having trouble healing is when I felt an overwhelming sense of conviction. Every so often a sermon at church would mention it. That always tore me apart inside. Once in a small group, a girl friend of mine admitted she’s struggled with porn. It took everything in me to not say, “Me too.” I regret that. She deserved a friend in that vulnerable moment. A few months ago, another dear friend of mine opened up on social media about her ten-year struggle with porn. Again, I so desperately wanted to hug her and tell her, but I couldn’t.
The thing holding me back in every one of those situations was satan. He fed me lies that these girls would laugh it off and wouldn’t believe me. He lied and told me that my husband wouldn’t forgive me and that he’d want a divorce. He lied and said the Church wouldn’t understand. They’d say, “That sin is too big and you’re too far gone from Jesus.” All lies!
Healing began the summer before I got married. I 100% give the Holy Spirit credit. I don’t remember reading anything specific or seeing something that made me snap out of it. But He convicted me that what I was doing was not only harmful to others but to me. He reminded me that I was worthy of grace and that I could be made whole again. I have been clean as of July 11, 2016. Y’all, Jesus is so, so good.
Today I’m living in freedom. On September 3, 2018, I told my husband about my addiction to pornography. He was nothing but compassionate, sympathetic, and grace-filled as he told me, “I’m not mad at you and I love you.” Relief flooded through me like the wave of a hurricane. I knew I hadn’t been forgiven yet but those few words were enough to fill me with a hope that forgiveness would come soon. The next day he came downstairs and got down on his knees in front of me. He offered me the forgiveness I so desperately needed. We held each other, cried, prayed, and talked about how we’d move forward through this struggle together. That was a beautiful moment.
Today, we are living in freedom! It’s strange just how fast my struggle became a shared one. We’re praying for each other constantly. We’re worshipping together. We’re living in the light of Jesus. We always hold hands when we pray. The Sunday following my confession, after our opening prayer ended at church, the man behind us leaned up and said, “It’s nice to see young couples holding hands to pray together.” If I’m going to go through this hard journey with anyone I’m grateful it’s my husband.
On September 14, 2018, I told the world. This was difficult to do, but necessary for me. I have a blog where I write according to what the Holy Spirit lays on my heart and that day all I could think about was telling everyone about my addiction. Someone needed to hear that even Christians have struggled with this addiction but that there is Power over pornography. I received so many messages telling me I was courageous and brave. In reality, I only want to be known as obedient to the call of the Perfect God that I serve.
You were created by a perfect God who wants to make you whole again through the love of Jesus. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24 You are beautiful, worthy, and wonderful. Your past doesn’t define you and you’re not alone in your struggle. When in doubt look to Jesus, and don’t believe any of the lies Satan puts in your mind.
This is not just a men’s issue, it’s a women’s issue too. I had two beautiful women struggling right next to me and I was clueless for the longest time. Start conversations. Be brave. Be bold. Speak your truth. You never know who might just say those two freeing words, “Me too.”
At that tender age, I began writing erotic literature, and over 300 people took time to read every word that I wrote. It was strange, to be so consumed by these thoughts of what pictures I could create with words; scenarios that would shock; characters that would give up their own innocence for the sake of their lover. I would give up my mind, but I never gave up my body. That way, what I was doing wasn’t really all that bad and I could go on with my daily life; my imagination touched in every possible way but my body still somehow pure. Of course, that point of view was wrong, because soon after the writing began, my hands began to wander and my mind began to crave more. More. Always more. When my readers didn’t satisfy my desire to be validated, I found my way to pornographic chat rooms where I would speak with men, lie about my age, and engage in cybersex with them over webcam, doing whatever they commanded of me and my body.
I still remember the things I did for the sake of their approval. I just wanted to be wanted. I wanted someone to tell me that I was desirable, and these men did that for me. These readers of the erotic fiction I wrote did it. It was all I thought about. My 13-year-old self began to attend a youth group, and I heard the gospel for the first time, then the second, then the third, and kept hearing it again and again over the next few years. People kept speaking these words of faith and love and hope into me and I kept writing fiction to captivate people’s minds with erotic scenes. They kept speaking. I kept writing. One day in my 16th year, I listened at last. It was a reluctant surrender to the God who had called to me for so long, and it was a surrender that involved, for the first time, accepting that this invisible heavenly Father could possibly love me, and letting Him do that. For the first time, I wept because God cared about me. It was as if a wall had crumbled and my soul felt the warmth of grace cover it.
I forgot the usernames and passwords of the accounts that contained my erotic fiction. I began to read the Bible. I began to trust that God loved me more than these men on the other side of the world did. But I couldn’t tell anyone what I had written. Church girls don’t struggle with sexual sin. At least that’s what it seems like most of the time. The struggle isn’t visible. It’s a secret shame that people only ever whisper about to those they trust the most. I never told a youth group leader about what I had done. It felt too bad, too unforgivable, and I was certain they would retract my salvation at that point, and I’d find myself out on the curb, disapproved of with angry eyes by the God who loves everyone but dirty little me. I’ve been alive almost 25 years now. Soon, it’ll be ten years since I last spun a tale for the sake of sensuality and sensations and sex, and still, I find myself sitting in a strange place, because physical scars heal but how can we heal our imaginations? What can we do but plead to God that He would take away these pictures and scenes we once so intricately described? And oh, how I plead with Him. He tells me that His grace is enough. He tells me that who I was when I wallowed in sin is not who I am now. He tells me I am His. He tells me I am loved. He tells me that no shame can remove His love from me. And still, I plead. He is enough, though. He must be.
As I’ve learned to draw nearer to the God who is love, I’ve found myself fighting to walk away from these pictures. Sometimes it is a physical action – a movie will delve into scenes that send my imagination spinning, and I will need to stand and leave the room. Sometimes it is a fight to push thoughts from my mind – a moment in the middle of the night when my mind starts to form words that draw me away from Him, and I have to fight to remember His words and ignore my own. I shared this secret shame with a boyfriend once. It was a strange moment, and we had been flirting with sexual sin for a while. He asked if he could read something I had written. I found myself shocked and scared and saddened by his words. I wanted him to be angry or sad or ashamed or forgiving. I did not want him to embrace the darkness of my imagination, yet he did. I did not let him read it, and the relationship did not last. I need to step closer and closer to my God each day. I need to fight to be His. I need to fight to tame my wild mind by His Spirit. I need to trust His grace is sufficient for me. And you do too, dear one. You are His. You can fight. His grace is enough. Your deepest shame is not enough to make him abandon you. You are His. You. Are. His.
I never knew that God was concerned about the state of my heart more than the bible verses I could quickly recite without any thought or effort. When I was in my late teens, I was accidentally exposed to a porn scene on someone’s TV while I was at their house. It was a scene with all women in it, and that image quickly burned itself into my mind. I had never heard or thought of doing anything like that before. The scene horrified me but made me curious at the same time. Consequently, I started having dreams about a (female) friend of mine. These dreams were sexual in nature, and I didn’t know what to do with the thoughts that were quickly invading my mind and heart. I decided to tell her, and we ended up getting into a relationship with each other. Our relationship lasted 2 years before she moved away. After we broke up, I started dating a guy who watched porn. I was embarrassed to watch it at first, but I eventually ended up watching it with him. I was able to convince him to watch movies with two women in them, so that’s what we would normally do. It worked for both of us. I would also find Playboy magazines that he had hidden, and out of curiosity, I would look at them. Focusing only on the women in the porn, I didn’t notice what was slowly happening. I was beginning to look at women differently. I wasn’t just attracted to them; I was lusting and continually fantasizing about them.
A few years later I gave my life to Christ, and married Kevin. I had stopped watching porn a couple years earlier, and I assumed I would never struggle in that way again. After an emergency C-section with our first child two years into our marriage, I started struggling with post-partum depression. During this time, I found porn online. This was much different than the movies I had watched in the past. I quickly learned that I could get very specific about what I wanted to search for and watch. Before I realized it, though, I was trapped. I couldn’t stop. No matter what I did I continued to go back to it.
I was smothered in shame as a stay-at-home mom who was secretly looking at lesbian porn a good portion of the day while my husband was at work. My husband and I were both very involved in our church, and I felt like such a horrible hypocrite. I still had the exterior that said I had it all together, so no one even thought to question if everything was ok with me. All the thoughts and fantasies I had about women were intensified and more vivid than ever. I started having dreams several nights a week that resembled the porn I was watching. I was like I had two identities. I felt like a lesbian at night in my dreams and when I was watching porn, and a married stay-at-home mom the rest of the time. I didn’t know how to confess this to anyone, and I felt trapped. I felt so much shame. I thought I was the only Christian woman who struggled in this way, and every time I promised myself that I would stop, I would go right back to it again. I had tried to tell my husband several times, but I could never make myself bring it up. I didn’t know how to make myself say it out loud, so one day I wrote my confession on a piece of paper to show him. I handed him the piece of paper when he came home one afternoon. That was one of the most terrifying things I have ever done. I didn’t know what our future would look like, but I was relieved to have finally told him.
That started a very long healing process for me and for us as a married couple. When I started searching for help, all I found were resources for men. I felt so incredibly isolated and alone. I felt like a freak and was convinced I ruined my brain forever. Believing I was the only woman who was trapped in this struggle increased the shame I already felt so deeply. As God took me through the process of healing my heart, He started showing me that what I really wanted, needed, and craved was intimacy with Him. It came as a huge surprise to me when I realized that what I really needed had nothing to do with sex. As I started taking steps to guard my eyes and heart, I also started surrendering my thought-life to God. I wish I could say that I never looked at porn again, but that wouldn’t be true. There were times I fell, and plenty of times when I felt like nothing was changing. As I have learned how to lean into God’s grace and love for me, I have found freedom from the lure of pornography and the fantasies that go along with it. Yes, I have been occasionally tempted since then, but the power it once had over me is not there anymore at all. I have been set free! This has been a long, often difficult and imperfect journey, but it has been worth it. Jesus continues to heal my heart, mind, and marriage in so many ways. I now have an intimate relationship with the One who meets my deepest needs, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.
Amy Riordan is a speaker and author of ‘Longing for Intimacy: Hope for Women Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction’. You can find her at longingforintimacy.com
A couple of months later our church had a camp. My brother and all the kids from the church went, but I didn’t want to go. I made the excuse that I wasn’t feeling well and had to stay home. For the whole week while the kids were having a great time on camp, playing games, learning more about God and making great memories…I was home watching porn. It was my hidden sin. A year later while sitting in the lounge room with mum and my brother something came up on the T.V about porn. Mum made a comment to my brother and I that we should not look at that those videos and stay clear from them. I became nervous and sweaty, so I stood up and went to my bedroom. I fell on my knees. “God, what should I do?” In a clear voice that was only from Him, He said to me “Tell her. I am with you, go and tell her.” I cried my eyes out, the last thing I wanted to do was tell her! She didn’t even know, I could easily get away with it. After I gained some courage I went out and I told her.
After a long chat with my nose and tears flowing, I confessed and promised I would never do it again. I went to bed feeling hopeful and proud that I told mum. A big weight had been lifted off me that night.
You’d think that would be the last time. You think that would have helped me…but it didn’t. For years up until I was 22 it was still something that gripped me and was my hidden addiction. Even after being saved and getting baptized it was the one thing that I struggled with. I became better at controlling it when I got older. I could go for months without watching anything, but like chocolate, you deny yourself for too long and one piece ends up being a family-sized chocolate bar. When mobile phones were more accessible, and the internet was suddenly in my hand, I would binge-watch porn every night for a week straight in the safety of my bed. I asked God to take this off me, to take this burden away. How messed up can I be to keep doing this? Surely no-one else is as weak as me, and as hypocritical!
While I was in university I joined a group of Christians called Christian Union. In my third year we had this new study that was about Sex and Purity. For the first time since I was 11 years old, I heard another Christian sister proclaim that she struggled with reading books that had intimate scenes in them. She knew she shouldn’t, but she couldn’t help but read those books, it was her guilty pleasure. I sat there in silence. A couple of other girls had nodded their heads and had admitted to watching porn at least once before. One of the leaders got us all to regroup and he read out some statistics stating that many Christians, including women…. watch or read porn. Up until that point I felt I was the only Christian that was addicted to porn. I felt ashamed and hopeless. How could I act like a prude on the outside, when my mind was playing the videos over and over in my mind? How could I be a true Christian if I was blatantly watching porn and lying to my friends and family at the same time? Only myself and God knew what was going on.
Not long after that seminar on sex and purity I started to seek resources to help me out. I found ministries online dedicated to helping young people with their addiction. I found one dedicated to women called The Grace Spot and I was overwhelmed. Hope was a dwindling flame burning in the distance. I sat there and watched testimony videos from women talking openly about their experiences. The candle light shone brighter and I wept and wept and truly felt there was hope for me….as I wasn’t the only one.
It didn’t end there, and I wasn’t suddenly cured, but I did feel more equipped than I ever had before. If there’s one thing I can say that has been of help to me is to be honest with yourself and call it for what it is. For all those years since I was 11 years old I never called it an addiction. But when I finally faced myself…I realized that I needed to do something about it. Confront myself and talk about it, rather than hiding in the dark. I don’t say nor think that I am cured. But I do know that there is hope. I can manage it to the point where I haven’t watched anything in a long time, but I know I will probably slip up eventually. I am a sinner. I don’t want to sin, but it is something that I will always struggle with. But I know that I have the help and support of others if I slip back into the addiction that was once so consuming in my life. I also have God’s love and grace. His grace and His love is what keeps me going. You are worthy. You are loved.
I began masturbating when I was 13 years old after I had sexual fantasies about the lifeguard that taught my swimming lessons. Mind you, I had not seen any kind of sex scene at that point. But somehow, I knew that sex involved being under the covers of a bed. I wasn’t simulating the act in my mind but I knew it was sex. Kissing and disappearing under the covers equaled sex to me at that point. I am a visual learner and have a vivid imagination, so in a way it makes sense that my mind was likely able to piece together things I saw overtime and create these fantasies. My youth pastor taught that masturbation was wrong, but I felt like as long as I wasn’t having sex, I was okay… But deep down, I still felt super dirty. I continued to struggle alone with sexual thoughts and masturbation because I always heard lust conversations in church addressed to males. I thought I was the only young woman dealing with this. I didn’t hear any of my Christian or non-Christian female friends talk about sex, lust, or anything related to those areas. This made me feel especially sinful because I thought there was something seriously wrong with and unfeminine about me if I was dealing with a “dude’s” issue.
It wasn’t until 2012 when I met some women in a Bible study that struggled with the same thing. Even the guys in the group were surprised that women had lust struggles. Knowing that I could work through getting over this masturbation issue with others was the most liberating and freeing thing I had ever experienced… I’ve come a very long way but now that I’m in my very first relationship with a man that I love, the struggles I’ve had are on a completely different level! I had never been physical in ANY way with a man before, so hugs, cuddles, and kisses were new and exciting to me throughout the first year of our relationship. God has continued to be faithful by changing my desires to be more about pleasing Him. My boyfriend and I have set up boundaries, but it’s still been super hard. Fortunately, we are still virgins and take our individual purity journeys seriously, so that has been really helpful… but still… I just don’t want to take this issue into marriage, you know?
I never knew getting blood was a normal part of life as a girl… until then. Mom had never explained how my body works as a woman. Anything in the area of love, relationships and sexuality was almost never addressed. The only thing that was said and never questioned was this: SEX IS BAD. But as a young girl of 10 years I was never going to understand what she meant by “sex is bad” when I didn’t even know what sex is. At that age I had unfortunately already encountered the wrong people to show me the false idea of love and sexuality. Mom had encouraged us to invite three girls from our neighbourhood to play with us at our home. As we played around in my room, these girls started playing make-believe that they were at a club having sex with boys. At the time I didn’t understand what they were doing and what was happening, so I went along with the game. There was a sort of strange pleasure that came along with that game. And that is where all my struggles began.
Every night after that, I found myself doing things to myself that ignited these same feelings of pleasure. I never understood what I was doing until Year 8. My Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) teacher put on a cartoon video for my class about puberty. The scenes showed a cartoon bedroom at night, a teenager under his bed covers and a voice-over narrating: “During puberty, people learn how to stimulate their genitals to relieve their sexual feelings. This is called masturbation. Masturbation is a normal part of a person’s development.” As I watched the scene, I realised what I had been doing since I was 10. I was masturbating and it was a normal part of puberty.
Masturbation became my coping mechanism for the anxiety, depression and loneliness I felt during my high school years. Throughout those years I struggled in developing friendships, so I would isolate myself in the music room, playing the piano and singing on my own every recess and lunchtime. One thing was for sure: I couldn’t wait until it was night time, when I would go under my bed covers and release all that stress. I knew this was happening behind closed doors, but in my year group I was regarded as the “innocent one”. I kid you not, I was the only girl in my whole year that had no idea about sex and how my body worked as a woman. So many girls would turn to me in admiration: “You are so innocent! Don’t ever lose that innocence.” And then they would turn back around and go back to their sexual lifestyle – the one-night stands, having sex with their boyfriends and/or watching porn.
The hypocrisy behind their words made me question this: if my innocence was so good, why are they going back to that lifestyle? I wanted to know what the big deal was about sex. So one night in 2012, I took my family laptop, locked myself in my room and browsed the internet to find porn. It was such a novelty watching porn for the first time. It ignited new feelings of pleasure and release that I hadn’t felt before. My body began to demand more and more of it each day, to the point where I found myself consumed by the world of porn. It is a world where women expose their own bodies, given it up to the men. A world where women are defined by their appearance and what they have to offer sexually. A world where sex appeal was everything to a woman. Thus, love became nothing more than sexual attraction and relationships became the means where I sought to take sexual pleasure from.
My first two relationships where surrounded by lust, which I had confused with authentic love. But the whole time they were relationships of take and use, disregarding each other’s dignity. I started to believe that to be loved meant to be sexually attractive. I equalled my value to how many guys were attracted to me and how much I exposed my body. And so I hated my own body for not being sexy enough. Porn taught me that I was not loveable because I did not have a sex appeal. Porn twisted my identity as a woman. But everything changed when a woman gave me my first real lesson about love and sexuality: sex is the physical language of a man and a woman’s love for one another, a miraculous life-giving act, where a child is brought to life.
For such a long time I had believed that love = sex. Since that encounter with that woman I realised that sex was the ultimate physical language of one’s love for another. It is where one says to the other “I accept you entirely: heart, mind, body and soul.” It is a self-giving act, where one says to the other “I give myself entirely to you: heart, mind, body and soul.” Learning this truth about sex made me realise what a beautiful and sacred gift it was from God.
But how could anyone ever accept and love someone like me? Someone who has misused the sacred gifts that love and sexuality are? How could God even love a girl like me, with such disgusting habits? God would never love me like this! But this is not true because, just like the woman who was caught committing adultery, Jesus never condemns us (John 8:1-11). God is ever so merciful. My weakness in the area of impurity does not cancel out the fact that He created me out of love, for love, to love and to be loved. Porn had made me believe that my inherent value was on the sexual appearance and performance of my body. But St JPII stated, “There is no dignity when the human dimension [heart, mind and soul] is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” You cannot isolate a person’s value to a singular aspect of their being. I am much more than my body. We are much more than our bodies.
Porn moulds women into objects because it disregards their hearts, their minds and their souls. But there is much more to our womanhood than our bodies! We have a body, but we also have a mind, a heart and a soul! St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross said “The world doesn’t need what women have. It needs what women are.” And what are we? We are daughters of God. And what truly defines our individual value? God defines our value, because He is our Creator. He created us women with our bodies. But we are much more than our own bodies. We have hearts, we have minds and we have souls! If you are someone who struggles with any form of sex addiction I want to you to know that if God can love a broken soul such as mine then He loves yours too! No matter where you’re from, no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what sins you have committed or the mistakes you made, God will always and forever love you. Always and forever remember that: you are beautiful, you are worthy, you are loved because God loved you first.
Rosario is the founder of Talitha Ministries, a Catholic website where Rosario shares her witness of purity, authenticity and healing to empower women struggling with lust, porn addiction, masturbation and sexual sin. Find her on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.
With time I moved onto high school and new set of friends. They were confident, engaged in sexual activities but never pressured me to join in with them. They would all just call me a late bloomer but little did they know I was a habitual masturbator with an appetite for same sex pornography. I got into university and made new friends, and started going to a campus church for students but I had no growth in God. My closest friend at that time further reinforced that watching porn and masturbating was good and natural thing for all. This spurred me on to continue with my habit, since everyone was doing it in any case and I was still maintaining my virginal purity with my habit. As time went on things went a bit sour with my studies and I started feeling disillusioned with life; and the emotional abuse I had also suffered from my father was also starting to wear me down. I gained a lot of weight and started to change from being outgoing to being in a constant state of underlying sadness.
The only way to de-stress from this state was my nightly routine of either watching porn or masturbating or both. When it got to be too much I later decided to confide in a class mate, who was always preaching the word to us in class. I told her about my disbelief in God’s goodness and his existence due to all the suffering I had endured from the aftermath of my parents divorce. I did not tell her about my habit though and she took me to her church where I found salvation again. For the first time in a long time I started to believe and started to heal. I learnt of the dangers of sexual immorality and pornography. I started to actively seek God and his power to fight my habit, to help me to push the images of naked women to deep recesses of my mind where I could forget them and I managed to succeed for a good two years. Then I started working. I had to change churches and my friendship circle. I got a new group of friends from all walks, races and religions in life and spent most of my time at work with them. It was in this time that I started drawing away from God due to my busy work schedule and social life. I also started to notice the way my body craved sexual fulfillment during certain times of the month.
I was the only 28 year old virgin left and body had sex on its itinerary during each ovulation period. My friends told me about their hilarious to horrid sexual escapades and I felt like I was left behind and missing something vital in my life. Their stories though innocuous to them added fuel to my fire of arousal and thus I started to masturbate again. I rationalized that I was not hurting anyone and I certainly wasn’t watching porn anymore. It was a clinical act, a means to an end. I was no where near marriage and God had given me two hands to make due with my situation while I waited. At this point I also realised how damaged I was from my parents divorce and how I had not formed one healthy relationship with any man. I only had 3 short term (less than 2 month) relationships in first few years of university which was ages ago. I felt as though I was too fat and too undesirable to date, besides my own father had rejected me even with all my academic achievements so why would any man want me.
I told my best friend that I didn’t want to get married and that I was afraid of being spinster virgin. I could deal with being a spinster but just not being a virgin too. She praised me for holding steadfast to the Lords word and told me that although she enjoyed sex that it came with many burdens that were too tiring. Later that same day she sent me a link to Transformation Church’s series on relationships and sex and I must say I devoured the episodes made numerous noted and got seriously convicted. I realised that every time I indulged in masturbation whether I had lustful thoughts or not, Christ was right there with me, this broke my heart. I repented and worked hard on resisting my monthly urges, then I accompanied my mom to a deliverance conference and while I was there I confessed my struggle to one of the female elders and I was prayed for and delivered of my masturbation and porn habit. My monthly habit ceased as my relationship with Christ grew. It’s been a few months now since I’ve stopped completely and yes I have succumbed to temptation twice but now I know that God loves and cares for me and that with repentance of my sins I must continue to pray and seek His face even when I feel dirty and unworthy because He said that he’d carry this burden for me and that His grace is sufficient to conquer the temptation in my life. I still have doubts creeping in from time to time, about being a 30 year old virgin with no prospects in meeting a future partner any time soon but I know God loves and cherishes me and that this is my time for healing and wholeness in Him. I will not lie, it is a daily struggle but I know to keep my eyes on my saviour and redeemer and that the best is yet to come.
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.
Share Your Story
You are not the only one.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brene’ Brown
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