I was the best Christian girl a Christian girl could be. I never hiked my Christian school uniform skirt higher than my knee, I was the best at church Bible drills, and I always raised my hand when the teacher asked for a volunteer to pray.
My parents had come from rough backgrounds, but they were doing all they could to make sure their daughter was raised right. I was protected, sheltered, and naïve. The sex talk was reduced to being handed a book about adolescence, and I knew not to ask questions about what I read. Just around the time when my hormones and my body were starting to leave girlhood, though, my school got a new transfer: a girl with plenty of answers. She told me eye opening stories of what it was like in her public school. My curiosity was insatiable. One afternoon when I was left home alone with the television, I landed on Jerry Springer’s holiday special and MTV’s raciest videos. I was intrigued and horrified by what I saw.
Mountains of guilt changed my mood for days until I confessed to my mom what happened. I was forgiven, I suppose, but nothing was dished out. Nothing was healed.
Four years later, I was given a laptop for my high school graduation present. I had spent the last few years filling my mind with words and descriptions from Christian romance novels, and it didn’t take me long to wander into the dredges of the internet to add to my repertoire of images.
After that first confession with my mom, I was never asked about the incident again. I was the perfect child, after all, and I acted my role perfectly. I wasn’t trying to be sneaky, but I knew I needed to keep this a secret. What would people think of me if they knew, anyway?
I already knew what I thought of myself.
I am a freak.
There’s something wrong with me.
I have a guy problem. I notice other girls in ways I shouldn’t. I look at porn. And I like it. Heck, I thought girls weren’t even supposed to want sex!
Eventually, my struggle wasn’t just looking at porn, it was an addiction to everything sexual I could get my mind on. I hoarded scenes from every source and then I let my mind take everything further. In the realm of my imagination, the sexuality became even more twisted and damaging. And, there in my imagination, I was alone.
I was alone whether I wanted to be or not. I was certain no one would understand if I told them. They would just cringe at the things I’d done and try to get away from my dirtiness. I was the only one with this disease. I didn’t want to bear it alone, I wanted to get out of this cesspool, but I was scared to death of what people’s reaction would be if they knew. I was stuck.
In the throes of this downward spiral, my college held a women-only event. “Secret Struggles of Women”. I had a small hope that there would be something there that could help me, so I went. It was at this event when I first had an inkling that I might not be alone.
One of the speakers talked about how she had struggled with masturbation since adolescence. Her testimony turned my world upside down. She has a guy problem like me! Maybe I’m not the only one with this disease! Maybe I can be fixed, too!
At the end of her talk, she urged anyone in the audience struggling with lust to tell someone about it. Telling someone was the first step. “Freedom is out there,” she said. “Don’t settle for anything less.”
Gosh, did that sound amazing, but I was still certain my friends would be disgusted. They could never love me after they knew what I’d done. I decided to keep my secret safe, but left with porn in my solitude, nothing was getting better. In fact, things were getting worse. I’d gotten my first boyfriend, and we were having a heyday with our physicality. I was gaining more and more images and sensations from what my imagination did with our kisses.
Seven years into my addiction, I formed an accountability alliance with my best friend. Part of me was terrified that my secret would eventually come out, but part of me wanted to spill out my heart every time we talked. This one particular evening, I had just shut down some sexually charged videos before I walked the hall to our meeting place.
My thoughts during our conversation boiled with guilt as I lingered over what I’d just been watching. My soul squirmed and ached to finally get this hell out in the open.
Our chat led to her commenting on the lack of vulnerability on our campus. Oh boy… here it comes.
“Well… you want vulnerability? Here we go.”
And I told her.
It seemed like I spent hours detailing the past seven years. I told her about the heartache. The guilt. Feeling like a freak. Feeling like filth. I equated myself with the scum of the earth. I was the chief of sinners. And I’d understand if she didn’t want to hang out with me anymore.
When I finished, I noticed that I’d been looking ahead, away from her the whole time, Now that everything was laid bare, I didn’t want to look her in the eye. All I could do was hang my head in shame. When curiosity finally won the battle and I looked at her face, I saw sorrow, pain, tears, and then two arms flinging themselves around me.
Holy crap. She’s hugging me?!
The first wall of my prison came crashing down in that moment as my tears wet her t-shirt.
Since that evening, more chains have been broken. I’ve gone through counseling, and I’ve been blessed with seasons of sobriety. I’ve told more people my story, and it has only ever been met with grace, respect, sometimes tears, and always love. Each time I’ve shared, my addiction and the fear of rejection has lessened. My final semester at college saw me giving my testimony before 50 other young ladies at another “Secret Struggles” gathering. Having three girls come to me thanking me for telling them they aren’t alone, that was the most humbling and rewarding experience I could have ever hoped for.
As I have been told, and as I told them, may I tell you now? There is freedom for you! No matter where you’ve been, freedom is being offered to you right now.
The purest freedom comes from Jesus. He has been teaching me that I’m not identified by my actions. I am not my addiction or my sexual confusion! I’m not dirty; I am clean! Covered by the blood of Christ, I am a beautiful creature on her way to perfect healing.
I still mess up and allow myself to be coaxed back to the horror of lust, but Jesus’ offer of endless grace continues to win my heart again and again. And I know now that I’m never alone.