Several years ago I went to a conference by Bethesda Workshops for women who struggle with sexual addiction issues. A sweet lady there in her mid-50s shared at the start of the conference that she had been acting out sexually in various ways almost daily since she was about three years old. About two days into the conference, she shared with us that she had been very tempted to engage in her sexually addictive patterns that morning.
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Most who know me, know that I have struggled with food related issues and weight for the majority of my life. But I am not going to give up until I am walking in the freedom Jesus has for me in that area. As part of my journey, I have two wonderful women that I am accountable to. The three of us check in with one another daily. Last night, July 3rd, one of the women sent out a text that said something along the lines of, “Tomorrow, let's celebrate our freedom from food related issues”. So, for the past couple of hours as I've been listening to fireworks go off and thanking God for my nation, I also have been thanking Him for the cross.
I have often reminded clients (and myself) that no matter how we feel we are free in Christ. Though we think our bondage is our reality (whether it's bondage to lust, pornography, food, gambling, approval, etc.), if we are born again our true reality is that we are free in Christ. No matter how often we slip to that old temptation, we truly are still free. We just have not yet learned to walk out our spiritual reality. Sanctification is the process of letting Jesus help us live out through experience what our truth is spiritually. What area of your life has the enemy lied to you about and told you that you'd never be free? It's time to declare your freedom, and ask Jesus to make your reality your experience.
On this date, in 1776 our beloved nation declared independence from England. As most every citizen knows, that is why we have the document that is referred to as “The Declaration of Independence”. Truly, we are a nation that is highly blessed to be free. As Americans there is little we value above our freedom. Maybe today is the day for some of us believers to value our Spiritual freedom as greatly we do our national freedom. Perhaps today is the day that you decide it is time to engage in battle against the tyranny of sin that has held you hostage, and declare this truth over your soul: “I am free!”.
Spiritually speaking, we need to sign a “Declaration of DEPENDENCE”. The Kingdom of God is often paradoxical when it pertains to things in the natural. Our nation had to declare independence to have freedom. If we want true freedom, we must declare true dependence. Dependence on our God, dependence upon His Word, and dependence upon His body.
Lord, grant unto me to walk in the freedom that is mine because of Calvary. Give me the strength to allow myself to be dependent upon You, that I may experience the Spiritual reality of my freedom.
“It is for Freedom that Christ has set us free......”
Recently I was in a severe accident resulting in several injuries. Among those injuries were two fractured elbows. Although still painful, my left elbow was a less severe fracture, so the doctors thought it best not to sling it and let it heal on it's own. My right elbow, however, had two severe fractures, a dislocation, and required surgery. The surgery required me to be in a cast for about two weeks, and then a brace another 4. Keeping the right arm stable was no problem, but not as easy to do with the left arm since it didn't have anything protecting it. I instinctively yet subconsciously held my left arm very close to my body..
The morning that I was getting ready to go see the doctor to get the cast removed from my right arm I realized what I had been doing with my left arm and had the conscious thought, “My arm feels so much better when I hold it close to the body”. I feel like this was a thought that the Lord sparked in my mind, and at once I was struck with the spiritual truth of that statement. When we are broken, the best place for us is close to the body. I was in a rush, so didn't have a lot of time to dwell on the thought, but it stuck in my mind. When I arrived at the doctor, they removed my cast and fitted me for my brace. They let me know that I could remove the brace for bathing, but provide this caution, “When your brace is off make sure and hold your arm close to the body”. Wow! The exact thing that the Lord had brought to my mind that morning was being spoken by my doctor. Medical proof of what I was instinctively already doing with my other arm.
As the days progressed I just couldn't get past the spiritual correlation. In my physical brokenness, I certainly have needed others. What has proven true in my physical brokenness is true in the spiritual realm as well. When we are broken, we must stay close to the body. There's something though, that I think we often forget. We all are broken. Not sometimes, but all of the time. The degree of our brokenness may be different during certain seasons of our life. But whether we are broken from addiction, abuse, life challenges, or from the fall of Adam we are all broken, all of the time.
In your brokenness, stay close to the body. We always do and always will need one another.
I live in Houston, TX where the elevation is below sea level. As a result, it often floods here. A couple of weeks ago during heavy rain the drains were blocked in the complex of my apartment and my vehicle sat parked in high water for hours. The vehicle seemed to run fine thankfully. But the entire carpet was soaked. I tried to get as much water as possible off the floors to little avail. It took a couple of days before I could get an appointment for an insurance estimate. During that time, I was unable to leave it open to air it out due to living in an apartment complex. By the time I brought it in for the estimate there was a significant amount of visible mold growing throughout the vehicle, and the stench was horrible. The entire carpet had to be ripped out and replaced. Had I been able to open the vehicle and air it out the damage would not have been as severe. Even after everything was cleaned and replaced, I was still told by the service center that I would need to leave my vehicle open for a period to help completely air everything out.
When I was around 11 years old I came across a hidden stash of pornography hidden under a relative’s mattress. Almost immediately I began seeking out what I accidentally stumbled upon that day. This soon led to sexually addictive behavior including pornography and compulsive masturbation. Eventually the pornography and masturbation led to multiple anonymous sexual encounters. Finally, after nearly 23 years of living with this secret, at the age of 34 I hit rock bottom. I could no longer live with the secrecy and the mold that was growing and taking over my soul. In desperation, I went on a 40 day fast from meats looking for answers for my freedom. I knew I could no longer live this double life. The Lord led me to open up to a lady from my church who became my accountability partner. Shortly after that He led me to a counselor that specialized in sexual issues. Then, I felt He wanted me to open up to my pastor. These three people laid the foundation of what has become a lifestyle of openness.
Just like in the story above about my vehicle, staying closed off caused mold to grow in my soul. Because I didn’t know to provide ventilation through opening up to others and becoming relational, things just became worse. Due to the horrible shame associated with the things I was involving myself in I decided that I should just keep it a secret and try to deal with it on my own. How did that work out for me? Well, once I had my first glimpse of the porn, my interior became a bit damaged. I didn’t air it out, but stayed closed. As a result, I began to start to see a bit of mold. I began masturbating, and there was a bit more mold. The mold from staying closed off about this rapidly multiplied. I began having anonymous sexual encounters and the mold overtook all my interior. Soon, the stench of the mold inside of me was so pungent that people who would get close to me at all could tell something wasn’t right. If only I knew then what I knew now. The way to beat this is through continual airing out and openness.
What I just stated, of course, applies to both males and females. Good advice, really, for anyone struggling. I have chosen though to highlight this need to my fellow female strugglers for a couple of reasons. First of all, sexual struggles are shameful for anyone. However, in being a female myself, and in helping both genders with their own struggles my experience has been the shame seems to be greater for women. Women tend to feel more alone in their battle. In our society porn use by men is almost expected. Watch nearly any sitcom and it is joked about as something “guys just do”. But women who struggle are often depicted as perverse sex fiends. Even in the church it doesn’t take long to find a group for male strugglers. Not so easy for female strugglers though. Opening up reduces shame almost immediately. There are few things more healing than having someone love and accept you at the point where you feel the most vulnerable. Another reason that is so important for women to open up is that sexually addictive behavior is more about a relational and intimacy disorder than it is about a sexual disorder. Generally speaking, women’s relational needs are often higher than a man’s. Lasting and true deliverance from sexual issues are only going to come through community. Walking it alone just doesn’t work. If you are a struggler, and it did work, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now. The best thing I ever did for myself and my freedom was the day that I opened to my sweet accountability partner. It began a road to freedom that has been richer and more beautiful than I could have imagined.
Give yourself the gift of freedom. Dare to open up to someone today. You deserve to be free.
This week I had the privilege of speaking to a brand new telephone client. She was a young lady of 20 years old. As I do with new clients, I asked her if she had received any help previously for her sexual addiction. She mentioned to me that she had received a few months’ worth of coaching assistance. She proceeded to tell me the name of the organization and then added something like, “But it was really a guy’s organization. But women struggle with this issue too! Not just men. Everything out there seems to be for men”. Wow. Sadly, she is more than correct. However, thankfully that is changing and we have come a long way since I started my journey over 11 years ago. As I was recovering the Lord spoke to me and made it very clear that once I recovered I would not have the luxury of being silent. He wanted to use me as a voice to speak about these struggles, and that freedom is possible. Thankfully, God is calling more and more women who have struggled to be open so that others can experience the freedom that He came to give. I am so thankful for the women who are pioneers in this field, and who were a beacon of hope to me during my recovery.
When I began my journey, I literally thought that I was the only woman that my sexual addiction specialist counselor had ever worked with. I just “knew” that no other woman wrestled with this “guy issue” like me. I was inherently flawed and a disgrace to myself and my gender. After all “boys will be boys” but “good girls don’t”.
In June of 2005 God led me to an amazing lady in my church and dealt with me to open up to her about my struggle. I was terrified, but I had no choice. I knew without a doubt the Spirit was leading me to do this. Much to my surprise she didn’t scream, cover her ears, run out of the room, spit at me, or even hold up a crucifix in my direction. She simply listened to me and showered me with the love of God. She shared with me that although she didn’t wrestle like I did, she certainly could understand the lure and temptation. She stated that when she was younger she worked in a video store (yes, I am dating myself here). When everyone had left for the day, she would wander to the back of the store and look at the adult section. She never watched the videos, but she found that just the pictures on the cover and titles drew her in and kept her wanting to come back for more . Because of this, she said she could relate to some degree to my struggle. Then, a couple months later came the “big deal”. I shared with her that I had wrestled with masturbation. It literally probably took me 90 minutes of stumbling to get it out. Again, she shared with me that she hadn’t wrestled with that, but that she would be glad to help me in any way that she could. I felt so blessed that I finally found someone I could open up to that was a female. That season began an accountability relationship that still exists to this day.
As I continued to work with my counselor he too let me know that I definitely wasn’t alone in my struggle as a female. He also recommended that I contact Marnie Ferree of Bethesda Workshops for women who struggle. There I met several ladies who struggled just like I did. I also met several ladies conducting the workshop who came out of the struggle. The more I opened up and was accepted by other women (those who struggled, as well as those who did not) the more my shame diminished. The more my shame diminished, the more I felt free to be relational. The more I was relational the more the void was being filled that drew me to act out in the first place.
So, if boys can struggle with porn, masturbation and other sexual issues – so can girls! But guess what else we can do that the guys are doing, ladies? We can be brave like these men and face our addiction. We can get the help we need. We can ask our sisters to come along side of us and help us fight this battle. We can speak up and be a voice of purity in the body of Christ. Most importantly, we can fight with everything that is in us to live the abundant life that Jesus came to give.
Dear Precious One,
I have been where you are. I am no stranger to the shame that you feel. Although they are now in my rear view mirror, the horrible self-hate, the embarrassment, the sexual desires that I feared I could not control, the depression, the regret, and so many other emotions were all too real to me not long ago.
When I was about 11 years old, I came across a hidden stash of pornography under a relative’s mattress. Very quickly what I accidentally stumbled across, I began to seek out intentionally. And what I began to seek out intentionally, I quickly became addicted to. Pornography didn’t come alone though. I also became highly addicted to masturbation and when I became an adult i added as many as 2 dozen anonymous sexual encounters to my addictive cycle. I “knew” I was alone, I was hopeless, and something was desperately wrong with me.
I have no doubt that some (if not al) of the above emotions and thoughts you have shared. But I am happy to tell you, you are not alone. You are not hopeless. Nothing is wrong with you. You deserve to know the truth. What is the truth? Part of the truth is that some numbers indicate that as many as 40% of Christian women struggle with pornography. Again, you are not alone. The truth is that you, like all women, are broken – nothing, however is wrong with you. Most importantly, the truth is that there is hope for you. Yes, many women struggle. But many women have been set free!
Have you tried again and again to be free? Promised yourself, “I will not look at that porn again”. Or have you been sickened by your secret habit of masturbation that you just can’t break. Do you despise that over and over again you have told yourself that you will save yourself for marriage, only to give yourself to yet another man? Has all of this left you feeling like you don’t want to try again? If you answered yes to any of these, then you are ripe for a miracle. I have good news for you!
Lift up your head. You have a God who knows exactly where you are at. He loves you. Yes, He loves you. You, the one who is convinced that if anyone knew your secret they would despise you. He knows all about it, and not only does He love you, He is not mad at you. He sees you right where you’re at. He sees what you struggle with, and it doesn’t make Him want to turn Himself from you. Quite the contrary, He is turning Himself toward you, offering you something more.
Please, don’t let your past keep you from your future. God has so much more for you than you are living in now. I know how it feels to struggle for years, and try to quit a habit that you hate. I know how it can paralyze one from wanting to try again. Don’t let yourself be paralyzed. There are springs of fresh water waiting for you, please do not settle for drinking from a mud puddle.
I know what it is to have tried so many times, that believing in hope seems like the most terrifying thing that there is. But, I also know what it is to keep trying and to repeatedly start again at the same place. That place is crying out to the Lord for His help in our brokenness. He is the One, after all, that we truly are looking for in all of our sexual acting out. We, as women, crave intimacy to our core. Jesus can provide that. An endless need requires an endless resource. There is only One who can qualifies to meet our need. I think we know that’s not a man, an orgasm, or pornography. Those things only leave us empty.
If you don’t give up, and you keep allowing yourself to get up, eventually you will be victorious! One day of not acting out will turn into one week, one week will turn into one month, one month will turn into one year!
There’s so much waiting for you on the other side of this. I can assure you, it will be the fight of your life. But I can also assure you, that it will be worth it to have this in your past as a memory. What awaits you is an end to the mounting shame, the lack of emotional connection with yourself others and God, the self-hatred, the relationships that are adversely affected, and every other negative thing that comes with your bondage. A life of freedom from the shame of your sin, true intimacy that your heart craves, living life with integrity, dealing with your emotions in more healthy ways, liberty from the pain of abandonment, and the ability to enjoy the abundant life Jesus came to give really can be yours!
Freedom is possible dear heart. The door stands open before you. Will you walk through it?
Someone who has been where you are, and hopes to see you on the other side
As a counselor who specializes in sexual issues, I’ve heard from many wives with spouses who struggle. Their stories of courage fill my heart with gratitude for their resolve and strength. Their stories of pain and betrayal grip me and tear my heart in two. If you are a female who has experienced the infidelity of pornography or other sexual sins your spouse has committed against you, I have no doubt you can relate to the pain I am describing. I seriously wish time and other circumstances allowed me to sit down with you as a friend, and listen to each of your stories for hours. I would love to cry with you, hug you, hold your hand, and offer encouragement and support. Since that is not possible, I’d like to offer a very condensed summary of some of the things I’d share if we were in person.
Precious lady, be encouraged. There is hope for your husband. But more importantly, there is hope for you!
Loneliness: The disease of the soul that is common to all mankind. Loneliness: That burdensome feeling that we run for our life from through busyness, addictions, NetFlix binges, talking on the phone, zoning out, video games, sexual activity, internet use, and probably a hundred other things. Loneliness: That thing that God uses almost like nothing else to grow us, to help us face ourselves, shape us, and teach us to be relational with ourselves, others and Him.
Even after over 11 years of freedom from my sexual addictions I still have regularly scheduled accountability with at least 4 people. Recently I let that “slide” for a couple of months. Truth be told, in the back of my mind I likely thought “I’m beyond that”. After a few weeks I found myself being uncharacteristically tempted to look at pornography like I hadn’t been in perhaps years (by God's grace I didn't slip). I laid awake in torment, weeping as I fought through temptation. I desperately made an appointment with one of my mentors for later in the week. As we were speaking (well he was speaking, and I was speaking as much as one can speak through sobs) he stated, “Kim, what has happened is that you have been engaging with people, but you haven’t been taking any relational risks. And this set you up for temptation! Your accountability is as much about connecting on a real and raw level as it is about keeping yourself from your sin”. BOOM. I instantly knew he was correct, and wouldn’t you know it ~ as soon as I started connecting again in a real and honest way my temptation lifted, because I was being proactive to combat loneliness.
Genesis 32: 24Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.26Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
What happened in the above passage when Jacob was alone, and chose to spend his alone time “wrestling” with the Lord and refusing to let Him go? After he finally admitted his true identity (Jacob = Deceiver) the Lord touched him in a way that his walk was forever changed, and the Lord forever changed his name.
God is no respecter of persons. If we choose to handle our loneliness in a way that is honoring to Him the way we walk through life will be forever different, and so will our identity!
A couple of weeks ago I started having some pain on the right side of my throat, along with difficulty eating. As time went on, I started also having pain in my right ear. The pain became greater and greater, and so did the difficulty eating. Because I've had an abscessed tooth before, I just "knew" that this was a tooth problem. So, off to the dentist I went yesterday. I let him know that he needed to get this tooth out of my head because it was causing excruciating pain. I even was convinced that I knew which tooth was the culprit! As I was explaining to him what was going on he said, "Your tooth isn't going to cause all that". Well, in spite of his almost 30 years of experience I just "knew" he was wrong. While he was examining me he told me to open wide and say, "Ahhhhh", which I found strange and yet another sign of my dentist clearly being delusional. Then he told me, "Girl, that's not your tooth, you have strep throat". After I proceeded to argue with him a little bit more, he sent me on my way with a prescription for an antibiotic and a pain medication. Because I was so insistent it really was my tooth, he said, "Well, this is going to clear everything up, but if not I guess just come back." So, upon waking up this morning, wouldn't you know it, my symptoms are somewhat better.
Sad to say, I have often done the same thing in my life with things not related to my teeth or throat! How many times have I had a situation where I just "knew" the answer only to find out how very wrong I was? Seems like I'm often in need of a second opinion, whether it's from the Lord, or a brother or sister who can see things more clearly than me.
Specifically, I have often been in need of a second opinion when it has come to my recovery. For years I stumbled through my addiction. About 23 years to be exact. I had my own way of dealing with things, and my own diagnosis. My diagnosis was that I must just have an unusually high sex drive (especially for a female), and the way to fix it was to just try harder. Yeah, my remedy and diagnosis were so spot on that it kept me "sick" for 23 years.
Finally, when I realized that I just wasn't getting free, in desperation I shared my struggle with a lady from my church. Neither one of us really knew what we were doing, but God was faithful to lead and guide, and she came up with the idea of being accountable. I then went on a fast, and God led me to a ministry in California that deals in sexual addiction issues where I began counseling. On more than one occasion my counselor told me, "You may not understand now what I'm saying, or why I'm giving this advice, but if you trust and continue walking you will be free." Well, he was right. I often didn't understand the advice, but I chose to listen and finally set aside my arrogance and let someone who is farther down the road from me speak into my situation. What he also was right about was that in trusting I did find freedom. In less than a week I will have my 11 year anniversary of being free. I didn't realize at the time that what I diagnosed as "simply being too horny" was actually a God given need for relational intimacy. My remedy of "trying harder" didn't work because a God given need requires a God given solution: being relational.
I wish I could say that I don't still struggle with this disease of self-diagnosis. As someone who has been free for 11 years, and now helps others I sometimes forget that I am still broken and susceptible to falling. At times I will let my accountability slide, making excuses and telling myself, "You are just fine, you don't need that anymore." LIES, LIES, LIES! This whole strep throat incident has served as a wonderful reminder to me that a second opinion is always in order. I hope it serves as the same reminder to you as well.
“He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Today during my time with the Lord this scripture just seemed to leap off of the page at me. Maybe because it’s along the same lines of a quote I heard about a week ago (by Pastor Chris Hodges) that I can’t stop thinking about: “Temptation is not a test of your will power. It is a test of your relationship”.
I have a new client who came to me after one visit with a different counselor. For her sexual behavior that has lasted nearly thirty years she said that the counselor told her they were going to work on some cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I certainly am not opposed to CBT, but I believe that more than just a behavior needs to be changed for any type of addiction. Somehow, my client knew she needed more and questioned the counselor about meeting the underlying needs that led her to act out in the first place. She intuitively knew that just being strong and changing the behavior wasn’t the only answer.
Apparently the Word of God agrees. God is not impressed with our will power. Although at times we may be, He is not. This is hard for us to grasp in a society that embraces strength and a “do it yourself pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude. Those of us though, who have been at this game of recovery for a while know that white knuckling it and relying on our strength can only get us so far. We have an endless need at the core of our soul. An endless need can only be met by an endless Resource. There is only One endless resource, and that is our God and His unfailing love.
True transformation comes in the area of our addiction when we learn to trust in God’s unfailing love, not our own strength. I can almost hear someone thinking, “Well, I do rely on His love, Kim! Yet, I’m still stuck in my addiction”. If that’s you I’d like to challenge your thinking on that, as I’ve had to challenge mine. If we are really relying on His love we’re not going to need our sinful coping mechanisms. (For me currently God is dealing with me about this regarding food.) What does it look like practically to rely on His love instead of acting out sexually? Well, it looks like being raw and honest with God about our temptations. Ie: “Lord, right now I’d love to look at pornography. But I know that what I see in porn is a cheap substitute for Your plans. I don’t need to see a naked body God, that won’t meet my deepest need. Only You can meet my deepest need, God. My heart and my flesh feel that this is what they are crying out for. But truly my heart and flesh cry out for You. I will fight against this lie and stand here in tears if I must while I wait on Your unfailing love.” I’ve found myself doing this probably a thousand times. Sometimes in tears as I fought through my temptation to stand on God’s truth. I’ve gotten even much more explicit with the Lord than I’ve listed above. He can handle it. He isn’t ashamed of our sexuality like we often are.
There are many things that I’ve learned and have done on my journey of recovery. But learning to trust (and continuing to learn to trust) in His unfailing love has made the biggest difference!
Kimberly ~ Counselor, speaker, teacher, author and most importantly broken but beloved daughter of Jesus.