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
Kimberly ~ Counselor, speaker, teacher, author and most importantly broken but beloved daughter of Jesus.