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.
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
“No more __________”, I wrote across the top of the January page of the following year’s calendar on New Year’s Eve approximately 15 years ago. I didn’t fill in the blank, but I knew what it stood for. It stood for something that had held me bound for about 15 years, since I was 11 years old. It stood for something that I had let become my safe place since my dad’s death at the same age. It stood for something I despised, and had countless times tried to stop. But this time, I was convinced; I would be done with it. I had my fill and was disgusted with myself. So, I vowed that New Year’s Eve, for the 1,576,382nd time, that I was done with the habit of masturbation. This time would be different. I just knew it. I would be steadfast in my resolve. Unfortunately, that New Year’s resolution didn’t make it past January of that year.
And so it went. I continued to stumble over this sin (the Lord showed me that for me, this was sin) for the next several years, even as I was a recent Bible College graduate and involved in several ministries. One evening during service in the church I attended my pastor preached about a character I had never heard of. It was a man named Hazael and his story mentioned in II Kings 8. Essentially, this man was sent to Elisha to get a Word from the Lord for his king. God gave a Word through Elisha, but also gave a word to Hazael. Elisha prophesied to Hazael of the future sin he would commit. Hazaels response was not one of humility. Instead, he stated, “Am I dog that I would ever do such a thing?” Well, as the Bible records, Hazael ended up doing what was prophesied. During that message the Lord dealt with me that if I didn’t stop the masturbation it would lead to other things. I wish I could say I responded differently than Hazael. My heart became hardened as I ignored the conviction. Within less than two weeks I became involved in my first anonymous sexual encounter. That encounter led to approximately 9 more years of stumbling over masturbation, porn, and countless more anonymous encounters. And it all started with the “innocent” habit of masturbation.
Masturbation for many is a coping mechanism and addictive. For those who say it isn’t for them, I would argue that even if that is true, it still is not God’s plan for sexuality and I believe ought to be avoided. If you’re reading this and even questioning it, then it is likely that the Holy Spirit may be trying to pin point this area of your life that He may bring true freedom.
I am happy to say that I am off of the cycle of continually vowing to stop masturbating. In a short month it will be 11 years since I engaged in it. The difference did not come in “white knuckling it”, trying harder, or making more vows. The difference came when I finally hit rock bottom and cried out to Jesus, willing to do whatever it took. Thankfully, Jesus led me to the right resources to lead me into freedom. Like the old Chinese proverb says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” What did it take? Well, for me it took a willingness to submit myself to counseling for several years. It took me humbling myself and sharing my struggle, and being accountable every day in this area for over two years. It also took me allowing people to connect with me. I was looking for true connection, not an orgasm. An orgasm is the easy way out. Being truly relational takes real risk and hard work, and as painful as it was God helped me to do it. Many people on this journey want to continue trying it on their own. My question would be, “How has that worked out for you so far?” God, for the most part, uses someone to present us with the gospel. The way that our journey started, is the way that it continues. He uses people. It is not just God we need, nor is it just man that we need. We need both on our journey. If it were not so, scripture would not be full of admonitions such as, “Exhort one another daily”, and “forsake not the assembling together of yourselves”. But it didn’t just come in learning to be relational with other people. It came in learning to be relational with myself in healthy ways. It also came with learning to be intimate with Jesus. I spent hundreds of hours at his feet crying out to Him asking Him to meet me in the place of my heart that caused me to go after my sin. He was faithful to meet me. I have found Him and all His provision enough.
Your journey may not look exactly like mine. But I have no doubt that it will not be a complete journey without taking many relational risks and inviting others into this area of your heart. Our sexually addictive behavior is really about an unmet relational need. Unmet needs don’t just go away. They manifest themselves in ways they were never intended to.
Let’s let Jesus and the body of Christ do what God intended all along. Let’s risk laying down our coping mechanisms, and understand that He is our shield. Jesus and His ways are more than enough.
What in the world would make a fish go after a worm on a hook? Perhaps it’s because he’s just a total idiot. Or he’s a disgusting gluttonous pig who can’t control his desires. Maybe it’s because he’s evil. Possibly it’s because he’s worthless and doesn’t even deserve to live at all. No, in reality, the fish goes after the worm on the hook for one reason: he is hungry and doesn’t comprehend that his meal is on a hook that will eventually take his life.
Why are we bent toward pornography, masturbation, compulsive sexual thoughts, same sex attraction, or a host of other ways that we may act out sexually? Perhaps it’s because we are just total idiots. Or we are disgusting perverted pigs who can’t control our desires. Maybe it’s because we are evil. Possibly it’s because we’re worthless and don’t even deserve to live at all. No, in reality, we go after our unhealthy ways of acting out sexually for one reason: we are hungry and we don’t realize that our “food” of choice is on a hook that will eventually cost us our lives.
“A person who is full refuses honey, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.” Proverbs 27:7
Hunger is one of the strongest internal forces we face as humans. We see from the above scripture that when we are hungry even our taste buds work to satisfy our hunger in that they trick us into believing that something horrible is indeed delightful to the taste. Such is our appetite for sex. What we don’t realize is that often our appetite for sexual pleasure really has little to do with sex. It has to do with a hunger for acceptance, to belong, for relationship, and for emotional and physical intimacy. Anything other than healthy relational intimacy with ourselves, other people, and our Maker will not truly satisfy our hunger. Meeting our sexual and relational desires in a way that God never intended will have the same result as the fish biting into the hook. Only Jesus offers bread and drink that truly satisfy.
A little over 12 years ago I was reading the amazing book by Joshua Harris, “Not Even a Hint”. The title was based on the New International Version’s rendering of Ephesians 5:3 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality….” In the book Harris was incredibly open about his previous struggle with masturbation. In writing he referenced the fact that although hardly anyone talks about it, the majority of people have masturbated. He then joked that most of his readers upon seeing his open confession of masturbating likely thought, “Better you than me”! Being a fellow struggler in that area, I was so saddened that I began weeping as I wondered why no one was willing to be brave enough to be open about this subject. It was that day I decided that if God set me free, I would be willing to share the truth about this bondage so that others could become free. So, today is the day that you get to read about my struggle and think, “Better you than me”!
I can honestly say that it has been over ten years since I have masturbated. Yep, I’m currently single and also haven’t physically been with anyone ~ so that means 10 orgasm free years. I know in our society orgasm is the pearl of great price. Nonetheless, I’ve survived to tell my story. Much to the shock of society I didn’t die from not having an orgasm nor did I kill anyone. It actually really is possible!
I was exposed to pornography at a young age, and masturbation and a fantasy life developed from there. This was an activity that I soon became involved in compulsively and addictively. I often would engage in this several times a day and became enslaved. I tried to break free many times. Even after becoming a Spirit filled Christian I was still trapped. I would go back and forth in my mind as to whether or not this behavior was wrong (although I really did know deep down that this was NOT God’s plan for me). One day the Lord dealt with me regarding my sin through the following scripture: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus….” Colossians 3:17. Now, to be honest with you I’ve always somewhat prided myself in being an intelligent person. But even with all my smarts, I still couldn’t figure out a way to masturbate “in the name of the Lord Jesus”. That wasn’t the end for me, but it was the beginning of the end. I knew that what I was doing was a coping mechanism, and the Lord also spoke to me from Jeremiah 2:13: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water”. Wow! What God was telling me was that not only was I failing to allow Him to meet my needs, but to no avail I was trying to find my own way to meet my needs. This was another step on my journey to freedom. Lasting freedom came, though, as I began to be relational with God, others, and myself. Because true healing from any type of sexually addictive behavior comes when we learn to be intimate.
There is hope for anyone struggling with this issue! I was bound for 23 years, and Jesus set me free ~ His desire is for you to be free as well.
Kimberly ~ Counselor, speaker, teacher, author and most importantly broken but beloved daughter of Jesus.