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!
“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!
“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.
Less than a year into my own recovery I went to a conference for women who were on a journey of healing from sexual addiction. It was an intensive three day experience with a lot of group work and also individual artistic reflection. For one of our assignments we were given a poster size piece of paper and markers. We were told to use the tools to draw how it feels to be trapped in our addiction. Now, anyone who has known me for a while can tell you that my artistic talents are definitely not in the realm of expression through drawing. My sister got that gift ~ not me! So, needless to say I was less than thrilled when receiving this assignment and I even may or may not have sighed and rolled my eyes. But, much to my shock, something struck me and I knew exactly what I wanted to draw and was thrilled because it depicted so accurately what I felt. I drew in the upper left hand corner of the paper a very small female stick figure (you guessed it, that was me). Then, in the center of the paper I drew a very large planet earth ~ complete with a few continents and stick figures all over it. In between the earth and myself I drew a jagged and wide chasm. In between the earth and the chasm and crossing slightly into the area of paper where I was I drew a large ferocious dragon. I wrote a big letter “A” on him. This wasn’t, “The Scarlet Letter” so the dragon wasn’t being marked for Adultery. This letter A represented a word that has wreaked perhaps more havoc than Hawthorne’s “A” ever could. The letter “A” on my dragon stood for Abandonment ~ what I had come to call the “Big A” in my recovery.
What I was depicting in my drawing was that I felt completely separated by a chasm from the entire world. And the evil “monster” that was keeping me in fear from crossing that chasm was the trauma of past abandonment and fear of present and future abandonment. What I learned was that I was too frightened to cross that chasm alone. As I dared to cry out for help and allow the people that seemed so distant and unreachable to hear my cries something miraculous happened. Undaunted by the dragon that terrified me, they crossed over the chasm to me. They patiently waited with me until I realized that I too could cross over. Together we journeyed back and joined all of the others. The dragon is still there, but he’s no longer the life dominating force he once was. He is now weak and small. Occasionally he deceives me into thinking that he’s powerful. But upon further examination I see that there is no fire coming from him, he is just merely blowing smoke!
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.