As a child, I did not learn how to express any negative emotions. I experienced sexual abuse at the age of 5 and at this young age I learned to use masturbation to comfort myself. With that and some confusing messages about my own sexuality as a catalyst, I began a hidden part of my life that I would not expose until about 25 years later. Through my childhood and teenage years, I had the exterior appearance of the good kid who could do no wrong. But inside I was hurting a lot.
As I grew up, the masturbation became compulsive and I learned to use sexual fantasy and pornography to deal with loneliness, pain, anger, and any negative emotion I experienced. These behaviors escalated over time until I was spending endless hours looking at internet pornography in my 20s. I felt a lot of guilt and shame, but couldn’t seem to quit. The guilt associated with the compulsive masturbation eventually drove me to share this secret with a counselor, but I kept the pornography hidden a little longer.
When some unfamiliar charges began appearing on my bank statement, I naively went to the bank clerk and explained my concerns regarding the “incorrect” charges. She called a couple of the phone numbers and informed me that they were from sexually-oriented businesses. I was mortified upon realizing what had happened and quickly commented that my little brother must have gotten a hold of my bank card. (He didn’t even live nearby.) I left the bank embarrassed that day, but with a new brokenness and awareness that if my habits were causing me to tell blatant lies to complete strangers, then I had a problem and needed help.
It wasn’t until I decided to share the rest of my struggles with my counselor and then with a couple of close friends that I began to find some healing. I was so scared to share this with anyone because I was concerned with what they would think of me. Thankfully, my confession was received with grace and love. When I shared my addiction with women in the church, I saw the love of God in the way they listened to me without judging me and the way they showed me mercy. That also helped me to begin to see God’s love and receive His forgiveness.
God has given me freedom from my addiction to pornography. He has shown me his power and love multiple times. Early in recovery, I used to have the pornographic images that would just run like tapes through my mind at times when I really did not want them to (like while I was sitting in church or when I was trying to go to sleep); people had told me that those were engraved there and would never go away. It is amazing to me that God completely erased all of them. When I say He has given me freedom, that doesn’t mean He has removed all temptation, but He has shown me that I no longer have to be ruled by those temptations.
I still have to choose to walk in the freedom He gives me. For me some of the steps I have taken are deciding not to have internet access in my home, being very careful about the movies I choose to go see, and making myself accountable to other people. God has also taught me that I can come to him with the hurts that I experience. When I am tempted to engage in old behaviors that my mind tells me will make me feel better, I can now look to God, and He gives me the strength to choose the path of freedom.
*Note: The author’s name is a pseudonym.