Porn Addiction and Shame Thrive in Darkness

I was 11 years old when I was first exposed to porn. It happened by accident. Growing up, for as long as I could remember I always had a TV with full cable in my bedroom and I watched it often.

tv picOne evening I was scrolling through the channels looking for something to watch. Back then there used to be scrambled channels – which are those channels you had to pay extra money for but sometimes you could see scrambled images of them and even hear audio at times. When I was scrolling through the channels something caught my eye on one of the scrambled ones. I got curious and kept watching. It turns out that this channel was the Playboy Channel. I felt good while watching it, so I watched it again the next day. Then the day after that, then the day after that and so on.

What started as a habit quickly turned into an addiction. I discovered other similar scrambled channels so I would scroll through them each night to get my “fix.” Over time I started to build up a tolerance to these images – I had to watch them longer and longer each night in order to satisfy my desires. Eventually masturbation started to come into play. This is how I would spend several nights a week for years.

I always knew deep down that what I was doing was wrong – I didn’t quite know how it was wrong at first but I knew nonetheless. I mean, why else was I going to great measures to hide this from everyone? I would only do this at night when my parents were asleep and even then I would keep the TV volume down low and lock my bedroom door. During the day, I literally pretended that this part of my life just did not exist. I continued to play the part of the perfect daughter and student who got good grades, didn’t do drugs, and wasn’t having sex with boys.

I was raised Catholic and always believed in God and knew that He was real. During high school my relationship with God started to deepen. I would journal about Him, turn to Him when I was upset, and I wanted to understand Him more. It was around my junior year of high school that I made a resolve to just stop watching porn and masturbation.

It actually worked for a little while – I went months without giving in. But then life started to hit me from all sides and I became weak and gave into the one thing that made me feel good – even if it was temporary. And I fell back into my addiction hard.

When I was about 17 I received my first laptop with wireless internet capabilities. Things changed upon receiving this laptop; a whole new realm opened up to me and it was too tempting to resist.

So I switched into watching pornographic videos on the internet. I wanted this all to stop so badly. I felt horrible and disgusted with myself after each time I gave into my addiction. I still pretended that this all didn’t exist – I couldn’t deal with the fact that there was something wrong with me.

When I moved away to college I wanted a fresh start to almost every aspect of my life – including my porn and masturbation habit. For my first two years of college, I actually didn’t watch any porn and my masturbation habit has stopped altogether since then. It helped that during that time I had to share a room with someone else and I lived with 20 other girls in one house, so it was hard to be alone!

I also wanted to grow in my relationship with God and understand my Catholic faith better. I started going to the Catholic Student Center. I started out with just a weekly Bible study but it grew from there and before I knew it I was part of a wonderful faithful student community. I was forming solid friendships with others my age who had the same faith – it was a wonderful period in my life!

When I stopped watching porn and my masturbation habit; I also wanted to forget they ever happened. I remember telling myself that this was a secret that I would take to my grave. I believed that if I simply didn’t think about any of this, it would just fade away on its own some day.

But as I formed these new, holy friendships and grew closer to God, these terrible memories didn’t fade away. They were always there pressing into the back of my mind. That shame, “If people really knew what you did, they would be disgusted by you,” would still come through and caused me to carry a weight deep down in my heart.

In the spring semester of my freshman year, I attended a retreat with a local Catholic student center. It was during that retreat that I realized that my relationship with God could not go any further until I let go of this weight that I had been carrying around for years.

It was on that retreat that I made a decision to return to the sacrament of Confession. This was a sacrament that I had misunderstood for years. I always told myself that Confession wasn’t necessary but deep down I also knew that in accepting Confession I would have to confess these sins out loud to a priest. The thought of both acknowledging that these sins existed and confessing them to another person terrified me for years – so this decision to go back to Confession was not an easy one.

I went to Confession on that retreat and told the priest that I had struggled with pornography and masturbation for years. He told me that my sins were forgiven by God and I walked out of that confessional a new person. For the first time in YEARS I did not feel that heavy weight on my heart any more.

To this day I have never been the same person that I was before I went into that confessional – God showed me His mercy that night and brought tremendous graces and blessings. ! He showed me that He loved me despite my sins and despite how ashamed I felt of myself deep down. He gave me the freedom to acknowledge my sins and to finally let them go to receive His forgiveness.

I will never forget that wonderful experience of returning to Confession. And this is the part of the story where I wish I can say that my struggle with pornography addiction ended, but I can’t.

A lot of amazing things happened in my life over the next year and a half after this retreat: I continued to grow in my faith and I was forming healthy, faith-centered relationships within my local church community.

But something else happened too – I slipped. It started out small but then my addiction came back into my life at full force. For reasons I couldn’t understand, desires that had not been a problem for me for two years were suddenly enslaving my life. I could not go two days, let alone a whole week, without giving into this addiction.

I felt much worse during this time in my life than I had when I was younger and struggled with this same problem. Because this time I knew the full implications of what I was doing. I knew how much danger my soul was in and how offensive my sins were to God. I felt so ashamed because I had experienced so many great things over the past two years and now I was tarnishing it all.

I wanted help so badly, but I felt so ashamed and had no idea if there were any other women in my community who also struggled with this; I didn’t know who to turn to. So I turned to no one. I would go to confession every time I gave in, but I didn’t confide in anyone about what was going on. I was so fragile at this point that I was afraid of being rejected and misunderstood by those I loved, so I tried to rely on my own understanding which definitely didn’t work.

I searched the internet for resources but most of the resources were directed at men – hardly anything was out there for Christian women who struggled with this sin. This only added to the loneliness and isolation I felt.

A lack of resources was no excuse for continuing to give-in to my addiction, but I highlight this because I want other people to understand that this is a real problem among women and it needs to be talked about and addressed. Thankfully now as I write this, there is much greater awareness of this issue and ministries have been forming to bring hope and healing to women going through this struggle.
After that one, dark stretch of struggling through this addiction alone every day, I continued to struggle with it on a sporadic basis. May 2011 was the last time I ever gave into my addiction.

It’s been over three years now and I’m thankful that these dark desires are not that strong anymore, though I still struggle with temptation from time to time. I have found that a disciplined prayer life, which includes weekly fasting, has brought me tremendous graces in dealing with this struggle.

Unfortunately, my addiction is still a big secret I have kept from my friends and family all these years. I have yet to talk extensively with another person about my past struggles. That’s part of why I’m writing this all down now and sharing it with anyone who will read it: Pornography addiction thrives in the darkness and I can no longer keep my struggles out of the light.

I’m sharing this story partly for my own personal healing; it’s a first step in what I hope will be a new journey to deeper healing. I’ve come to a point in my life where I’ve realized that God cannot give me the graces and gifts He longs to give if I continue to hang onto this big secret.

I also hope that my story will help other women currently going through this struggle. If any of you are reading this right now, I want you to know three things:

1. You are NOT alone and you are NOT defined by your sins.

2. Pray daily and try to fast from something that brings you comfort, at least once a week. Christ told us: “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)

3. Tell someone. Whether it’s a pastor, a trusted friend, or a counselor, talk to someone about what you’re going through.

I’m still struggling with number three so I ask for anyone reading this to keep me in your prayers, and know that I will be keeping all of you in my prayers as well.

An Emptiness I Tried to Fill

I got pregnant at age 17.  Roe v. Wade was not yet the law of the land. However, a lot of girls were sneaking off to get illegal abortions or going to states where abortion was legal.   Who knows what I would have done if abortion had been legal, convenient, and presumed by all of society to be a “right.”  But since it was not, abortion never really entered my mind.  My choice was between keeping the baby or giving it away.

It was mostly family expectations and the sheer impracticality of raising a baby at my age that forced my decision to give it away.  But with every week that passed I wanted just the opposite, to keep and raise my baby.  I was extremely depressed for my whole pregnancy, an experience made much worse by the isolation and silence that surrounded my decision.  In those days there was little counseling on how to work through our thoughts and emotions, or on how to evaluate decisions. The only counseling I received was to bury this reality of my depression deeper and deeper inside, to deny its very existence.  I was sent away to a “home” where well-meaning Lutheran ladies tried to keep us busy (I hate crafts to this day) and gave us talks about how to keep our pregnancy secret from everyone, including our future husbands.  After giving birth we were not allowed to see or hold our babies.  They were trying to prevent bonding, but bonding actually starts during the pregnancy and in the delivery, so not being able to see or touch my baby only left me with an emptiness that I tried for years to fill with various addictions.

By the grace of God, however, I was freed from my addictions and brought into the Catholic Church.

More than 40 years after giving the baby away, I made a general confession and had many subsequent confessions with a wonderful priest. I was finally able to let go of that 17-year-old girl’s isolation and understand the whole experience as one of the mysterious ways God called me to Himself.  A few weeks after my general confession (no coincidence I’m sure), I received a call from a social worker who had been looking for me for a long time on behalf of the son I had given up.  Again, no coincidence I’m sure, the social worker had finally located me through my father’s obituary.  I have this picture of my Mom and Dad finally meeting up in heaven, saying to each other, we have some unfinished business.

My son’s first letter to me began simply, “I’m so glad I found you.” We have now been in contact through letters for over a year.  I can tell from his letters what a good and stable family life he has with his wife and children, and how much his adoptive Mom and Dad loved him.  I could never have given him that kind of stability.  He sent me a copy of the obituary he wrote for his Dad’s funeral recently and the closeness and intelligence and love of that family came through loud and clear.

We are making plans to meet as soon as possible.  I am blessed.

submitted from Virginia

God is so Kind, so Generous and Merciful

My husband and I were Evangelical Protestants. We used contraception for the first years of our marriage. That was, we believed at the time, the most responsible thing to do. We were taught not to become pregnant until we were financially “ready,” and then it was probably most responsible to have only two children. More than that, and you would find it difficult to be a “good” parent. Having more than two children, we would also risk being “selfish.” I, however, was willing to take that risk. My dream was to have many children. My husband’s dream was to have two. That, he hoped, would be our family. That would be our responsible plan.

But then, that was not God’s ultimate plan for us. I look back on those days and think of myself as, hard as it is to say, arrogant — to believe that my plan, our plan, could be “better” than whatever God would have planned for us. But I really did not understand, nor had I ever heard, the Catholic teachings of God’s plans of procreation, of sexuality, and of the gift of children.

When we decided we were ‘ready” for children, we found we had infertility problems. After many months without contracepting, we were finally blessed with our first child, and then subsequently suffered our first miscarriage. More infertility, and finally we were blessed with a second child. After several years, I was able to convince my husband to try for just one more child. We had, however, years with more miscarriages.

After four miscarriages (the pregnancies were achieved through infertility treatments and medications), we were told by the doctor that I would never give birth to another child, and so we adopted. My husband was reluctant at best when we began the process, and only came around because he realized how desperately I wanted another child. The day our baby arrived, however, she became the light of my husband’s life, and that light has only become brighter with time. They adore each other, and God created this special relationship, just as he had created our first two children. At this point, my husband told me, no more adoptions. Our family was complete. While his decision saddened me, for the first few months of our new baby’s life, I was too distracted by the carpools, after school sports, diapers, and nap times to really absorb the finality of his decision to close our family at this point.

Then God opened it again. One day, when my husband was away on a business trip, I went to the drugstore to purchase something I never thought I would ever buy again — a home pregnancy test. Without any fertility treatments, my body was beginning to show all the signs of pregnancy. I felt numb — if this were true, it most likely meant I would have to live through the devastation of miscarriage again. How would I ever get through this yet another time, I wondered.

The test was positive, and I knew my husband wouldn’t believe me — he would think it was a practical joke. In fact, he did laugh when I told him, but soon the truth settled in on both of us that I was indeed pregnant, and we would, in all likelihood, have another miscarriage.

But God is so kind, so generous and merciful. And He allowed us to give birth to our last child. He was born strong and healthy, and he is truly our miracle baby.
I believe that the gift of this baby was, in part, God’s way of showing us that it is indeed He who is in control. His love for us is greater than we could ever imagine. And His plans for us are greater, as well.

After our last baby was born, we came to the Catholic Church, by the grace of God, and through the writings of Pope John Paul the Great. The Pope’s theology of the body explains the great love God has for us, and how He allows us to participate with Him in His creation. We learned that it is a great privilege to partner with God in the creation of His precious children. We are grateful for this gift, and we are grateful, as well, for His bringing us into the fullness of the faith, in His Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Submitted from Virginia