I was 17 when a man asked me for naked pictures of myself. I knew it was wrong. But I got up from the computer, locked my dorm room door, prayed my roommate wouldn’t come back, and gave him his pictures. A moment I had been slowly sliding towards for several years had now arrived, one that I had fooled myself into thinking I might avoid. In my room on a Christian college campus, I became pornography.
Good Christian girls don’t do that, do they?
When I was first exposed to pornography at the age of 13, I thought it was fun. I felt accepted, and like someone wanted me. It was an escape from the memories of an abusive childhood and the pressure of an awkward teenage life.
I thought pornography was a perfectly acceptable form of sexual release. It was safe. I wasn’t actually having sex, getting pregnant, or contracting an STD. But eventually, porn took over my life. I was losing sleep, and school work was getting harder to manage. I struggled to regain control. Porn was interfering with the dreams and plans I had for my life. No matter how hard I tried to break free, I couldn’t. I went into my freshman year of college battling a full-fledged pornography addiction.
I was too afraid to tell anyone, so, I hoped I would get caught. But when I did get caught by my school’s administration, they told me, “We know this wasn’t you. Women just don’t have this problem.” That’s the day I gave up. I believed I would never be worth anything more than pixels on a screen. I was a freak of nature, not even human, and certainly not a woman. I was the only female in the world who struggled with this, and there was no way out. If it wasn’t acceptable to be a Christian girl who watched porn, then I would have to be the porn star who happened to be a Christian.
Does any of this sound familiar? Does it sound anything like you?
You might not be pursuing a life in the porn industry. You may have never sent your pictures to someone. Pornography might feel like nothing more than a hobby. And yet you may sense it taking your life in a direction you never intended to travel. You’re spending all your energy protecting this secret. You’re trying to outrun your problem as you push forward into school, relationships, ministry. You’re afraid of losing everything.
This thing you thought would liberate you, now owns you. And it’s isolating you from everyone you know. Your friends aren’t talking about this problem. Neither is your church or your family. When you search for resources, they’re either about men, or when you find something about women it’s about the wives and girlfriends of addicts.
You Are Not Alone
Statistics can tell you that. I can tell you that, but you still feel alone. You believe no one will understand so you can’t tell anybody. But you have to tell somebody.
It’s scary, I know. It feels like you’re betraying yourself. This secret you’ve been guarding and living life around will be dragged out into the light. Your sex life, virtual or physical, is one of the most intimate aspects of who you are. You will open yourself up to a new level of scrutiny and the possibility of rejection. But you will also open yourself up to new levels of freedom, healing, and grace.
For years I tried getting rid of pornography on my own. I didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid that if I opened up this big, gaping wound, people would say, “Oh, well that’s sad,” and then walk away. It seemed safer to keep it quiet, but there was no healing in that silence, just shame.
Shame Thrives In Secret
A year after I started sending pictures to a man, I was in Bible college. We had a women’s meeting with all of the female students and the dean stood at the front of the room and said, “We know some of you struggle with pornography … and we’re going to help you.”
They offered a chance to share our struggles. I was terrified.
On one hand, there was so much hope. Maybe I wasn’t alone. On the other hand, I was frustrated, embarrassed and skeptical. I hadn’t been able to get control of my porn problem. I was mad that God hadn’t gotten rid of it for me. But through tears I admitted that I, Jessica Harris, struggled with pornography.
Do you know what they told me? They didn’t call me a freak. They didn’t ask what was wrong with me or tell me that women just don’t have this problem. They told me I was brave, and they promised to help me.
What followed was a long road. I met with a member of the dean staff once a week, and we went through a special course for sex addicts. A couple of women on campus supported me as I learned how to live life without porn. It was hard, and there were times I felt like I was going through withdrawal. It took nearly two years before I was confident I had found freedom. Even then I sometimes found myself slipping back into old habits. Many times I wondered if it was worth it.
Freedom Is Always Worth Fighting For
Recovery is not an easy road. The only easy road is the one where you give up, stop trying and slowly waste away. But God created you for so much more than that, regardless of who you are or what you’ve done.
You don’t have to be controlled or defined by this struggle. You may have an addiction. But you are a treasured child of God.
I found hope and healing, and it’s available for you too. You are not alone.
This article is taken with permission from www.cru.org and originally appeared here.
Jessica Harris is the author of the book Beggar’s Daughter and she speaks regularly on the subject of female sexual addiction. To find out more about her ministry and resources for women struggling with sexual sin, go to www.beggarsdaughter.com. If you are battling an addiction, we encourage you to sign up for the upcoming conference Breaking Free! Use CRUxKALLOS for $10 off your ticket.
To read more stories on purity, check out Issue 26 or our devotionals Made For More which contains a series of heartfelt articles that explores various issues young women face and His Glory Our Wonder, about recapturing a sense of awe towards God.