On Sunday as part of our You & Me series, I talked about porn and sexual addiction and how it breaks intimacy in our relationships and ultimately harms us. Following the sermon, Katie and I did a live Q&A, which you can watch here as part of the sermon.
I love the willingness of our church to ask hard questions and I love that we get to be a part of helping people find freedom from sin.
One of the questions that came in asked: What if you’re a woman struggling with a sex addiction?…all the support seems to be for men struggling with sex addiction – who helps you if every time you hear about men’s struggles w/ sex you know you have the same problem? It’s incredibly isolating to be a woman struggling with “a man’s problem.”
While we responded to that question in the Q&A, I asked one of our leaders, Ciara Hull, if she could speak to that struggle from her story and she has graciously said yes. Below is her answer and story, which I hope, if you are a woman struggling with this, you will find this as a first step towards freedom.
When I heard these words from a live Q & A in Sunday’s sermon at our church, they echoed in my heart. I heard the plea, the pain, the shame, the desire for freedom behind those words. I don’t know this woman, but I share her secret. My earliest memory is of finding my dad’s Playboy magazine. That day changed the course of my life, it started a 22 year addiction to porn. It opened the door for early abuse, for wrong ideas about sex, intimacy and general confusion about how to relate to others. Sex became something that was a secret obsession. No one knew. But then it wasn’t enough and I had to push the boundaries. The term the industry uses is “experimenting”. Our culture calls it curiosity and encourages us to “explore”. But what happens when that’s not enough? How far do you go? How do you stop? Who do you go to for help? What are other people going to think? Ok, really what are other women going to think?
This shouldn’t be a problem for a woman. After all we are the ones being used as objects in porn. You begin to wonder does anyone else have this problem? Do they feel this embarrassed? Can I ever find freedom? These are all the questions I could feel unspoken in this one woman’s question. These are the fears that haunted me everyday.
But I’m here to say there is freedom! There is healing. There is change. There is redemption. Galatians 5:1 says “For freedom Christ has set you free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”
I remember the day those words struck a chord in my heart. The day God got a hold of me. We are set free in order to have freedom! Seems like a no-brainer, but if you are a slave do you know what freedom feels like? Having a sex addiction is slavery. You are bound to your next fix and the high is always short lived. So how does freedom come? How do you go on to have a healthy sex life with your spouse?
Here are some of the things that have helped on my journey to freedom:
Recognize the truth that Christ paid the price to free you. Develop this relationship with Him. Dive into His Word daily to see what He says about Himself, about you and about living free.
Know you aren’t alone. There is an increase in women acknowledging they are addicted and are seeking professional help. It isn’t just a man’s problem anymore. You may feel you are the only woman on the planet that is like this, but you aren’t.
Identify when the most likely times are for your addiction to happen. When you are bored? Stressed? Suppose to be studying? What is your pattern? Once I figured out mine I could create systems to change the pattern. For example I could study at Starbucks instead of my living room.
Reach out to a trusted female mentor. If she hasn’t had the same struggle she may know someone who has that she can connect you with. At the very least she is probably willing to help with accountability. This could be a leader in your church, it could be a professional counselor, it could even be an addiction group.
Figure out your triggers and work to avoid them. For me this means there are a lot of movies I don’t choose to watch anymore. There are high filters set on our home firewall to not allow access to certain sites on the internet. There are also clothing magazines I had to call and request them to stop sending me – if they still come in junk mail I put them in the recycle bin before I go back inside. Just like a man I had to train my eyes for purity.
If you are married, you need to share it with your spouse. In order to work towards unity this is not a burden you can carry on your own, you can navigate it together. If you are single, you should prepare one day to share with a potential finance what your struggles have been and how it may affect your intimacy.
Pray constantly. Just like any other addict I have to choose to fight everyday. I’m constantly talking to God to help me not recall a certain memory and to help me find healing.
My hope is that the one woman from Sunday reads this and is encouraged to fight. Please know I’m praying for you.