Because this story’s been written before in my book Permission to Speak Freely, I’ve adapted a few of the chapters to use on my blog. If you’re interested in purchasing the book, it’s currently on sale on Amazon for $7.98 and you can pick it up by clicking here.
Or, you can also watch me share the story on LifeToday, which is a great Christian television broadcast. James & Betty Robison were such amazing hosts, and they had someone do my makeup and my hair and make me look presentable and fancy.
I know, I know. Porn is a guy’s problem. Girls—especially good, teenage girls—don’t look at porn.
And the last place you would expect to see porn is the living room of a former pastor, right?
But during these “dark years,” between a portrait of my family taken at Christmastime and an old, broken, dot matrix printer sat a computer screen. The place where I typed book reports and instant-messaged my friends became the doorway to an endless amount of forbidden fruit—and even more amounts of guilt.
Still in culture shock from our move to Dallas, and now with an awakened sense of myself sexually, I began to notice the provocatively lit neon signs loudly proclaiming XXX and FULL NUDITY. On the way home from school on my bus, I overheard two boys talking about looking up images of people having sex online. Ignited teenage hormones and my lack of sex-ed combined with the new technology of the Internet proved to be a dangerous combination.
Late one night, after my parents and younger brother had gone to bed, I logged on and did an innocent online search for “sex.” I had no idea that typing that one word into a computer would lead me to an addiction I’d fight for years.
And it wasn’t just a physical addiction either. Viewing these outwardly flawless women fed the huge emotional need that was left by my dad’s withdrawal and the youth pastor’s rejection. Through the fantasies I would have by looking at that computer screen, I would find love and affirmation.
I graduated as planned my junior year and moved out a few months after my seventeenth birthday. Now I had my own apartment with my own computer, and all the freedom in the world.
I would go to work (now the manager of the Christian bookstore), come home, and look at porn almost every night. Soon my porn binges started affecting my performance at work and my relationships because I wouldn’t get any sleep, and when I was with friends, I would secretly obsess about how soon I could be home and when I could get my next fix.
What’s a girl to do?
Of course, I never mentioned my struggle to anyone. Looking at porn was typical, even expected, for men . . . but a girl? A girl who likes porn? I even questioned my sexual orientation. If I was straight, why did I like looking at naked women? So was I gay? Or bisexual? Or was I just perverted?
I hated the pattern I had fallen into. I think I knew it was wrong. At least I realized anything that caused this much obsession couldn’t be right.
But I couldn’t stop.
The addiction went from online to offline. When something as dark and lonely and shameful as a sexually oriented addiction has a grasp on you, you do a lot of things you’d never in a million, billion years dream you’d ever do.
According to everything I had seen, to be accepted and loved meant to have a sexual relationship, and what girl doesn’t need to be accepted and loved?
For years this addiction held me tightly in a dark embrace, and somewhere inside me I knew it wasn’t the life I was intended to have. I knew it was wrong. And as I got older and began to rediscover my faith and my purpose and identity in Christ, I knew I had to break away from the safety I found in my morphed perspective of sex.
As twisted as it was, it was familiar. And that familiarity brought me comfort.
But I knew I needed to let it go.
When I was twenty-one, I moved to Kansas City and met a girl named Kristi. We became friends and one evening as we sat in her bathroom painting our toenails, she began sharing her story with me. Lust. Pornography. Masturbation. She looked at me with timid eyes waiting for a response.
Any color vanished from my face as I told her my story. Inappropriate relationships with guys. Porn. Lust. We had almost the same story, and for the first time that night, we were both able to confess to another human.
The weight we both carried around was lifted. It was exactly what’s described in James 5:16 – “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
The healing mentioned here is a spiritual healing – a weight bound up and lifted off of one’s spirit.
Confession isn’t the end-all, but it was the beginning of a transformation. We invited God into our struggle. We invited others into it. We took practical steps like putting software on our computers and met weekly and asked difficult questions.
That’s what it took. Confessing to God. Confessing to others. Committing to each other to ask and answer the hard questions for a long, long time.
After a few years, freedom slowly happened. The pull to look at porn hasn’t been strong in over a decade. Have I messed up now and then? Yes. Have I confessed those times? Absolutely. And we keep going.
Kristi gave me a huge gift that night. She went first. It’s the hardest thing to go first, to confess the broken using awkward words and avoiding eye contact. What happens on the other side of that confession is something beautiful. When you confess, there’s somebody on the other side of that confession who could very well be keeping a secret too.
So when you go first, you’re opening up this amazing opportunity for trust. You’re saying, “I’m broken.” That trust carries so much power with it. It can give people the courage to go second.
When people go second, it’s not an easy thing, but because you’ve already broken the silence—you’ve already released some of the shame in that confession—it makes it a little bit easier. They know they can trust you. And so you give them a gift.
The Gift of Going Second.
It’s the Gift of Going Second that starts waves of confession and healing.
It’s now your turn. Who can you give the Gift of Going second to?