“I once was blind but now I see … Was lost but now am found.”
Only those who have experienced human brokenness for themselves know how powerful the lyrics of Amazing Grace can be. I used to think they were cheesy and I’d roll my eyes whenever it was sung. But I have been broken. And God knows I have been lost and blind in the darkness of my shame. I have also been found. My story is not an easy one to tell.
For so long, I believed I had no value. That I was some grotesque monster, alone in the world. Unlovable. You see, from the age of twelve, I was addicted to pornography. And yeah. I’m a woman.
It started with a book series, which I won’t name. I have always loved books. One could say that was my downfall. I trusted the words, and I trusted that authors would never write anything that would hurt me. Being a lonely child, pages were my refuge. Nothing bad could lurk there that couldn’t be slammed shut. And hey, I was twelve. I was a grown up! I could handle whatever the world threw at me. I was in control. I remember how fast my heart beat when I read that first explicit scene. Grownups do that!? Woah. There were many such scenes in those seemingly innocent books. I read them over and over. Craving more, I took to the internet. Fanfiction became my go-to site. People there take the characters they love and turn them to their own sauce, making of someone else’s work whatever they want. Often, what they want isn’t exactly healthy or pure. Again, I convinced myself I was in control. I could stop if I wanted. I just—didn’t want to. Right? Plus, as the all-knowing gods of the internet assured me, it was perfectly normal to seek out such details. Healthy, even. For men, anyway. And just don’t tell anyone. And don’t admit it to yourself. Don’t talk about it. But yeah. Totally healthy.
It became an obsession. Turns out, I couldn’t stop, not even when I wanted to. I got scared a few times, and I did try. Sometimes I could go three whole days without visiting the site. Usually, I was back on by the next day. I had no idea that what I was doing was pornography. Having been raised in a good, healthy Catholic family, I was vaguely aware of what pornography was and that it was a bad thing. To me, it was men looking at pictures of nude women and being unfaithful to their wives because of it. They were bad people who ran with mobsters and drank beer. I was safe, seeing as I was single, young, and, most importantly, a woman. And I wasn’t looking at pictures! There was no way pornography could be a girl problem. No. Way.
Now for the big question. Did God enter into it? I had had the incredible opportunity, as a child, to grow up incredibly close to the Lord. I didn’t have a whole lot of friends, and He was my big comfort. I could spend hours sitting still before the Tabernacle, just watching, listening. As I grew up, particularly as I started getting deeper into sin, He went from friend and protector and comfort to strict parent-figure I didn’t want to displease. I was pretty sure, however, if I didn’t think of Him while reading then He’d never find out.
The more time passed—the worse I felt. It was like I had two ‘selves,’ I had the good girl and the other one. My anger could not be directed at myself without admitting I was in the wrong so I turned on God. I resented Him deeply, though if asked I could not have said why. I didn’t know myself anymore. I was completely blinded by fear, bitterness, and the puffed-up vanity of those who hate their own guts. Sad to say, that was only the beginning.
One day, when I was maybe thirteen or fourteen, I came across a word I didn’t recognize. Smarty-pants that I was I couldn’t let that slide. So I figured I’d just—go ahead and google that. Couldn’t hurt. I’d only end up all the smarter for it and dominate all around me with my smartness that was better than theirs! Much like a drug addict, and without realizing what I’d just done, I moved from ‘weed’ to ‘meth’ from words to images in one little google search. For the rest of my life that first video will haunt me. I will never get it out of my head. It was sick, sick, sick—and I couldn’t stop watching. That was the first time I really understood what I’d done. Unfortunately, the lightbulb moment came too late. Panicked, terrified, I tried desperately to stop. For two days I avoided the computer as much as I could. I wept at night, pleading with the God I loved and was so angry with to take away the images, to make me good again. Please, God. Make me whole. Free will?! Take it away! Take it back! I don’t want it. It’s too hard. Too much of a burden. I can’t do this.
Still I kept my pain hidden, the shame buried as deep as I could get it. My two ‘selves’ split further apart. The good girl was an absolute prude wanting to see nothing gross, ever, especially not kissing! Eeew! When there was no one around—the other one would emerge and I’d wallow in self-pity and the smug certainty I was being rebellious, I was being grown-up. The all-knowing gods of the internet patted me on the back for it, assuring me I was doing the right thing by me, other people be durned. No one mattered but me and my own wants. I had never felt more alone. If my family found out, they’d stop loving me for sure. Did they even really love me, since they didn’t know me anymore? I was a monster, unworthy of the smallest drip of affection. I was totally, absolutely—unlovable. The deeper I sank into the filth the more convinced I became that I was broken beyond repair. No one would ever want me if my secret got out. I was disgusting, not even a real woman. Because after all, porn is a man’s problem. The gods of the internet whispered it wasn’t even really a problem at all. But it was. And I wanted to die.
(To be continued)