“Sexual addictions in women are increasingly becoming more common. Television, movies, magazines, and music videos promot decadent sexuality as good, desirable, and acceptable but never reveal the negative consequences of these behaviors.”
So writes Dr. Donald Hilton in his book, He Restoreth My Soul. Hilton devotes one of the appendices in his book to stories of LDS women who have suffered with sexual addictions…but who have also found hope and healing through Christ and through getting the specialized help they needed.
With his permission, we are sharing some of those stories here at Mormon Women. Following is the first one. More will be forthcoming. (To the reader who asked about this…sorry that this post comes a day late.)
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I am a female in recovery from sexual addiction. From the time I was born, my life was filled with many challenges and struggles. An unstable home environment, physical and sexual abuse, and my mother’s struggle with two failed marriages all contributed to severe emotional scars that impacted my ability to feel safe and loved.
[My mother’s third husband] was everything I had been missing in a father…. I know that I owe much of my life and happiness to his lessons and his love….
Sadly, no human being can take away all emotional pain and I began to turn to books for some measure of comfort. It started out with fantasy books. They would take me to faraway places that didn’t have horrible fathers who abuse you. I could leave the challenging life I endured behind. I stumbled on my first pornographic book when I was twelve. It came in the form of a romance novel. By then my mom was so used to be always having my nose in a book that she didn’t think anything of it. I began to feel strong sexual reactions that were fueled from molestations [I had experienced earlier in my life]. The sexual feelings that this created in me made me want to escape even more.
From then on I would do anything to get a book with sex in it. I bought used books and I began stealing books. I found a neighbor who also had an addiction to sexual romance books and I was able to get them from her. I loved imagining myself feeling loved again. My child abuse had polluted my understanding of being loved and so the romance books supported my confused understanding of what love was. … I kept trying to stop reading the books but I couldn’t. I recall throwing a book across the room trying to get away from the words and the feelings in the book but they haunted me and wouldn’t leave me.
[Her addiction escalated to acting out with various boyfriends, trying to “find…comfort in a sexual relationship.” In one situation, after a move, she found another boyfriend. She writes, “Even though I hated him, I needed him to act out my sexual addiction.” This illustrates how powerfully such an addiction can control someone’s life. She ran away and lied to her parents and they sent her to a recovery center, where she first felt the rays of hope and faith.]
I was lying in a girl’s bedroom after the lights went out, and I realized I could not do this by myself anymore. I finally prayed to my Heavenly Father even though I had rejected him all the previous years of my life. I felt like I was placed underneath a waterfall of the Spirit, and I received a testimony of Jesus Christ and that He loves me. This witness and a powerful love carried me until I graduated from the program at the recovery center.
Three months after I graduated, I relapsed back into my addiction worse than I had ever relapsed before…. This time I knew what I needed to do to find peace. I went cold turkey from my addictive patterns, but I was afraid to go back to church [but I did]. The lesson was on the law of chastity and keeping yourself clean for your future husband. … I felt like it was a message from Heavently Father to get my act together and prepare myself for the time when I would meet my husband. I decided to meet with my bishop again…. I discovered my testimony of Christ’s atonement again and became ready to take the sacrament. With the help of my bishop I felt that I was better prepared for marriage when I eventually found and married my husband in the temple.
[Marriage brought another layer of challenge as she realized that she expected her husband to fill the emotional void she still had in her life. After some time and losing a baby, she writes that she was once again “reminded of my powerlessness and how I desperately needed to rely upon my Heavenly Father. As I began to rely on my Savior, he began to heal me from the emotional pain I was feeling from the loss of our baby.” She began attending 12-step support groups for women in sexual addiction and eventually became a facilitator in the LDS 12-step PASG (pornography addiction support group) program of the Church.]
[Through participation in the PASG program,] I recovered from the pain of the loss of my unborn child, as well as from everything that had ever happened to me — the abuse, the neglect, and all the hurt I had caused myself by participating in sexual addiction. By continuing to apply the 12 Steps I deepened my resolve to get to know and trust my Savior every day. This spiritual understanding takes time to fully apply. My marriage improved by leaps and bounds and four months later I discovered that I was pregnant again. Imagine the fear I felt as I begged my Heavenly Father to not take another child from me. Then humility came over me as I finished that particular prayer with: “If it be Thy will that I lose another child to learn more about my recovery I will accept Thy plan for me.”
That’s when I realized how dedicated I am to the recovery program that we have. My whole life has been centered upon this God hole that was gaping open in my heart. No matter what I threw at the hole, it could not be filled. The 12 Steps have helped me learn to find the healing I finally needed and that healing could only come through the Savior.
I would like to describe my life to you now that I am in full recovery. I have a beautiful baby girl who is so precious to me. My husband and I are again best friends, like we were when we were dating, only our relationship is better because we rely upon our Savior who is with us in our home. I am assertive about my feelings adn I have learned to not let them build up because of the fear of being misunderstood and rejected. As a [PASG] facilitator, I currently serve my fellow sisters seeking recovery from addiction with joy. Each week I watch them go through the same journey that I have experienced with 12 Step recovery. I am motivated to serve my family and I have wonderful relationships with my parents and siblings.
Most importantly, I know that my Savior is truly my Redeemer. I know that there is not another method on this earth that will bring the peace, love and joy that we need other than the Atonement of the Lord, Jesus Christ. I know that He “remembers my sins no more” and because of that, I feel, like Alma, that my joy is greater than my sorrow. I know that true peace is possible because I have felt it in my own life and I encourage each of you to find out for yourself that He lives. For those of you reading my story please know that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father love you and are there for you. There is hope for full freedom from your addiction.
Top image created by andrea silva at Wikimedia Commons. She has no affiliation with this site.
Your story is so familiar and common amongst so many women who do not have the courage to tell it in public. I am grateful for your transparency and pray that God would pour many blessings on your recovery.