Fight the New Drug

FTND status update that hit me real hard today and inspired this outpouring of real talk you’re about to read.

I cannot stress this enough: pornagraphy is dangerous. It is harmful. It is damaging. Pornography addiction is a very real thing– don’t be deceived, it is something both men and women  struggle with.

To be real with you? I used to struggle, too. It started small and grew into something more… at first I was disgusted and looked away. But there was something about it that drew me in deeper. Within weeks I was addicted to lesbian pornography. I went further into that realm of the Internet than I EVER intended to go. I even recall being so intrigued by the idea of being pleasured by another woman that I created dating profiles on sites strictly for women in search of others who just wanted sex. 

I was also drawing pornagraphy in the form of furry art. And for the longest time, I saw nothing wrong with it. Because friends were into it, I figured it was harmless…. but it hindered more than just my spiritual growth. I bought into the lie that it is okay to experiment sexually. I fell into the trap that so many others have. I saw how certain friends were living and began to grow curious. I delved into the world of lacy lingerie, adult toys and lubricants, bondage and even considered experiencing dungeon activities.

I had never felt so lost and empty. 

It bred insecurity. It unearthed new anxiety. It unleashed a part of me that I lost control of for a little over 3 years.

It wasn’t until I had women looking at my profile wanting to hook up that something broke inside of me.

It wasn’t until I caught myself lying to my mother about Pure Romance and why I was willing to sell it that I realized how far I had gone from the “good Christian girl” I was supposed to be.

It wasn’t until I proudly showed her the more “tame” of my scandalous art and hid the nudity and sexual scenes on a private Instagram account before I finally saw how I was appearing to others:

A hypocrite.

A sex addict.

A contributor to the sex and porn industry.

I called myself a Christian but I was living in sin. Not only on my own but with my boyfriend at the time. I was sitting in church, on the rare occasion that I visited it, pretending that things were fine. Every now and then, I would attempt to make changes but they never stuck.

“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.”

– Song of Songs 8:4

I understand this verse now more than ever. There is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11), including sex.

God designed sex! It is supposed to be a good and blessed thing– between a man and a woman who are married to one another. When you are deep in sexual addiction, it does something to you. You lose sight of what is “right and wrong”. All you care about is getting your fix, your high, your climax. 

Sex connects two people- two souls- mentally, emotionally and physically. A soul tie is created, or what scientists have called “sex glue”. Outside of marriage, this is dangerous! It complicates things.

In person, you are bonded with those you engage in sexual acts with once you’ve reached orgasm. It’s the same with pornography. You are connecting with an image on a screen in the most unhealthy and inhumane way….. and this is becoming the societal norm.

For years, this was my norm.

I felt broken and worthless. Porn didn’t make me feel any better about myself. It didn’t improve my life in any way. It didn’t help my self esteem. It landed me with an addiction that made me feel dirty. It made me feel like an object, cheapened to the status of just another sex toy- only slightly better than a blow up doll. And I let random strangers sext me and treat me as such. 

I was at an all-time low, and if you’ve been following my blog or know my story, you will understand how all of this and more lead up to February 9th, 2015.

…..

But God.

He brought people into my life who cared enough to be by my side and love me back to life.
God blessed me with a community of women from ParadigmKC who unknowingly gave me the strength to be vulnerable. Once I found my voice, I was able to overcome and recover, slowly but surely. 

Being heard and NOT judged was what I needed. Having others by my side who knew exactly what I was going through was what I craved- I was not alone. Hearing about their triumphant moments was encouraging. Seeing them live out life day by day, still struggling yet still holding on to the hope they had in Jesus was inspiring. Experiencing true biblical community lead to real life change for me, and I am forever grateful.

I am not the same woman I once was. And I don’t want to ever go back there.

I thought I could move past my pornography addiction on my own, but I am only as strong as my sinful nature and I failed time and time again.

I have only shared with a select few individuals in my life what my struggle used to be. I was terrified of being judged by the world…. 

But after more than a year of true community, I see the importance of transparency and vulnerability. You never know who may need to hear your story or see your scars in order to find their own voice, their own healing.

For years I had been ashamed of where I had been, who I was, what I had done…. I realize now that the past has no hold on me. Whether or not you, dear reader, decide to judge me for it is entirely your prerogative. 

Jesus Christ redeemed me from my past choices! It is all covered by His blood! In Him, I have been made new ♡

“If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

– 2 Corinthians 5:13-17

I share this part of my story now because it’s not about me

God deserves the glory for my story.

Because of God, I am not where I once was- extremely insecure, overwhelmingly depressed, addicted to porn and craving sexual attention, feeling hollow and alone. 

God saw me and met me in my messy life. He held me close and brought me to a place where I could find healing alongside other broken and hurting individuals. He sees you. He knows your struggle. Will you cry out to Him?

“In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. He reached down from on high alongside did took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.”

– Psalm 18:6, 16

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Our House Is Not Our Home

“Leah! Come look at this,” she shouted from the other room. I looked around where I stood there in the tattered, worn and dreary space. We were upstairs in the old two-story building where our friends were starting an Eleos Coffee House.

Though the main floor where coffee and fellowship would be looked fantastic, the upstairs apartment space was in a disheartening state. The paint was coming off in chipped slates, made of toxic lead. The floors were stripped and they bowed due to water damage and neglect. The old frames of the ceiling and walls were exposed. Dust danced in the daylight casting shadows on broken glass and rusty nails. The place was in desperate need of TLC, and we were there to clear out wood, glass and other forgotten or random objects.

I carefully made my way to where Sierra’s voice echoed. Immideately upon entry to the tiny space, a window with bars encasing it caught my eye. She was pointing to something that rested against the windowpane, tucked behind the rusted and tired bars.

There in the window sat a bird, perched on a branch with different shades of green leaves and flowers surrounding it. The bird looked very regal, staring off and to the left as if he were posing for us. He was encased in a flimsy frame that was discolored and worn, with a decorative emerald green striping pattern outlining the piece. The art itself was made entirely of feathers.

I knelt down and took a few photographs of this unique beauty that was oddly placed, being surrounded by cobwebs, rust and remnants of what had once been.

My heart sank as it suddenly became clear to me that whomever had been hulled up in this space had tried their best to make it somewhat of a home. “Squatters”, as they were called, left behind this and a few other possessions before abruptly leaving for whatever reason.

…..

Detroit, Michigan. It was a place I had honestly never really thought much about before the trip. I vaguely recall random tidbits about the crime and desperate state of the city, but I never truly knew or understood.

Never once did I think that there could be such desperation in my own backyard. Nor did I explore in order to see for myself, not because I didn’t want to but because it had just never occured to me.

Driving from the airport to where we would be staying with a couple from Abundant Life who had moved there previously, my eyes scanned my surroundings… and my breath caught in my throat.

I have never seen so many buildings crumbling and abandoned, overgrown and forgotten.

As we walked the streets of Detroit, we passed many houses that were beyond repair. What surprised me was how entire streets could look this way, void of life save for the plants and animals wondering around… There would also be streets lined with absolutely gorgeous homes, the architecture stunning and still in great shape. The home we stayed in was beautiful.

Beautiful architecture; this lovely abode was our home for the week.

There were many streets that would have beautiful homes like this, with abandoned homes speckled in between.

The people of Detroit surprised me even more than their surroundings. While we walked the streets, going house to house passing out flyers for the carnival we would be throwing, we met all kinds of folks. The kids I passed would be so respectful towards me, replying with, “Yes ma’am! ” after asking them a question. People would be gathered on their steps or porches, talking as we walked up. They would stop and smile, shake our hands, and strike up a conversation with us. It didn’t matter our skin color or that we weren’t from around there. We were welcomed and accepted.

They were so excited about the carnival and what Eleos Coffee House was doing in their community. Many expressed their sadness about the state of their city, having lived through the booming ages and now seeing businesses being boarded up and homes deteriorating as people leave. A city that once had such promise and was made to house millions now stands in ruins, diaregarded and undervalued… forgotten. The school systems and even the school buildings themselves not nearly adequate enough to provide their kids what they need. The businesses that are left make people feel less than, with thick glass prohibiting human contact.

McDonald’s; speaking through the glass to order food, grabbing food through a turn table so as to keep the workers and customers completely separate.

It was completely different from what life is here in Missouri. For example, when a church goes through certain neighborhoods here, people close their blinds, lock their doors, and pretend not to be home. Most wouldn’t dare answer the door. We don’t live behind bulletproof glass. If there are issues with our school buildings, people jump to fix it. No children here would go without a gymnasium due to water damage completely warping the floor. No children here would go without school books and proper learning standards.

It’s as if they’ve been given up on.

300 people came to the carnival that week. Different individuals thanked us and couldn’t stop smiling. Some told me that this was their first carnival, which at the time seemed strange. When we see carnivals, we experience thrill rides, gobs of games and prizes, shows, booths with random merchandise, and delicious (and unhealthy) foods.

Our little carnival had a dunk tank, face painting, a few games, a bouncy house and food. It was no where near as extravagant as the things we usually see. However…

They loved it.

Blake, the pastor, decided to taunt the kids and they enjoyed it! He was the perfect “villain” to dunk.
All the kids lined up to get some art on their skin.
Food in the backgound; sweet little ones playing games in the foreground.

So many people kept asking, “Why? Why here? Why us?”

My answer always went back to God. His heart hurts for the broken. And Detroit is in a very broken state. I hugged many necks and shook many hands that day, both the frail and the supple. Many expressed their excitement and gratitude, and I made sure they knew just how much God loved them. He hasn’t forgotten them. In some cases, those who had sorrow in their eyes suddenly lit up and overflowed with tears of mixed emotions. In others, I saw the hope in their expression.

God is working in this country. It may not be as noticeable to some, but I see it. I’ve experienced it.

Even amongst all these crumbling buildings amd desperate situations, there would be snippits of beauty… which reminds me of God’s love. There will be hardship in this life, in which pain and suffering will be the norm. But God reminds us that we have hope in Him:
“… Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 NLT

I have found that even in the midst of pain, He is there. He has never once left us to our own devices. He hears our prayers and cries. He sees the suffering and it grieves Him. He never wished for such suffering for any of us…. but because sin entered the world, we will struggle. Not by God’s doing, but our own.

There is such tragedy and suffering in today’s world, and many are wondering where God is in all this mess. Famine, rape, mass shootings, sex trafficking, slavery, injustices and pain surround many cities and countires. Terror and maddness seem to reign rather than love and sanity.

Yet…

Despite the pain and suffering, there are moments of bliss. Newborns being held in their mother’s arms, the parents bawling together after having tried for well-over ten years to have children. Moments of kindness strewn through the hatred, like people dressed as angels guarding the funerals of the young men and women shot down in cold blood in Orlando from Westboro protestors. A black young man stopping a white police officer on the street just to pray with him. A Christian woman walking into a mosque in Kansas with sweets for the women, showing love and acceptance rather than hatred and fear.

I see the brokenness surrounding me, and my heart breaks. I may only be one voice among a sea of many others, but I believe my generation and those behind me can be the change we so desperately need.

Do not let your age stop you. Do not let the judgements of others keep you from getting out there and loving others. This world needs more individuals who are willing to go out on a limb and be there for someone, regardless of ethnicity or upbringing.

We are all human. We all have heartache and many of us have suffered through so much in this life. The thing we need to know is that we are not alone. There are so many individuals surrounding us, strangers and passerby, that are going through something. Even those who seem to have it all together have a struggle they deal with. So many around me in my life currently share some of my same struggles! And because I have opened up about my story, conversations have occured and change is happening. Hope is happening.

I want to keep caring, loving and serving those around me. Too often, we forget just how human we are, and we stuff our emotions and refuse to reach out. You are not a burden! Nor am I. We need to wake up and be there for one another in these tough times.

The things that have been happening in the past two weeks keep reminding me: this house is not our home. We are merely passing through, and we need to take care of our temporary homestead and neighbors while we are here for the time given to us. Life passes by quicker than we’d imagine…. Let’s make each moment count.

Let’s Be Honest

Tuesdays and Thursdays are usually my favorite days of the week. During the times of 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, I am blessed enough to be surrounded by a community of individuals who are in the same boat as I am.

Or, at least, some of them are. And if they’ve upgraded their boat to mayhaps a ship or completely settled down on a nice, safe island away from the disastrous waves, then I can at least take comfort in knowing they have been in my shoes…. or boat…

I suppose my metaphorical journey is more of a dingy at the moment; tossed to and fro by the waves, yet never quite getting so beat up that it sinks.

During last night’s Bible study, the ladies and gents were split up to have some deep conversation about a fairly awkward topic when it comes to church-like atmospheres.

You guessed it! Sex.

Now, as a Bible-believing Christian, I am an advocate for saving oneself for marriage. Because God designed sex to be between a husband and wife in a married bed. In this culture, my views are waaaay off base, and many would argue with me, but that’s another topic entirely. Stay with me, here.

Even though I am a Christian who is trying to save herself, I am not perfect. I am open and honest about my story with many walks of life, and sometimes I get a gasp or an odd look in return. Who I was 5 years ago and who I was yesterday are still past versions of me. So sometimes it’s difficult to understand, I suppose, from the outside-looking-in.

Amidst other nervous ladies, I decided to divulge some of my deepest, darkest secrets…

Which gives me the courage to tell you.

Beautiful as imperfection can be, it can also seem like a burden. To be a Christian with such a tainted past? That’s super embarrassing to admit to anyone, especially your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes, it’s hard to admit things to yourself as well.

If you have read my story, you know a smidge about my past, mainly more recent things.

Let’s be honest:

Sex is an addiction. Obvious to some, sure. But did you know that sex is more than just sex? I hadn’t ever thought much on it until I came to my current young-adults group.

Sex is not just a physical action. Sex is honestly more powerful and more permanent than a tattoo. It leaves a mark!

Did you know that God talks about sex in the Bible (Song of Songs, anyone?) and that He tells us of the bond that occurs between a man and woman when they have sex? (1 Corinthians 6:16 says “… And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, ‘The two are united into one.'”)

Science backs God’s Word, actually. They’ve finally caught up to what God has been saying all along. That “bond” mentioned previously is what scientists today call sex glue: the powerful bond when a man or woman gives themselves to one another. As we experience orgasm, our brains produce oxytocin to bond us with whatever we happen to be looking at!

Basically, sex is physical, emotional and spiritual superglue. And God designed this phenomenon to bond you and your spouse- not you and your one night stand and certainly not you and the 2D image of pornography.

Personally, I never imagined that oral sex, kissing or merely touching someone else could be so powerful and leave such a lasting impression.

Well. It most certainly does.

Sex, for me, is a dangerous and addictive thing. If you’ve ever heard Skillet’s “Monster”, it definitely resembles that. She threatens to take over whenever I get the tiniest bit excited.

By the tender age of 15, I realized why. The trigger was flipped when I was very young due to sexual abuse. And sexual attention became a vice for a little girl who should have only been concerned with barbies and tea parties. And as a 22 year old young woman, sexual attention remains a trigger.

In my past, I was addicted to sexting random strangers on the Internet via Omegle and any chat forums I could get into. I sent scandalous photographs to these people. And my devious side had no qualms when it came to gender, either. I saught out pleasure from both sides of the spectrum. I was addicted to lesbian pornography, and went so far as to create a dating site for a one night stand. I let boys from my hometown touch me and fell for “crushes” and their charm, all to wind up parked half a mile down the gravel road from my home on more than one occasion. I let them talk me into touching them, even though I was absolutely disgusted with myself and their genitalia. I honestly couldn’t look at them. I had a phobia, and to an extent I still do (sexual abuse has many lasting qualities).

I have had issues with masturbation, toy play, and got so caught up in the excitement of sexual pleasure that I almost bought into selling sex toys for a living. Because sex sells.

My relationship suffered because sexual intimacy became a key factor over anything else. We fell into the trap of “if it feels good, do it” and listened to friends’ advice, which lead us down a path that is extremely hard to turn away from. We basically did everything but the actual act of sexual intercourse.

I have more of a handle on my “monster” nowadays thanks to God and some outstanding support, but she is always just beneath the surface, waiting for a weak moment.

I am not sharing this because I am proud of what I have been through, much less what I have done. I am ashamed, honestly. However, I know for sure that I am not the only human being to mess up and feel miserable for her past choices. I would say that I wish I could go back and change things.

….. but I really don’t.

I know that seems odd, but I truly don’t want my past to change. Not in the slightest.

Why?

I would not be half of the woman I am today were it not for the trauma and experiences I have had. I have met so many wonderful and encouraging women and men who have shared their stories with me. They have left a lasting impression on my heart.

I would not have learned the vast amount of valuable lessons were it not for the connections I have made during sermons, conversations and even reading articles or books. I have gained so much knowledge and understanding of not only myself but also a better understanding of my past. It’s quite empowering.

This life is full of unexpected tragedy and heartache. We have all had our share of pain. But isn’t it the least bit comforting to know that you are not alone in your struggles and suffering? That others have been right where you are, and there is hope of escaping the vicious cycle you’re caught up in?

That’s why I want to be as open and honest as I can. I want to share my experiences and my story with others so that they might learn something of value. At the very least, know that they are not alone.

So, let’s be honest with one another, shall we? You never know who might need to hear your story.

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