Tag Archive | Recovery

Seeking a Satisfied Heart

I’m still waiting. Surprisingly, more patiently than I would have expected amidst my sadness of the last few months. Perhaps because I have changed my focus. Oh, my heart still yearns for the mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy that remains as elusive as finding a family of brightly coloured M & Ms dancing in my backyard. And I am certainly not going to pretend I found a way for it to not matter anymore. History has proven me to be pretty gullible at believing lies and accepting deception, but even I can’t convince myself that the pain of continual sexual rejection and neglect is inconsequential.

But what I am doing is trying my darnedest to no longer let my disappointment and discouragement consume and taint all areas of my life. It is a satisfied heart I seek. A heart that is able to experience peace and joy despite my prevailing sadness. A heart that is open to the goodness of life and God’s creation even when my healing process is not following my predetermined timeline. Even when things don’t seem to be on my timeline at all.

Sometimes, or rather often, when the wounds of sexual betrayal trauma begin to bleed again, I hold my fragile heart tightly in my hands. It is considerably stronger and healthier than it was four years ago. But still there are scars. Some now only faint reminders of the pain and abuse inflicted upon me by my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. Others, fading nicely. But this stubborn scab. Nope. It remains resistant to healing.

I will pray for everybody and everything except for the pain that haunts me. And taunts me. And has burrowed into the crevices of my heart. It’s not that I never have. It just seems like there is nothing more to say. I’ve poured my heart out to God. The silent screams. The very real tears. The flickering hope. The guilt and embarrassment of acknowledging that my greatest source of suffering is sexual in nature when others are dealing with considerably more stress and loss filled situations and circumstances in their lives.

My marriage has disappointed me. My husband has disappointed me. My own sinful behaviours and choices have disappointed me. But God has not disappointed me. And I want to keep it that way. Confused and angered me, yes. But when those emotions emerge, I have been able to address and overcome them. For me personally, those emotions don’t threaten to infect and poison my heart and mind in the same way as the crushing defeat of unmet expectations. If I pray, and wait expectantly for an answer, and I don’t receive the response I want or think I should get, well, then, my hope wavers. My trust in God weakens. The domino falls and my trust in my husband falters, and then in myself. My heart begins to ache. The pain crescendos again. And then I stumble and fall into the pity party that welcomes me with open arms and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

I know this cycle. I am tired of this cycle. I have crawled and lunged through every distorted room of the misnamed carnival fun house forwards, backwards and sideways. With joy, terror and an uneasy acceptance of my task. I have concluded that praying for me, for my marriage, for sexual healing is not safe. And as someone recovering from sexual betrayal trauma, I crave safety and security. A sure foundation.

I have taken many courageous leaps of faith on this journey to wholeness. Some looked like the tiniest of baby steps, others soaring jumps off the ferris wheel. Both were scary. And rewarding. In more ways than I could have ever imagined. Or expected. I have followed the popcorn trail through the chaotic fairgrounds savouring the buttery, salty prize along the way. But for some reason, the freshly squeezed lemonade stand remains elusive and I am unable to quench my thirst. I have sought guidance, and received directions, but they don’t take me to the destination I desperately seek. The popcorn doesn’t taste quite as good as it once did. My heart is not satisfied.

I began writing this post two months ago. When I opened it again, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I didn’t know if the current state of my heart and mind would align with my thoughts from then, and I could pick up where I left off, or if my words would be relegated to the recycle bin. Truthfully, after four years of recovery, I would hope and expect that I would not be stuck in the exact same place for over two months without any movement. But there I was. And here I am.

I cried this weekend. Two days in a row. Saturday evening, the tears of my aching heart appeared on my cheeks as I dared to expose my pain and offer my crushed dreams to God to hold in His hands. I prayed the prayer I was withholding from us all – husband, wife and our Father God. I can’t say that I felt instantly lighter or hopeful. But by allowing God into my deepest pain, I didn’t feel so alone. My burden became more bearable.

In Sunday morning’s church service, the worship band led the two songs that I cherish as being significant healing forces in the very early stages of our disclosures and recovery. The first, “Great are You Lord” was the song I uncontrollably sobbed to, and loudly croaked along with, broken and alone in my living room. Just me, God and my overwhelming pain. Indeed, God was and continues to be the breath in my lungs. The second song, “Oceans” was the daily faith and trust builder that provided me the courage to press forward, lean into Jesus, and prepare my shattered heart for healing. And it did it again. The tears welled in my eyes as God’s tender, merciful whisper to “trust Me” infused my soul with peace and hope.

So I am. Trusting God. And seeking a satisfied heart. I think the two are inseparable.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Advertisements

Spiritual Intimacy is Knocking on My Bedroom Door

The chorus to my life song has been on a frustrating loop this winter. As beautiful and triumphant as the lyrics and melody of God’s amazing grace and glory have been in my life, feeling stuck on repeat was hindering me from recognizing that the tones were becoming richer and deeper. I did not recognize that God has been steadily and surely composing the next verse for me.

I write a lot about my discouragement and pain in reclaiming and building sexual intimacy in my decades long sexless marriage ravaged by my husband’s sex addiction, pornography use, intimacy anorexia and my own adultery and recovery from childhood sexual abuse, premarital sex and sexual betrayal trauma. What I don’t generally write about is the same deep desire I have to connect spiritually with my husband and cultivate a spiritual intimacy that is new to our marriage since we began recovery four years ago.

It is that spiritual intimacy that is becoming stronger and lusher. And yet I nearly missed tasting the sweet harvest that God has been nurturing because of my narrow focus on what I believe is lacking sexually in our marriage rather than looking at the bigger picture of what God has redeemed and continues to heal, restore and transform.

I want to talk to my husband about God. I want to talk to God with my husband. I want us to share and celebrate our God moments; the big and little miracles that happen throughout our day; the impact and perfect timing of a scripture to strengthen, comfort or challenge us. I want us to grow spiritually together. And I want us to stand as one in awe and anticipation of how God will use us and our redemption story to bring Him glory, and to transform and offer hope to other broken lives and marriages.

My passion to be joined together as one goes far beyond the bedroom. And so, maybe for us, it doesn’t begin in the bedroom. Maybe for us, sexual oneness will be a by-product, an offering of worship that comes from serving God as a couple. And maybe, as we wholly serve God both individually and jointly, the fulfillment that brings will satisfy my heart and overflow to all areas of my marriage and life.

You see, my hope is rising. From the day four years and four months ago that I implored God to provide me with a godly, Christian husband, He has been answering my prayers. God is providing me with the desires of my heart. With each display of my husband’s spiritual growth, and his support of mine, my heart swells.

Since we began our recovery, our bedtime routine has included praying together. There are other times when we may pray jointly for a specific request. But that has generally been initiated by me. Until the last few weeks, when twice my husband has stopped me to lovingly take my trembling hands in his, join his heart with mine, and lift my troubled spirit to our Heavenly Father. These tender moments brought tears to my eyes and wonder to my soul.

My husband also reads from the Bible to me every night. We are currently reading through the book of Exodus. I find great comfort and strength in the Old Testament stories of God’s faithfulness. The account of Moses’ radiant face after his encounter with God’s glory on the mountain thrills my heart. But then it is a struggle to read with much interest the very detailed list of materials and measurements required to build the tabernacle. But my husband has managed to make this section into a fun learning experience filled with laughter. I don’t know why we need to know about acacia wood, the various metals used, or the colour of the yarn, but I am confident that God delights in the fact that we joyously do.

We have also been attending a Life group together at our church. I am involved with a wonderful and fulfilling women’s group, but still my heart has longed to be a part of a small group as a couple. Sharing, expanding and deepening our faith together with others in an intimate setting. I participated alone for the first few gatherings. Waiting for my husband to respond to the Spirit’s nudging to join me. He did. In this weekly setting, my heart is filled with an extra dose of contentment and security in the us of today and tomorrow.

There has been a gentle shifting in the holy trinity of our marriage. The spiritual presence and connectivity of my husband growing. The answer to my prayer for him to become a spiritual leader in our marriage, home and family emerging.

It is sexy. Not sexual. But exciting and appealing in a way that is filling my heart with gratitude and celebration. And a sliver of guilt and remorse at my failure to appreciate and acknowledge God’s faithful, unrelenting devotion to healing, restoring and building intimacy in our marriage. Piece by broken piece. In His order. In His timing. By His design. With the utmost care for both of our hearts.

I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness.

For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalm 84:11

Porn – The Serial Killer of Our Sexual Intimacy

I baked my husband’s favourite oatmeal chocolate chip cookies after supper last week. It was Valentine’s Day and we hadn’t done anything special to acknowledge it. I hadn’t made any plans for us, and I wasn’t expecting that he would. Our silence on the subject implied an agreement that nothing would differentiate this day from any other. I did place a card on his pillow after work. Intentionally choosing that time rather than the morning, lest it initiate an obligatory and guilt induced errand during the day to reciprocate in some form.

As we sat eating our nachos and smokies, my heart wrenched a little. The flickering desire to connect with my husband more intentionally and intimately was growing stronger. I’ve been missing him. There is a widening crack in our marriage. It’s ironic how stagnancy does that. How inactivity doesn’t just stall development, it feeds the foulness in a marriage no longer striving for healing. The wrong things grow.

I began devising a way to redeem a small part of our evening. Cookies. Milk. Dreams. Talking about our wedding anniversary the following week. Making plans for spring break and summer vacation. Daydreaming about sailing away (literally) into our retirement years. Scheduling time together. The security of there being an us. That was all the romance I needed.

But I didn’t get it. As I sat at the kitchen table, anticipating the emotional intimacy of jointly sharing our hopes and desires for the coming weeks, months and years, my husband walked into the room. He said some kind words of appreciation for the cookies, bent down to give me a quick kiss, grabbed his snack and promptly disappeared. And I didn’t stop him. I sat there alone. Confused and sad. Wondering why he didn’t choose to sit down with me. Wondering why I didn’t invite him to.

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. Holding back my words, my thoughts, my desires and needs. Reclaiming pieces of my heart that I have decided are no longer safe with my husband. The bruised, broken pieces that I had cautiously, but courageously, offered back to him in the last four years as we began healing and recovering from the betrayal, rejection, neglect, and abuse of his sex addiction, intimacy anorexia and a twenty year sexless marriage.

I have done a tremendous amount of work in the last four years to heal from sexual betrayal trauma, as well as the deep wounds of sexual sin inflicted on me by both myself and others. I have embraced a recovery program that has included counselling, a recovery support group, and reading and completing numerous workbooks and recovery materials.

And I have prayed. And wept. And prayed. And burrowed into the Bible. Where I discovered refuge and the promise of forgiveness, hope, grace, and extravagant love. Where God’s comfort, strength and healing power began tenderly restoring His daughter to a new life of wholeness. Where I received the assurance that it was safe to trust God with my heart. And as He drew me towards my husband, I began to understand and believe that it would be okay to trust my husband with it too.

And now my heart aches. The pain of sexual rejection and neglect continues to wash over me. I wrestle with resentment, bitterness, envy, self pity and intense sadness. My hope for God designed, mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy wanes. I am angry at those who have falsely offered me the assurance that when my husband overcame his pornography addiction, his brain would become rewired to sexually desire me. Well, he has, and he doesn’t. He denies the latter. But as recovery teaches us – believe behaviours, not words.

I don’t know for how long we can blame his former pornography addiction and compulsive masturbation for the lack of sexual intimacy in our marriage. I don’t know if, or when, the issue shifts from the effects of past porn use to a current unwillingness or ability to prioritize sexual health.

It appears that we will likely never have a conventional sex life. As we have both neared the age of fifty, the physical health of our bodies has betrayed us. It is my desire to find ways to compensate for and overcome these obstacles to cultivate and enrich our sexual intimacy, whether short or long term. An intimate connection that will work for us and be uniquely ours. My husband does not share this desire with me. And that hurts. A lot.

But what hurts even more than the continued sexual deprivation and neglect is the prevalent dishonesty, deception, and avoidance related to our sexual issues. My needs are being ignored and shamed. As are my requests for communication. I feel like I am being strung along as I was for the first twenty five years of our marriage. Being manipulated to keep the boat from rocking.

I am being denied the opportunity to improve our sexual intimacy, and I am being denied the ability to mourn and grieve an integral part of marriage. Of my marriage.

The last several months, I have been unable to fully trust my husband’s words and behaviours. That makes me sad. My heart is his. My body is his. But he can’t or won’t accept that gift. And I don’t know why.

I struggle with this. I recently encouraged a friend by telling her that if she was struggling and wrestling, that meant she was still showing up every day for the battle. She hadn’t surrendered to the enemy.

I haven’t given up either. Even though some days the temptation is strong. I truly believe that God continues to heal, restore and redeem that which pornography and addiction destroyed in our lives and stole from our marriage. I’m awaiting the final victory. Just wishing we were waiting together.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

There’s No Taking Breaks From Recovery

I’ve been taking a break from reality and my daily routines. Turns out that hasn’t been a good thing for me. It didn’t begin as an intentional decision. I truly didn’t have any overwhelming burden from which I needed to escape. No additional disclosures from my sex addict husband. No relapses or significant triggering events. Just tiny choices made every day that have stalled my healing process and growth. The transformation into a healthy and confident woman the last four years as I broke free from the abusive and soul crushing effects of my husband’s porn addiction and intimacy anorexia fading. I can’t find the new and improved me as clearly these days as I could a few months ago. I miss her.

I’m tired. Weary. Discouraged. Avoiding conflict. Losing my energy. Letting my joy be stolen.

An addict must fight for their freedom every minute of every day. But so must an addict’s wife. It’s a different battle, but a battle just the same. And although I haven’t stopped wrestling with the barrage of negative thoughts and lies attempting to engulf me, my guardrails have shifted. In neglecting regular maintenance and reinforcement, my protective barriers aren’t withstanding the attacks against them like they used to.

Cracks can easily form in the comfortableness. Blemishes appear as the freshness settles. The strong foundation cultivated in recovery may seem to shake. But the steadfast rock of recovery and God’s Word remains firm and unwavering. The earth isn’t moving beneath me. God’s faithfulness remains unchanged. It is my knees that are wobbly, my arms weakened, my heart dull. And they don’t have to be.

It’s not a matter of oh, I’ll just have one drink, or another brownie, or allow my eyes to linger for a few seconds. The activities and behaviours I have been indulging in are not necessarily harmful or bad. But neither are they helpful or good. What they are is time wasters. Junk food for my soul and body. Lacking much needed nourishment to sustain and foster my personal and spiritual growth and healing.

I am on uneven ground. Dangerously close to falling into old unhealthy patterns. Perhaps it is a season of rest or testing for the next part of my journey. I have feebly used that justification to explain my immobility. But in this instance, it is only a poor excuse. Growth and healing doesn’t just happen in the stillness. Movement is still necessary on my part. And I’m pretty sure that choosing to watch another home improvement show rather than going for my evening prayer walk, or playing one more level of Word Cookies on my phone rather than reading recovery material, connecting with others, or engaging in true self care, will enhance my life in any meaningful way. It hasn’t. With every questionable yes I have made with my time and energy, I have said a solid no to something exceedingly more beneficial to my life, or to someone else’s.

And so here I am again. Still learning. But yes, learning. Recovery is a lifestyle. It has no end. Even after four years of tremendous personal healing and transformation, I can’t afford to take my eyes off the goal and final destination. Slow down and rest when needed, sure. But cease being intentional with the limited minutes of my day, no, no, no. Each one of them is a gift.

Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth.
Psalm 116:7-9

The Lingerie Store Revisited

There was a crazy lady Christmas shopping at the lingerie store again this year. At first glance she appeared rather ordinary. But the growing grief and hopelessness on her face, and dejection in her body as she walked slowly from one display to another, would have been apparent to anyone with a lingering gaze. Tears gathering in her eyes, she paused, but never touched. Size availability and price was irrelevant for something that would never leave the store in her shopping bag anyway.

Not much has changed since last December when I wrote The Porn Addict’s Wife Wears Lingerie (or tries to). It is my most read post, more likely because it contains the words porn, addict and lingerie, than people are interested in the bewildering emotions of a middle aged sexually broken woman. And yet there I was, and here I am again.

A lot can happen in a year. And a lot may not happen. Healing brings breakthroughs, and setbacks, and periods of rest and adjustment. Sometimes longer periods of rest than my anxious heart handles with patience and grace.

Last December, I entered that lingerie store with a twinkle in my eye. The winter and Christmas themed lingerie answering the longing in my heart for sexual lightness and fun in my marriage. But then. The fear of unknown triggers. I dejectedly left the store with that same unfulfilled desire, along with a deepened sense of loss wondering if my sexuality and healthy fantasies would be forever tainted by my husband’s past pornography addiction.

Last week was both the same and different as a year ago. I don’t even know why I entered the lingerie store other than to poke my finger into my own open wounds. I knew before I even crossed the threshold that I would not be making any purchases again this year. But maybe, just maybe, the merchandise could offer me a tiny flicker of hope where I had none. I wanted everything that the lingerie was selling me. Everything that was embodied in that magical piece of clothing.

I felt empty as I browsed the store. And then a profound sadness enveloped me. Even the cozy, fuzzy socks and cheerful penguins couldn’t bring a smile to my face. I wondered why, after another full year of healing and recovery, my response was as filled with grief and despair as if I had just returned the following day and not a year later.

I think my sadness was deeper this time though. A year ago, I was confused. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Still a little raw in figuring out how this whole healthy sexuality thing was supposed to work for my husband and I. But I believed it would work. It just wasn’t quite there yet….

Well, a year later, and the hammer of realization that not only was it not quite there yet, it didn’t seem any closer. It is hard to hold onto hope when you feel crushed. Defeated. Mocked by the lingerie displays and menacing penguins. So I didn’t. I plummeted.

But this is where the benefit of an additional year of recovery was revealed to me. I didn’t stay in that darkness long. I visited, but there was nothing for me in that place. It felt wrong and uncomfortable and self indulgent. And dishonouring to God.

I heard the whisper to my soul. Acknowledging the deep hurt and unfulfilled desires of my broken sexuality. If there was a promise of better things to come at that moment, I didn’t hear it. But the raging discontent in my mind and heart quieted.  And that was enough.

A couple days later, God’s whisper shouted to me from the pages of my devotional book as I read about the healing of emotional wounds. An illustration was provided where several shoelaces were tied together in a knot with each knot representing a different problem in my life. Unravelling the knots and smoothing out my troubles would require time and effort. It isn’t possible for the untangling to happen all at once. I need to remember that although it may seem that I am not making any progress, God is untying my knots one at a time. In the order and way He chooses. Not in mine. My responsibility is to co-operate with God in whatever area He has decided we are going to work on first. And sweatpants just might be more important than lingerie.

I’m impatient. I get discouraged. I whine about what is missing rather than being grateful for what has been redeemed and restored in our decades long sexless and porn ravaged marriage. I want our sexual intimacy healed yesterday. Or more honestly, years ago. But there is much bondage, abuse and sexual sin in this one shoelace alone, even once it has been disentangled from the messy ball of life’s other hurts and issues.

My solution would be to grab a pair of scissors and with a few precise snips remove the troublesome knots leaving a perfectly functioning bow in its place. And I would do that after only a few minutes of frustration. But that is not God’s way.

I know because God continues to carefully and slowly heal my wounds and align the desires of my heart with His. Whether I’m wearing flannel pyjamas, silky lingerie or nothing at all. He won’t quit. He never does. So, I guess I shouldn’t either.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8,9

Your Husband is a Porn Addict, or Maybe Not, and Why That Matters

I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend lately. A jamming together of puzzles pieces that don’t necessarily belong together. The variations of “Help! I found pornography on the computer and don’t know how to deal with my partner’s porn addiction.” I understand the shock and heartache of discovering your partner’s porn usage. I really and truly know that pain well. What troubles me is the immediate assumption and leap that evidence of porn use indicates the presence of an addiction.

Discovering the existence of pornography in your relationship is definitely a cause for concern that needs to be addressed with the user. I am absolutely not minimizing or denying the damage that pornography use inflicts upon the user, the partner or their relationship, or encouraging anyone else to do so. But I am questioning the growing belief, particularly in the Christian community, that viewing pornography equals an addiction.

I believe using pornography is destructive. What it may or may not be though, is an addiction. And I think, as the devastated partner, it is important to determine where on the spectrum your husband or wife falls so you know what you are dealing with. It is not a measure of your pain. It is not an indication of where your feelings of betrayal should or should not be. Pain is pain is pain. But it seems to me that it is possible that assigning a predetermined label to the issue without knowing the facts can add another level of pain that may be totally unnecessary and unhelpful to your well-being and the situation.

Personally, my mind easily jumps to worst case scenarios. This leads to needless anxiety, distress and fear. In seconds, the images or internet searches that shocked my brain have morphed into flashing lights in my driveway as police officers come to arrest my husband. A pregnant stranger appears at my door searching for him. He loses his job. I become homeless. My community shuns him, me, us. My life and future destroyed. I am hopeless, defeated, filled with despair. And I haven’t even taken my eyes off the screen or talked to my husband yet.

Sadly, and awfully, those scenarios do happen. But not always. So, instead of being convinced that your partner is a full blown sex addict and your marriage and life is beyond repair, take a deep breath and begin the process of finding out what you together, and alone, are up against. A curiosity. A bad habit. An early stage addiction. Or yes, an outright, big, fat, ugly pornography addiction.

The computer history will not likely provide a clear answer. And quite possibly, neither will your partner. But accusing your partner of being a porn addict may simply magnify the problem for both of you. If you are prematurely and carelessly slapping a porn addict label on your spouse, you have also affixed one to yourself. And that may be self-defeating to the care you so desperately need. Your perspective will have a significant influence on your personal healing as much as it will on your partner and marriage.

It is important to know if you are fighting to defeat the devastating effects of pornography, or of pornography and an addiction. Overcoming and recovering from an addiction is possible. The battle is not insurmountable. But it is a different battle than unlearning a bad habit and replacing it with healthier behaviour. For both of you. And that matters.

Guilt over one’s bad behaviour may be a motivator for change. But shame seldom is. If condemnation fills either of your hearts, there is no room for transformation and freedom. If either of you believes the bondage is greater than it is, quite possibly an attitude of hopelessness and despair will prevail. The message you feed yourself and your partner matters. Will it be the truth, or a lie that continues to destroy?

The invasion of pornography’s heavy darkness into your souls and relationship is destructive whether the pieces are still being put into place for an addiction, or it has progressed to a compulsive need. That really makes no difference. Wherever on the spectrum your partner may be, the revealing of pornography use is good news. Light is shining through and illuminating a very real problem with very deep consequences. You are being given an opportunity for yourself and your marriage to be healed and restored from damage that you may not have even knew existed. Or why it did.

Your heart has been shattered. Your soul ravaged. And none of it is your fault. There is no blame or responsibility for you to bear when your partner chooses to indulge their lust or medicate their pain with pornography.

Calling pornography use a bad habit or an addiction doesn’t change the depth of your pain or your ability to heal from it. But mislabeling it may magnify or minimize the issue and affect the path that you, your partner and your marriage will need to navigate for healing. And it is your path. Of light, hope and promise to not just hurt anymore, but to thrive.

I know it is possible. I have seen it. And I am living it.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

There’s a Porn Addict in My Church

I wonder what would happen if my forty something year old husband stood at the front of the church one Sunday morning and disclosed his past pornography addiction and the freedom he has received from it through the healing of God and his recovery program.

Would there be the same cheers that accompanied the announcement of the anniversary of another church member’s sobriety from alcohol? Would there be the same compassionate call to prayer as there was for another member who relapsed in their drug addiction after being sober for nearly a year?

Would there be the same acceptance that was given to the courageous teenager who recently shared how God had freed him at youth camp this summer from his struggle with pornography? I sat in church that morning, trying to interpret the reaction of the congregation, knowing that my perception was subjective, and not necessarily truth.

I was proud of that young man’s willingness and ability to boldly stand before the eyes staring back at him, not knowing exactly what those faces would display. I didn’t hear any horrified gasps, or coffee cups dropped in surprise. Neither was the room filled with an uncomfortable silence or an air of judgement.

My church family seemed to easily accept this admission. Perhaps because it was accompanied by a victory story and did not challenge them to do anything more than pat him on the back and say a few hallelujahs. Perhaps because this was a well-liked, good-looking, intelligent young man from a respected family involved in ministry in the church and community. Perhaps because he did not embody by age, appearance or status the preconceived idea of what a porn user or addict would look like. His testimony appeared to be non- threatening to most of the people who heard it. But it should have shaken everyone.

It made me uncomfortable. Not because I didn’t want to hear it. But because the smiling faces seemed oblivious to the accompanying message being presented to them. Statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely that young man and my husband were the only two people in that room battling the darkness and enslavement of pornography.

I was concerned for that young man. Freedom from pornography use or addiction is possible. But it takes work. Intentional steps need to be taken, a plan formed, to overcome the temptation and sin. God seldom heals a heart by an instant removal of the symptom, but rather provides a way to conquer it as He brings healing to the root issue. To me, the celebration of victory over sin by everyone that morning was blissfully deceitful in its ignorance. The real triumph was his desire to acknowledge and confront his bondage and to introduce the topic in church. That made me smile with hope, that unlike my husband, he will potentially be able to avoid years ensnared in the harmful effects of pornography.

My spirit remained unsettled. Feeling like our church family missed an opportunity. For this young man. For my husband. For me. And the others that are sitting in our pews wrestling with the damage caused by their own or a family member’s pornography use. A door was opened a crack. But no one knew what to do with it. Or wanted to open it wider. The responsibility given solely to his parents.  And now with each passing week, the splinter of light diminishes. The warning forgotten. Ignored. Denied.

But just because the monster has been returned to its hidden place in the darkness behind the stacked chairs in the basement crawlspace, doesn’t mean it won’t emerge again. The question is more likely to be when and who. Pornography destroys. All ages. Both men and women. In all social, economic and religious demographics. But it doesn’t have to. I would like to be ready for it next time. I would like my church to be prepared to fight and conquer. Be proactive rather than reactive. When the porn addiction of the twenty to ninety year old is confessed or exposed, it won’t be as easy to accept and dismiss. There will be consequences. People will squirm. God will convict some hearts and push others to their breaking points. I want to be a part of God’s combat team. To defeat the enemy, and to rebuild the broken lives and marriages.

Our pastor knows our story of brokenness and redemption. Of two lives and a marriage transformed. My husband and I have offered ourselves as mentors or resources should any other person or couple come to him for guidance through their own sexual betrayals and infidelity. In the past three and a half years, we have never even been asked for the name of our Christian sexual addictions recovery therapist. And that causes my heart to ache because I don’t believe the reason is that no one else in our church community is struggling or suffering. I believe the shame and stigma surrounding sexual sins and addiction is keeping them alone and silent in their pain.

There is a conflict in my heart. An overwhelming desire to loudly proclaim the proven hope and victory we have found through God’s amazing, redeeming, restorative, healing, saving, supernatural power. And then the balancing of the very real need to cautiously protect my husband and our family from the judgement and consequences of the broad misunderstanding of sex addiction.

The shame and stigma continues. Pornography use remains hidden. And sadly, so does the hope of healing when no one feels safe to talk about it. I want that to change. I want the porn addict to be able to celebrate their sobriety as freely as the alcoholic or drug addict.

I dream of that time. That’s all it really seems to be. A far away dream. But maybe if enough of us dare to dream it, we can open the door together and shine the light a little brighter.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16