How was I supposed to know? I was only six years old.
The trauma, the alienation, the enslavement—these were just the nature of the beast that follows pornography addiction wherever it roams.
But how do you explain that to a young girl who grew up thinking this was love? I heard it being talked about so freely. The boys at my school would make jokes, share stories, and laugh light-heartedly about it from across the lunch table—it seemed so normal to me!
Slowly, my perception of love became a twisted, vulgar, gravely distorted image of the real thing, all while I was changing with it.
The Slave Master
Pornography truly became my Master; I would do as it told me to do, act as it told me to act, and I was conditioned by those who it told me were my leaders.
I followed like a love-sick puppy, and I followed in the dark so that no one could instruct me to do otherwise.
As I grew older and had other things to do, like homework, sports, or spending time with friends, I started backing out of things that I'd otherwise wanted or NEEDED to do, simply because viewing pornography was more important to me.
I had next to no control over my thoughts and desires, no control over how I spent my time, and I began to really suffer at the hands of this budding addiction.
Is This Truly Love?
Most of my friends were older in middle and high school, so I followed in many of their footsteps.
Looking back on that time of my life, even if they weren't watching porn (which is statistically and experientially hard to believe, but I digress), they were definitely influenced by the hypersexualized culture that excessive porn use has created.
How I was taught to attract boys, and how I was conditioned to speak and act around them was laced with explicit sexual tension and activity, and this became my "normal." If I didn't do as I was told, I was mocked and even harassed, thus pornography infiltrated my life even further and dug me into a hole even deeper.
This culture of hypersexualization eventually led to being sexually harassed and abused in my middle school by other middle school boys. Back then, I thought they were just "being boys" or "being pervs" as we'd call it; I didn't think there were actually sex crimes being committed against me.
But porn normalized the harassment and abuse; what happened to me was what I saw in the videos and in pictures, which led me to trust in its normalcy.
But something wasn't right; the guilt ate me alive, and the shame was the instrument of my torture.
I knew something was wrong, and yet I just couldn't stop.
Longing for Freedom
A dear friend recently informed me that my name derives from the Latin word avére, which means to long for, desire, or crave. As I grew older and began to long for God, I began to seek freedom from this addiction—from the Slave Master that I'd long been accustomed to serving.
In my senior year of high school, a beloved female friend at a retreat told all gathered there that she'd had struggled with pornography use for 2-3 years, and I confided in her later on that day for the first time in my life.
To all my sisters here reading this article, I'm sure it's not new to you how isolating and shameful it feels to struggle with pornography as a woman, especially my Catholic and Christian sisters, as the custom of going to a conference and not being able to go to the pornography talk because it was for "guys only" has been tearing at our heartstrings for quite a while now.
I came to realize that patience with myself and with my healing process was key, and that I probably wasn't going to be able to stop cold turkey; trusting in the process and trusting others enough to walk with me in my process has been a major source of healing.
I've very literally had to re-learn what love truly is, how to love, how to accept love, and how to love myself as I truly deserve. This, in my opinion, has been the hardest part, because relapses are never far off from a lapse in judgment of who I am and the fact that I am immeasurably loved by God.
Having others hold me accountable, having others to talk to, and being active in the lives of others and vice versa have paved the way for a full recovery and a rediscovery of the dignity of my humanity, my sexuality, my deeply rooted desires for love and intimacy, and ultimately my desire for God. I've never been freer, and I've never been more able and willing to love.
Freedom now looks like truly loving. It looks like laying my screens and my life down for those I love. It looks like intimacy, even without sex, and without being told I must look this way or do x, y, and z to win or be worthy of someone's gaze. And yes, I'm still wounded; many wounds have healed, but they've never faded. But now, places within me once soaked by blood and tears are adorned in crowns of roses, lilies, and all my wildflowers that can trace their root back to some of the most broken places within me. It's a process, but it's assuredly a worthwhile one.
Bloom For Catholic Women
Bloom For Catholic Women offers therapeutic and Catholic-based online courses for women healing from the trauma of discovering their husband's sexual and/or pornography addiction.
Resource Type: Online courses
Cost: Monthly subscription - $10. Individuals courses - $50.