I have found these quieter days during the COVID pandemic provide more time for introspection and deeper moments with my closest friends.
Have you had those moments, in a FaceTime call or series of texts, where you’ve learned something new about a friend you’ve known for years?
Vulnerability and transparency are important, especially in trusted and faithful relationships. Opening ourselves up to these companions—about the big things, but also the little things that feel big to us—can allow a weight to be lifted. We don’t have to be alone in these things anymore! I believe this openness can even break a hold the devil might have on us, by actively rejecting the lies we’ve come to believe.
In one of the many conversations I've had, a friend shared about her struggles with pornography and masturbation. Yes, this friend is a woman. This is not as rare as some may think. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Barna Group in the U.S. in 2014: 15% of self-identified Christian women view pornography at least once a month. The odds are you or a dear friend may struggle, too.
So what can you do when a friend opens up or asks for help? How can you help a girl know she is loved and not alone as she fights for freedom from destructive habits?
Here are the steps I have taken with my bestie, who agrees they were helpful for her on the journey to recovery.
1. Help her secure a counselor or spiritual director.
When my friend (let's just call her Brooke) first shared with me about her addiction, she didn’t know it was an addiction. We both acknowledged it as a bad habit—a sexual sin—that just needed to get rooted out. I remember my first response was: we have to get Covenant Eyes on all of your devices!! I was scared; I didn’t know what to say. Device monitoring and accountability are good, but for my friend, there was a more important first step.
Later on, she brought it up again when she had come to recognize this part of her life was not actually under her control. Now, she was scared. At this point, I was ready to encourage the correct first step that she was really needing: professional and trained guidance.
I gently suggested, “would you be open to talking to a professional about this?” Luckily, she had considered this herself, and my encouragement was a helpful push in that direction. She reached out to a local Christian therapist who received her story and was able to walk her through the recognition and diagnosis of addiction. Though hard for Brooke to accept this diagnosis as a blessing, she now had a guide with the right tools and way of approaching her addiction so as to heal.
If your friend gives you permission to help her with this, consider contacting your (Arch)Diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life for recommendations for therapists and/or spiritual directors. If you have the finances to help her with therapy, and/or you have connections who could assist, this could be of great help, even if just to cover the cost of the initial visit until/if insurance options can be sorted out.
Some may say that the individual needs to invest their own money so as to make the commitment and follow through with the sessions. You will need to determine that with the friend you are seeking to help. This was not my experience.
2. Encourage her to frequent the sacraments.
The sacramental life of the Church is so much a part of my friend Brook’s life already. It is central to our friendship, too. So, encouraging her to frequent the Sacraments has not been difficult but incredibly important; my role has become one of an encourager. I remind her to lean into the Lord’s mercy when she is feeling weighed down by guilt. I remind her that her worth is much deeper than her actions. That has been helpful to her and a helpful reminder for me.
Brooke also chose to share this struggle with a regular confessor, to both receive God’s mercy and stay in right-relationship with the sacraments. She must be careful to not abuse the sacrament by acting on sexual temptation while presuming she can go to confession.
3. Be her Ally or help her identify the right person.
After her counselor helped Brooke identify her experience with addiction, I offered to be her Ally. We tried it for about six months. I would send check-in texts, and we would have weekly conversations. I won’t lie: it was tough. It definitely took front and center of the relationship, and that’s okay.
Every season is different for friendship. I know she would do the same for me. My workload shifted about six months into the accountability relationship and I had to admit that I didn’t have the time to be the Ally she deserved. We had conversations to help her determine who would be the best Ally for her, and the answer came when she first found a mentor and sponsor through Sexaholics Anonymous (SA).
4. Affirm her as she participates in recovery.
Through counseling, Brooke was encouraged to try a group approach to recovery by attending Sexaholics Anonymous meetings. The courage it takes for a woman to participate in SA is awe-inspiring. I really don’t know if I could do it if I am ever in need of it. Every time Brooke brings up the topic of meetings, I make a point to tell her how courageous she is and how proud of her I am. It shows me just how deeply she wants freedom and healing. She is doing it for herself, but ultimately for her relationship with God and the dream of her future spouse, children, and their health and well-being. What selflessness!
Your friend's path to recovery may involve different forms of counseling, accountability meetings or group therapy. Affirm their participation and commitment to recovery as much as possible. Show them the grace they may find hard to show themselves and that falling does not equal failure.
5. Pray with her, and simply be her friend.
From the beginning, Brooke and I have prayed almost every time we are on the telephone. This brings about a real intimacy and the opportunity to be fully known. To disclose struggles in prayer is a helpful way to share with your friend how you are hurting and what you need.
Oftentimes, giving into porn or masturbation is brought about by a trigger, which may include being tired, lonely, or hungry. My main role is to allow her to speak to her triggers, welcome what she has to share, listen, and just be her friend—no judgment or need to fix her. Brooke finds great consolation in not feeling alone and having someone to fully disclose what she is going through.
Above all, love, love, love!
Accompaniment is a great act of love. We were made for community and we really can not do without friendship. Going deep in our friendships is a sacrifice and can be a challenge for both parties; that's ok. This is the call of the Christian life - to open our hearts and go deep.
Talk with your friend and ask her how you can best support her. Work together on the best steps for her to take at this point in her journey, always leaning into the advice of professionals, i.e., therapists and spiritual directors.
Also, if and when the time is right, help her identify another close friend or two whom she can share this part of her story with. This is her journey, not yours. She is the hero of her story! Your faithful companionship can be life-giving support and a source of courage for her as she takes important steps forward!
You do not have to be, nor should you be, the only person to support her in this way. Brooke first shared her story with me, then with another friend when the time was right. As she moved through recovery, she met a few other women who shared the same struggle, and her small circle of support formed. It’s still small, but it’s her team, and it’s important.
“God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle. In the company of friends, we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.” - Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Bloom para mujeres católicas
Bloom For Catholic Women ofrece cursos terapéuticos y católicos en línea para mujeres que se curan del trauma de descubrir la adicción sexual y / o pornográfica de su esposo.
Tipo de recurso: cursos en línea
Costo: suscripción mensual - $ 10. Cursos individuales - $ 50.