The dictionary definition of shame “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonourable, improper, ridiculous etc done by oneself or another”.
Shame is so much more than this dictionary definition. The feeling of shame sticks to you like glue. It is hard to pick off and when you do try to pick it off it can leave marks behind. It can linger around every decision that you make. It can whisper in your ear that you are nothing, you are disgusting, no one is going to love you or even like you if they KNEW. So the weight of shame silences you and pulls you down and down. Lies begin to be a normal part of life as you attempt to cover up the behaviour you are ashamed of. My shame was pornography.
I have found that the only way to break the cycle of shame is to talk. To tell people about what you are struggling with. This is not easy to do! But the more you do it, the more it helps you and helps others who are struggling with their own shame.
I managed to break my silence just over 2 years ago – it was very scary but also one of the most freeing moments of my life. I had been looking at pornography for many years and this had led to low self-esteem and body image worries. The discovery of pornography in my developing years as a woman distorted my thinking and beliefs of sex and how I should act. I was young and naïve and assumed what I saw through the pornography was real life and that is what I needed to do to be loved. This caused me a lot of heartache and damage over the years.
3 years ago, I read “Surrender to God” by Kay Warren. She explained in one of the chapters that she used to be addicted to pornography. She led a double life – a good Christian on the outside but behind closed doors she was a completely different person. I was gobsmacked. It was the first time that I realised I was not the only woman who had looked at pornography and was using it to cope with life. Reading that book was the start of significant healing in me. A year later I attended a conference and one of the key speakers was talking about porn and sex addiction. I am a trained counsellor and for some time I have been wondering about specialising. That conference allowed me to see that my personal story of porn addiction can help other men and women who struggle with this area. I completed a Diploma in Sex Addiction Counselling in January 2017.
So what broke the cycle of looking at porn? Well it was a variety of things, here is a brief summary:
• Talking about my feelings
• Letting go of guilt linked with past sexual behaviour
• Knowing my triggers and temptations
• Changing in lifestyle – exercise / eating well / hobbies / friendships etc
• Going for counselling
• Growing in my faith
• Reading about addiction