Emotional Discipline (My Recovery From Addiction)

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I’ve never been in a violent or abusive relationship – not physically, emotionally, psychologically, or sexually – and for that I am truly and eternally grateful. But I have been without self-esteem or confidence, I have been desperate, I have been violent towards myself, and, most tragically, I have been an addict.

It has been said many times now (here and here; warning: the second link details the books and the woman’s own past in connection and can be explicit at moments) that 50 Shades of Grey is simply pornographic garbage that sells mostly on its erotic portrayals and lavish fantasy world; a story that portrays two incredibly messed up individuals in a dominant/submissive relationship (all aspects of their relationship are this way) as healthy, good, and even romantic. I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey and I’m certainly not going to see the movie, but I can still tell you it’s not healthy, good, or romantic. Why? Because I was addicted to erotica and masturbation.

I can’t read 50 Shades of Grey.

I regularly masturbated for twenty years of my life and was addicted for about ten years. When I was very young, masturbation was just a sensation that overcame me and I’d give in. When I was a little older, I found I could start controlling my urges by thinking certain thoughts or reading certain stories – thoughts and stories that would arouse me and lead me to masturbate. I became so addicted to masturbation that I used to make sure I was the last one asleep at sleepovers so that I could masturbate and finally sleep. Erotic fiction became part and parcel to this addiction; it was an easy place for me to turn as I was already a voracious reader. I read erotic stories, sexual how-tos, forums, anything I could get my hands on, with the sole intent of getting off. Sure, some of the stories had decent plot lines, but I didn’t really care. My sole criteria was: are the characters engaging in sexual activity?

Sometimes the erotica made me anxious and nervous. Is this right? Would I be expected to do this in a relationship? Is this what a relationship really looks like? All the sources readily available to me said yes, so I never gave it a second thought. You see, most of the guys and girls around me were being fed the same diet of porn and erotica and they were finding the same yeses I did. But alone at night, I’d lament not having an “other” to love and be loved by. The erotica and masturbation weren’t filling me up, they were wounding me further.

The year I learned that masturbation is a mortal sin, I quit it cold turkey for Lent, but at the end of Lent I fell right back into my addiction. I didn’t feel empowered or accomplished, I only felt exhausted. I was lacking some key tools to successfully overcoming addiction, mainly support and emotional discipline. For support, I stopped lamenting myself, owned up, opened up, and turned to Christ and His Church. Emotional discipline, however, I didn’t start learning until I had my heartbroken…twice. After those breakups I became more deliberate with my emotions, not just falling for anyone that gave me the time of day, and also became more deliberate with who I would and wouldn’t spend my time with. I started building up my self-worth and confidence through good friends (female and male), mentors, and the Church and sacraments. In time, I was able to break free from the bonds of addiction (you can read more about that experience here and here).

I didn’t use to be very different from Anastasia Steele – innocent, naïve, and desperate, I was pulled into a fantasy world of violence and degradation. I’m lucky to have gotten out. I’m lucky that when I hit rock bottom, all I could say was, “Lord, please Jesus, help me!” Because of my relationship with Christ, I became empowered, accomplished, and renewed; Ana’s relationship with Christian, through all three books, only further tears the other down. No 50 Shades of Grey is not just harmless entertainment, it is an open door to a world of addiction, perversion, and violence and no one exits unscathed. 50 Shades of Grey, and its ilk, is a gray fog that encapsulates and blinds the heart to beauty, worth, and love. I don’t want to be blind anymore, I want to see. This Valentine’s Day, don’t let the fog blind you; it is filled with nothing but darkness and sorrow. Instead, learn to love yourself a little bit more and walk into the light.
“The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Theresa Williams

Theresa Williams

"I have become all things to all, to save at least some" (1 Cor. 9:22) basically describes her life as writer, homemaker, friend and sister, wife, and mother of 2 spunky children, all for the sake of Gospel joy. She received her BA in Theology, Catechetics/Youth Ministry, and English Writing from Franciscan University of Steubenvile. Currently, she is a homemaker and freelance writer. Her life mottos are Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam and "Without complaint, everything shall I suffer for in the love of God, nothing have I to fear" (St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart). She is Pennsylvanian by birth, Californian by heart, and in Texas for the time being. Yinz can find her on Twitter @TheresaZoe.

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11 Responses

  1. I want to tell you how much I admire your courage for submitting something like that on a public forum. That was a very amazing thing to do, so thank you. Sexual addiction is so prevalent now, it is hard to come across encouraging stories, especially from women. I think that porn and sex addiction have kind of been claimed as a “guy” thing, and although there are plenty of male sex addicts, there is a growing number of women who share a similar or the same struggles.

    I struggled with porn addiction and compulsive masturbation for the better part of my life. I’m 33, so I’ve struggled with addiction for about 22 years or so. It has twice nearly destroyed my family and required me to receive the rite of minor exorcism, as I had just about completely surrendered to despair and given up hope on God. There was a blackness in me, and I sought to make sex and porn the religion I followed, the altar at which I worshiped.

    It is still a struggle, as with you not being able to read 50 Shades, I can’t even look at the front cover of Cosmo, much less the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

    Thank you so much for your honesty and openness. It is possible to get through this, but not alone. God bless you.

    1. Thank you for these words. I’ve always felt it was important for me as a woman to share this experience and struggle. I’m 29 so my healing from the addiction aspect of masturbation/erotica was 9 years ago (WOW! I just now realized that!) but it does continue to be a struggle, just not an addiction. Rite of minor exorcism–intense! I never received that but I know what you’re talking about when you’re right on the edge of complete and utter despair– I was there once and that’s actually what opened me up to be able to receive God’s healing grace. There is no darkness without the light. God bless!

  2. Regarding your opening statement, if you trace the etiology of this behavior, going back to childhood sleepovers, I would say it is possible that you have confessed an effect without identifying the cause.
    ” A neurosis is a secret you don’t know you’re keeping.” Kenneth Tynan.

    1. Through counseling and spiritual direction, I actually have identified the cause but did not think it was relevant to share for the points I was making and find it more personal than was appropriate for the topic as I presented it.

  3. Wow Theresa your honesty is rare and powerful. May God bless you in helping others with your confession. I am reposting this from Conversation with Women’s facebook page. If you are not familiar with the blog please check it out. Catholic women post their stories (some similar to yours) anonymously to support each other in their faith journies. http://www.ConversationwithWomen.org

    1. Thank you! I will definitely check it out. I think it is wonderful that there is a community of love and support for women in this regard. One of the hardest parts about struggles such as mine is the isolation that comes along with it (or at least that we perceive there is).

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