I am literally sitting here, in front of my computer, trying to get every last bit of freshly baked muffin off of the wrapper while I sip my coffee and try to put into words the frustration, anger, sadness and hopelessness it is to be me right now.
I’m a recovering sex and love addict.
And I’m tired.
So that equals a thirty-something whose biological clock is currently ticking rather loudly with a lower than normal caloric intake and less than necessary nightly average of sleep.
I’m still trying to find the balance of self care. I’m trying to eat better and exercise more. I have spent the past two Saturdays catching up on lost sleep due to working late into the night and/or being depressed. Waiting for something positive to happen. Waiting for anything else to happen, really, than just sitting here thinking about the sex I wish I was having.
Disclaimer: This post may be a lot for you. My original title for this post was going to be “Going to Jesus with My Hornyness” but on second thought decided that might be a bit much. This post is about being single and not having sex. I know some Twelve Step groups tell you that you can define sobriety as you see it; but for me, recovery/sobriety includes abstaining from drinking to excess, masturbation, porn, sex (with the man I’m dating, or through casual sex with strangers), giving my number to men for the purpose of sex or sexting, and contacting any previous acting out partners on any platform of social media.
Reprogramming my body for healthy sexuality as an unmarried woman is a really difficult thing. It’s almost like depriving yourself of a certain type of food that you really love, but that makes you sick. The benefit is you learn what is making you sick or causing adverse reactions to your health. But unlike dieting, when you are working recovery and practicing abstinence, there’s no visible point or tentative date to try reintroducing that particular food back into your diet. If you’re single, God’s plan for you is to not have sex. At all.
The debate is still out on masturbation – some Christians condone it, like James Dobson and his famous “It’s fine as long as you don’t view porn” arguement (eye roll) or others who say you shouldn’t masturbate at all. Tim and Kathy Keller have a two fabulous sermons on singleness and why masturbation isn’t good for you. You should listen to it. I do. Often. Here’s the link!
My primary desire in recovery is to be healthy. I have to return daily to this stake in the ground to refocus my goals and operate from my purpose. Right now, healthiness means I need to deprive myself of some things I love – ice cream, sex, Netflix, movies or songs with sexual content, which there are a LOT of. Don’t believe me? Listen and get back to me.
Recovery isn’t the ultimate form of aestheticism. Recovery isn’t the Paleo Diet or a season of Lent. This isn’t temporary. Recovery is a new way of living my life. Recovery will take the rest of my life. And that truth often exhausts me.
With all the hopelessness, sadness and whining I do about working recovery, I sometimes fail to see the deep, life-giving benefit of it. Working recovery is an opportunity to grow parts of me that have been numb for quite some time. It’s a time to take care of my body, to renew my mind, to get back in touch with my emotions, to figure out why I’m frustrated or what triggered me. Recovery isn’t just restricting myself from what can lead to sexual acting out, but also replacing the bad habits with the good ones.
Self care allows me to take time for myself and read that book or say no to that event I already committed to. Self care is listening to NPR or an audiobook or a sermon in my car rather than the ear worm of Despacito. Self care is reading recovery material or journaling instead of numbing myself with work or Netflix or sexual fantasy and memories of past partners.
As a single woman, I have the benefit of being able to be “selfish” in recovery. I don’t have to worry about kids or a spouse or all of their own journeys of growth and self care. I get to focus on myself as a single gal in recovery. I get to spend time with lots of women who are struggling like I am to reprogram their sex drives and love Jesus in the midst of unmet desires. As an addict, I would spend so much time ignoring myself and doing unhealthy behaviors to relieve my pain. What does it look like to do the opposite? It looks like crying and wanting sex but not having it. It looks like doing something healthy instead.
Sometimes I focus more on what I can’t have in recovery than what I can have. I can’t have junk food but I can have kale. I can learn how to be healthy again. I can reprogram my body to enjoy simply holding the hand of someone I love. This may seem incredibly ostentatious, like over-sharing, or even braggy… but I haven’t had an orgasm in a month. A MONTH. And I’m alive, you’re alive, we’re all alive. The world made it without me having an orgasm from any sexual contact for a month.
God is faithful and He meets me in my longings. He is changing and growing my desires as well. Not only do I want to have lots of healthy sex, but I also want a family. I want a legacy.
I want to have daughters who are content in their sexuality. Daughters who don’t struggle with sex the same way I do; or if they do struggle they’ll have someone they can go to for help. Daughters who don’t look to men to define their value. Daughters who don’t settle for men who treat them as less than the incredible women they will one day be. Daughters who believe they are equals to the men they date and perhaps marry. Daughters who are strong and courageous. Daughters who are fearless and thorough in their moral inventory and the lives they live. Daughters who can go to sleep soundly and breathe a sigh of relief at night, knowing they are resting in the roles God made for them rather than the role they try to live from as dictated by pornography, broken relationships and their own addictions.
I also want daughters who can be healthy in the little things – filing their taxes, making a grocery list, going grocery shopping, cleaning their home and replacing smoke detector batteries. Learning how to take care of themselves and care for others in the midst of their singleness. Daughters who invest well in community in addition to being invested in by their community.
I often turn to the story of Hannah in 1st Samuel for encouragement when I am waiting on the Lord – waiting for a job, waiting for peace, waiting for Him to provide or show me the next step of faith to take.
The temple priest thought Hannah was drunk because she was emptying her soul out to the Lord. If she’s like me, she was probably wavering between incredibly angry fits of rage and sheer sadness out of what she wanted but was desperately out of her grasp. Hannah wanted a child. She was barren. I know that sadness that Hannah had.
Hannah’s story is encouraging to me because she leaves her unmet desires at the temple of the Lord.
She went away and ate, and her face was no longer sad. 1st Samuel 1:18
When we are working our recovery and dealing with what we don’t have, perhaps even mourning the loss of what we did have in our addiction; it’s ok to go to God and give that desire to Him. It is healthy to acknowledge that we may miss our past acting out behavior. We lay that at the altar of the temple. We give him what we don’t have in hopes of Him giving us something better.
The Christian life is about dying to self, being that new person that we are daily becoming and putting the old person far from us. We sometimes seek to put that old self back on. We simply cannot. If we have the tools of recovery, we know the better way to live life. In reality, we are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10). We have everything we need in order to live life with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Everything. So I have to trust Him that He will continue to give me what I need for life today, for working recovery today and being godly today. Because if I can learn to be content today and trust Him, then it’ll get a little easier tomorrow.
Jane DoE is a contributing writer to the Awaken blog. She is part of Awaken’s group for women who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior. We’re excited that she is bringing us into her journey of recovery, as we realize that there are many other women who share her struggle. Our prayer is that through her journey, you’ll find hope and encouragement for your own.
Awaken also offers groups in Birmingham for men who struggle with sexual addiction, and for women who have been affected by their husbands’ or partners’ addictions. Additionally, we have Twelve Step groups dealing with issues of addiction and control. CLICK HERE to get information on all of our group offerings. Or contact us with any questions you have.