I am a thirty year old, single female who is recovering from sex addiction.
In the summer of 2014, I betrayed the man I loved. To put it in counseling terms, I was “acting out.” In Christian circles, we call it sin. My sin was repeated. And confessed. And it took a lot of work to heal from that sin.
The first few months of recovery were very difficult. I was living in an environment that triggered me, and would stress me out. I would get set off in ways that made me turn to sex or masturbation to cope.
That’s all sex addiction is – using sex to cope with emotions rather than deal with the emotions. I also do this with coffee, food, sleep…you might too. It’s part of our brokenness as human beings. We try to fill the hurt, emptiness, and pain with something.
We are all addicted to something.
The something becomes completely engulfing. And then we have shame about the engulfment, so we try to get more of it. Now we’re trying to fill the incredibly exponential emotions that weren’t as bad before we tried to fill them in the first place. This is what counselors call the “shame cycle”.
My first few months of recovery were a constant battle with shame. I didn’t engage in casual sex, but I did struggle with masturbation. Shame was so debilitating. I cried a lot. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat, or I ate a lot. I wrote a lot in a journal and yelled at God, or yelled and cried, or just cried. Shame made me question my existence, and I even experienced one dark thought of suicide. I was just so ashamed of what I had done that I would keep replaying it in my head while I was on a relational break from the man I had betrayed.
The break lasted nine long months. It was excruciating. I went through cycles of being sad, then mad, and then initiating communication and expressing my anger to the man I betrayed. It was a long nine months. And it wasn’t until the last few weeks of the ninth month that I knew I was ready to move on. We went to counseling together three or four times. And the fourth time he finally admitted he wasn’t attracted to me anymore.
I don’t know if he truly forgave me. I broke his very precious trust, which is very hard to regain. That thought is still crushing to me. It wasn’t my plan to break this guy’s heart.
But God used it.
So many things were broken when I first started recovery, the foremost being my relationship with the man I was dating and had looked at engagement rings with. Broken friendships of people I don’t talk to anymore because I was honest with them and they stopped being my friend. Broken relationships with family because they don’t think I’m a sex addict.
My heart hurts when I think of people I have lost communication with because…
I was too much. I was too bad. I wasn’t worthy of knowing.
These are deeply ingrained lies I already believed about myself, which reinforced the addictive sexual behaviors I acted out.
Part of my recovery has been learning to be broken with safe people. These people listen to you as you confess your sin, yet they don’t judge you for it. Safe people listen to you. Safe people hear you. Safe people redirect your focus from the shame to something else. Safe people ask hard questions. And safe people know how to just be, not do. They are comfortable entering into the brokenness with you. They confess their own brokenness and know what beauty can come from the brokenness. Do you have friends like those?
I am learning what healthy relationships look like with people who listen, hear and ask me hard questions. They walk beside me in tough times. They let me cuss when I need to get emotions out. They point me to Jesus. And they empathize with me.
What safe people do you have in your life? Are they listening, hearing and asking you the hard questions? If they aren’t doing all three, do they truly love you?
Jane DoE is a new contributing writer to the Awaken blog. She facilitates an Awaken group in Birmingham, AL, for women who struggle with sex addiction. 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 boyfriends’ 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.