I never knew there was a word for it. I just knew it was pleasurable. I was probably eleven or twelve and I had accidentally discovered masturbation. It was something I could do whenever I could find a private place. Born the middle child in an exceptionally large family, that was not always easy. I never had my own bed, much less my own room. So I usually just camped out in the bathroom until someone tried to beat the door down.
It was one of the few pleasures I had. I have many happy childhood memories, but I sort of got lost in the crowd. Mother had a rather stern disposition and was not very demonstrative with affection. I guess I just never felt like I mattered much. I had no special talents or qualities. The only time I was noticed was when someone pointed out how thin I was. My thinness kept me from feeling feminine and my mother did not talk to us girls about anything to do with our bodies or feminine issues. I had no boyfriends and by the time I was around 13 all my girlfriends were more interested in boys than they were in me.
I fell in love with my future husband when I was 16. After about six months we tried in vain to run away and get married. I had barely found out what sexual intercourse was but I did not hesitate to give in to it. I found it exciting but it did not give me the kind of intense pleasure I had learned to give myself. Anyway, our parents finally gave in and we were married shortly after the run-away incident.
We eventually figured out how to bring me to orgasm when we made love. I didnít even know what the word orgasm meant, even though I had been giving them to myself for years. Within a few months I had slid back into the habit of pleasuring myself. There were periods when I would be obsessed with it, seeming to be either indulging, or thinking about it all the time. And then there were times when I just left it alone for weeks or months.
All the while, my sex life with my husband was good Ė very good compared to many couples. But there was just something about being alone and doing whatever I pleased. Somehow, if I had a block of time alone, I just couldnít pass up the opportunity. Not having had any space of my own as a child may have contributed. As a child, nothing had been really mine. My clothes were hand-me-downs. I didnít even have my own bed. Perhaps this left me not knowing how just to be alone and put some boundaries on myself.
For several years of marriage, I donít think I felt a lot of guilt about it. My husband did not know and I would have been mortified if he had caught me, but still I just figured I had a stronger sexual appetite than he did and this was how I satisfied it. As I entered my forties, however, I started waking up to the fact that God wanted all of me and I wanted all of Him. Well, now I had a problem. Solo sex was beginning to cause me more and more shame. It was maddening because I tossed back and forth between sometimes believing it was harmless and sometimes believing it was disgusting and sinful. I couldnít pray with any sincerity and maintain a close relationship with God when I had been indulging. So for a while I would swear off masturbating and get closer to God and then slip up. I would then usually plunge back into it for weeks or months, then swear off it again and, well, you've heard the story - sin, repent, sin, repent. It's a horrible way to live.
As the years rolled by, the habit grew. I began adding things like mirrors, toys, even a video camera. It just had to get more and more bizarre to satisfy myself. And with that, the shame also grew. The obsession was escalating to the point that I thought I would go insane. The habit was so devouring me that there was nothing else in my life I could really get enthused about. I seemed to think of sex constantly. It might, in one sense, have seemed good for our sex life, because I was pretty good at coming up with new things for us to try. But I was just eaten up with sex. And no matter how good it was with the two of us, it never did anything to lessen my yearning for solo sex. I was so self-obsessed that even during intercourse with my husband, solo sex was monopolizing my thoughts. Instead of savoring our special times together, I was thinking of what I had done, or would do, alone. I realize now that I was cheating my husband two-fold. I was on cheating him when I indulged alone and also when we were together, because my thoughts were on what I would do alone, instead of cherishing our times together.
Finally, about 1992 Ė we had been married 26 years at that time Ė I accidentally came across a book on sexual addiction. It probably was just the word SEX on the cover that got my attention. I always noticed that word anywhere. I bought the book and was amazed to find out there was such a thing as sexual addiction. And it was clear to me after reading the book that that is exactly where I was, and had been all those years. I really donít know what I had thought about it before. I guess I had just thought I was strange, weird, perverted. I knew that men often indulged in masturbation, but I had seriously doubted any women were into it like I was. Realizing that I was addicted was a big turning point for me. I started praying about it and trying to break the habit.
I remember driving to work one day. I had just read a chapter that said I simply must tell someone. I was crying as I was driving and praying, ďGod, you know I cannot tell anyone Ė I certainly canít tell my husband Ė you will just have to do something, because I canít.Ē About two days later, my husband found some evidence that made him think I was seeing someone. Actually, for a long time he had sensed I was hiding something and figured that was what it was. When he confronted me I broke down and told him. He was wonderful. He just loved on me and told me it was okay. He didnít know how bizarre my behavior had been Ė I gave no details Ė but he forgave me and at that point I began a five-year period of almost complete freedom.
My relationship with my husband and with the Lord improved immensely. Then somehow Ė I think it was a matter of allowing my relationship with God to stagnate Ė I began to slip back into the habit. It was not as bad as before, I was just slipping little by little. Then my mother died. It was a most traumatic time for me. I had always tried hard to win my motherís approval because I never knew if I had it growing up. So when she died, I knew it was over Ė no more chances to please her or get her approval. A few months after she died, I plunged back into solitary sex completely.
Maybe Iím just making excuses, but thatís when the habit got really bad. The next two years were a nightmare. Usually, it was two to three times a week and sometimes more. It seemed just constant masturbation and fantasies. I couldnít sleep at night. I was either in so much pain and guilt over it that I couldnít sleep or else the fantasies would keep me awake. Sometimes I would go to bed filled with shame and guilt, but then after an hour or so it would just give way to more sexual fantasies until pretty soon, instead of feeling guilty, I was planning my next episode. Other times, I would want to sleep so bad, but the thoughts just wouldnít stop. It is amazing how many different sexual scenarios my mind could come up with. It was like a movie camera in my head and I couldnít turn it off. I even had fantasies of being with another woman. I fought harder against lesbian fantasies than any others, because I knew how emphatic Godís Word is about that, but all the time I had spent concentrating on and looking at my own body had probably brought me to this point. I was infatuated with my own body. The fact that I had felt so unfeminine growing up could have also been a factor. Somehow I was trying to prove to myself that I was, in fact, feminine. So instead of acting like a normal heterosexual woman attracted to her husband, all I thought about was female, female, female. My whole sexuality was turned in on itself, like a stagnating river feeding itself instead of flowing fresh and free into the sea. Rather than finding fulfillment in thrilling my husband and in his delight in me Ė unleashing sex into a giving, living celebration of love Ė I had short-circuited my sexuality, hideously perverting a precious, God-given gift into self-obsession.
All the while I was dying on the inside, I was putting up a nice front. I was, and still am, teaching a ladiesí Sunday School class. I am a good listener and the Lord seemed to be using me to help people. Iím sure my husband and I seemed to be a very nice and happy couple to everyone around us.
Finally, last October, it came to a head. I truly felt I was going insane. I had indulged, probably four times in one week and hated myself like I never had before. Over the previous two years I had read at least a half a dozen books dealing with this problem, I had memorized dozens of Scriptures, I had prayed, I had cried, I had rebuked the devil. I had done everything I could think of to break free of this monstrous habit. After we had gone to bed, my husband was sweet-talking me, as he often does (he is so lovely). He often tells me that I am just the ďbest thing that ever happened to himĒ and that I am ďperfectĒ. Well, I couldnít take any more. I fell apart and told him I was not the best thing and I was not perfect. I admitted that my old problem had been back for two years and I didnít know how to get loose from it. He didnít even know what I meant. It was now six or seven years since I had previously confessed to him. I had to tell him specifically that I had been masturbating, although I was too ashamed to give any details. He was surprised. Again, just like he did years before, he held me and loved me and told me it didnít matter and he forgave me.
I was free for the next few months until mid to late January when I slipped. Then I indulged myself three times in six days. I just knew I was headed back into bondage and there was going to be no escape. In desperation I started searching the web and by the grace of God found Grantleyís website. He helped me so much, both with his wonderful e-mails and with all the material he had on the website. He was the first person in the universe I had ever even begun to tell the details of my story to. He kept encouraging me to tell him more of my story. It was not that he had some weird curiosity, but because he knew I needed to tell it. He reminded me that the enemy of our souls is the prince of darkness and he loses so much of power when things are brought into the light. The fact that Grantley lived the other side of the world and I knew we would never meet face to face, made it easier to break the guilty silence that had imprisoned me.
Just knowing that there was another person on planet earth that knew, helped me so much. It was like a great weight rolling off my heart. He was so accepting and loving. Not that he made excuses for me, but he was never shocked, no matter what I told him and it never changed the fact that he loved and accepted me as a fellow traveler on this road. I told him, he was like Jesus to me. GRACE! That is the word. He deepened my awareness of Godís grace! And oh, how I needed it. That is the message God has given me these days: ďExtend the love and grace I have given you to others around you.Ē Also, Grantley put me in touch with his ministry partner, Helen. She, too, has been a wonderful support and has extended unconditional love to me.
A few weeks after I started e-mailing Grantley, I had another lapse. It was so devastating. Now I really felt there was no hope for me. The day after I had fallen, I was listening to a song on the radio about how angels are there to take us when we die. I began to cry, thinking of my mother. I cried and cried and then pretty soon, I knew I was no longer crying for my mother; now I was crying for my sin and not just the sin of the previous day, but all of it. My entire life had been practically given over to this hideous sin. I was sitting on the side of the tub just sobbing and sobbing and I remember saying out loud, ďI just need someone to hold me.Ē I felt my heart was being wrenched out of me. It seemed I was having a total mental and emotional breakdown. I said, ďGod, I have tried everything. I just donít know what else to do!Ē Then I caught the sound of another song coming on. I heard the words, ďWhat do you do, when youíve done all you can and it seems like itís never enough?Ē Thatís just how I felt. It seemed I had tried it all and nothing worked and I was truly hopeless. I had just been asking God, ďWhy do you even bother with me?Ē I listened as best as I could to the song. I was still sobbing uncontrollably, so I didnít really get it all, but it spoke so powerfully to me that I was determined to track down the lyrics. It was Stand by Donnie McClurkin.
What do you do when youíve done all you can
Stand and be sure
Tell me what do you do when youíve done all you can
Donít you bow, donít bend
Tell me, how do you handle the guilt of your past?
After youíve done all you can
And it seems like itís never enough?
Tell me, what do you give When youíve given your all,
and seems like you canít make it through?
Be not entangled in that bondage again
You just stand, and be sure.
God has a purpose.
Yes, God has a plan.
And it seems like you canít make it through
Child you just stand you just stand
Donít you give up
Through the storm, through the rain
Through the hurt, through the pain
Well, you just stand
When thereís nothing left to do
You just stand
Watch the Lord see you through
Yes, after youíve done all you can
You just stand
Donít give up, donít give in
Hold on, just be strong
God will step in and it wonít be long
Tell me, how do you deal with the shame?
And how can you smile
When your heart is broken and filled with pain?
Tell me what do you give when youíve given your all
Seems like you canít make it through?
After youíve gone through the hurt
After youíve gone through the pain
After youíve gone through the storm
After youíve gone through the rain
Prayed and cried, youíve prayed and cried
Prayed and cried, prayed and cried
After youíve done all you can, you just stand.
Stand and be sure
Tell me what do you do when youíve done all you can
Donít you bow, donít bend
Tell me, how do you handle the guilt of your past?
After youíve done all you can
I had never even heard of Donnie McClurkin, but boy did God know what a balm his music would be for me.
I just thank God everyday for giving me Grantley Morris and Donnie McClurkin.
So after God miraculously gave me the song in the midst of my breakdown, it was like the chains just fell away and I was finally released from a dark dungeon.
I have a sister-in-law who, apart from my husband, is my best friend. Shortly after the song episode, I actually told her my story. I never would have believed I could tell another person face to face, but I did. It was wonderful. She was like Grantley Ė NO CONDEMNATION! She still loved me. It didnít change the way she felt about me. That is what has been so wonderful and liberating. My husband didnít condemn me, Grantley didnít condemn me, Helen didnít condemn me, My sister-in-law didnít condemn me and most importantly, God didnít condemn me. They all still loved me. Fear of condemnation had kept me in cold, lonely silence all those years, cut off from the encouragement I so desperately needed. I had been convinced that if anyone knew, they couldnít possibly love me. When they didnít know how awful I really was, they didnít really love me, because they didnít know me. But then when they knew and they still loved me Ė WOW!
If you are in this pit, please, please, find someone trustworthy Ė someone Christlike Ė and tell that person. You need to know you can be loved without being perfect! Thatís how God loves you and anyone who has Godís love will feel that way about you.
One more thing and then Iím done. To my shame, after several weeks I fell again. It broke my heart. I felt sure all was lost. For the first time, however, I now had someone I was brave enough to immediately admit my fall to. I didnít keep it as a guilty secret for the deceiving Accuser to have a field day. For years, I had believed that when I had enjoyed a period of victory and then fell again, I was back to square one. Grantley opened my eyes to reality. He reminded me that if I were riding a bike on a hundred mile trip and fell off after fifteen miles, it would be unfortunate, but I would still have come fifteen miles. I might be sore and shaken, but all I had to do was dust myself down and get back on the bike and I was fifteen miles ahead. So, in the words of Micah 7:8 ďDo not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise.Ē Moreover, I can learn from mistakes. They can be stepping-stones to greater victories. Grantley helped me realize that my slip had started off well. I had been savoring the thought of being intimate with my husband, but then I had let my defenses down and my thoughts began to wander toward solitary sex. When my husband got home he gave me such a special time. It made me realize how I had only had to hold on that little longer. That awareness of how close I had been to victory, and the fact that God could so bless me after I had just blown it, made me strengthen my resolve more than ever.
Onward and upward I shall continue. God be praised for His glorious LOVE and GRACE! My song these days is simply this: He Loves Me, He Loves Me, He Loves Me!!!! And I Love Him because He first loved me. He loved me all along, even in my dark pit!
As I mentioned at the very beginning, my husband and I are now like newly-weds. Our sex life just keeps getting better. Not that there arenít still problems stemming from my lifelong addiction. Sex is divinely designed to be powerfully addictive so as to bond a woman and man together for their entire lives. I have abused this gift, using it to bond myself to myself. My sexuality has been like a beached whale that every time it is dragged in the right direction it turns around and beaches itself again. Iíve been like a moth that keeps circling around and around a light getting nowhere; like a hand-reared farm animal that has no interest in breeding with its own kind; like a bird so infatuated with its own reflection that it canít get on with life. To undo all the damage I have done to my sexuality is an enormous undertaking that will take many years to complete. The vivid memory of sexual highs that did not involve my husband will take ages to fade. Every time I deny myself, or I stir up my feelings for my husband, is another victorious step in restoring my sexuality. Inspired by Grantley, I am reprogramming my thoughts. I am working at breaking the fixation I have had on myself; prising my affections off myself and back on to my husband where they should always have been. And God is on my side, helping me every step of the way. We are getting there. And itís not just that. It is like my husband and I are falling in love all over again!
Lord I am so sorry for all the years I have wasted. If I could cry a river, I could never get those years back. I stayed in that prison of my own making far too long.
Somehow, I always knew there was a way out, but satan blinded me and kept me from following your light. I lived with such fear that you would give up on me and I would never escape.
But now I know that you never deserted me. It was I who was deserting you. You loved me all the while and you were just waiting for your prodigal daughter to come into your open arms
I was stained and marred, but I was still your beloved child. When I had had all I could stand of satanís stagnant pools, you used your servants, Grantley and others, to pour your living water of love, grace and acceptance into my thirsty soul.
I have been carrying such a heavy load of shame and guilt, but now that weight is gone. You have buried it all in that wonderful sea of forgetfulness. You have truly separated it from me as far as east is from the west.
It seems now, the only message I am hearing from you is love, love and more love! You loved me even in the midst of my idolatrous addiction and you love now as I bow in humility at your feet.
Now, I just want to shout it from the housetops Ė God Loves Me! He never forsook me! He has set me free! His perfect love truly does cast out fear! I pray that my story will cause many others to abandon satanís poison pools and come to this Living Water that truly satisfies!
In the Mighty Name of Jesus, Who has done exceeding abundantly above all I could ask or think. Amen.