A Burden to No Longer Carry
At the age of four I began to be sexually abused. I was too young to understand what was going on and had been told to keep it a secret, so I did. Over time as these abuses continued, I was taught the “pleasure” of masturbation, and I began to do it on my own without my abusers.
A few of my neighbors at the time were not members of the Church and had access to pornography. I began to act out anything I saw in the pornographic magazines they had.
As a young child, I did everything I could to fly below the radar with the secret I kept. But as I got older, my secret became more difficult to hide. I had become an easy target for certain people because of my lack of personal boundaries.
Because of my addictions, I began to experience depression and anxiety. I went through phases of self-harm, where physical pain seemed to cover any mental or emotional pain I was experiencing.
So I continued the cycle that I had begun years before: overeating, viewing pornography, and masturbating, then punishing myself through self-harm. My grades in high school had gotten so bad that I barely graduated.
At 19, I was dating someone, and I soon became pregnant. We decided to get married and have been together now for 20 years.
When we married, my addictive behaviors continued. I had continued to view pornography and masturbate on my own. The addiction had become so poignant that I had begun to fantasize a relationship with another man.
During that time, my husband met with our bishop, and told him how much I was struggling with my issues. Their meeting soon led to my own meeting with the bishop. I had not told anyone about my abuse or addictive behaviors for years; now I could. I told him everything, from the abuse I experienced as a child to the point of wanting to pursue a relationship with another man.
He told me that we needed to meet again, and he invited me to read The Miracle of Forgiveness, by Spencer W. Kimball. After meeting with my bishop several more times, he helped me begin and work through the repentance process. This wasn’t easy for me. I felt a lot of anxiety, became depressed, and lost weight. I was invited to go to counseling, which was arranged through the Church, and I found it helpful.
I did exactly as my bishop invited me to do, even though I had many setbacks. The Church had not yet established the Addiction Recovery Program, but I continued going to the LDS counselor and meeting with my bishop occasionally.
One day I was cleaning the house and listening to a session of general conference when I stopped and knelt down to pray. I had been wondering if the Lord had abandoned me in my struggle.
I asked the Lord to somehow let me know that He had not forgotten about me and was aware of my situation. As soon as I finished praying, the music from the conference session began to play, and I listened as the Tabernacle Choir sang the hymn “How Firm a Foundation” (Hymns, no. 85). The words, “Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid,” filled the room. The words gave me strength, and even now when I hear that hymn, I feel that same strength.
After three years, I felt I was doing well. I had learned personal boundaries and communication skills and had graduated from college. But two years later, I relapsed into pornography and masturbation. I used it again to escape the difficulties of reality, hiding it from everyone. Soon enough, my new bishop contacted me, asking how things were going.
I told him what had been going on and what I had previously been through. I told him I was thinking about leaving my family and ending my life. We met several times, and he referred me to the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) group in our stake, as well as to a professional counselor.
I attended the ARP meetings for a few months, and I continued to work through the program, one step at a time. I began to share with my family and friends about my progression in the program, because I was tired of carrying secrets.
One of these friends told me about a talk that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave at Brigham Young University. It was titled “Faith Is for the Future: ‘Remember Lot’s Wife.’” This talk changed me; it was my turning point. In the talk he said, “God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go” (“Faith Is for the Future: ‘Remember Lot’s Wife’” [Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 13, 2009], 5, speeches.byu.edu).
I still remind myself that my past is over and that I’m no longer that person. I don’t have to carry that burden any longer; Jesus Christ has taken care of it all.
In the year since beginning the Addiction Recovery Program, I have done really well. When I am reminded of my weakness, I redirect myself and remind myself how far I’ve come. I pray every day for strength and help from the Savior. I know I would not be successful without the divine assistance from the Lord and the steps of the Addiction Recovery Program.