Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we’re talking about addiction, compulsion, and loving those who suffer this cross. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
I was eleven or twelve years old the first time I saw pornography. Honestly, it’s been a part of my story for so long, it’s hard to remember exactly when it started. But I remember where it started, how it felt. I remember the deep green of the carpet and the way my pulse quickened and my stomach flipped the first time I found it.
I wasn’t looking for it and no one showed it to me. I was alone. And that’s how the story continued for almost twenty years.
I thought about it in class and before I fell asleep at night. Anytime I saw something remotely racey on television or read a slightly suggestive scene in a book, a switch in my brain flipped. And it wouldn’t turn off again until I found a way to be alone, to look at pornography, to masturbate.
Porn was a secret, shameful part of my life. It didn’t touch the other parts. I did theater and speech and debate, ran for student council, and spent my weekends staying up watching the Spice Girls’ Movie from my best friend’s trundle bed. I went to Mass every Sunday and was an eager student with an easy laugh.
Those other dark and hidden things were separate from the girl on stage or at a sleepover. And so I continued on that way, alone and addicted, until I fell in love with Jesus.
On a Confirmation retreat in high school, as I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament (maybe for the first time?), a desperate desire welled up in me and a fearful question gripped my heart: Could that Love be for me, too?
I began to go to Confession—often. It’s surprising to look back now and remember my insecure, teenage self, cheeks aflame with shame, kneeling and naming the sins of pornography and masturbation. This was the first grace: to use their proper names in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Rather than confess general impurity or lust, I confessed them by name, said the words aloud, every time.
And so the pattern continued for many years: I sinned, I confessed. I sinned again, I confessed again. And again, and again.
Another grace: God gave me the strength to persevere.
The sober stretches would get longer sometimes, but I could always feel a lingering darkness, an oppressive sense of shame. Even as my love for the Lord deepened and He called me into ministry, I still wrestled with unchastity. I wondered if I would ever be completely free, or would these sins I’d struggled with since childhood always plague me?
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I listened to chastity talks and podcasts with testimonies and tips, read Scripture and the Catechism, cried out to God to deliver me from temptation, then asked for His forgiveness in prayer.
The shame was suffocating.
In retrospect, I know that the Lord’s mercy and grace were at work all along; but as I frequented Confession, always with the same sins on my lips, I couldn’t see it or feel it.
One uneventful night, I began to the pray the Rosary. Never having been a Rosary devotee, I listened to an audio recording led by a faithful priest on the Mary app. And I kept praying with that priest on the app, night after night, year after year. I wasn’t asking for Mary’s help undoing this knot, but surely my suffering did not escape Our Lady’s attention or intercession.
I wasn’t alone anymore.
He Broke the Chains
I was in my thirties when my mom and I attended a Marian Conference for her birthday. On the final night of the conference, after a solemn Eucharistic procession, priests stood at the foot of the stage for prayer. I recognized a priest from my childhood parish and lined up with no specific intention, only whatever grace God wanted to give.
I watched as he prayed intensely, compassionately for each person before me. He laid his hands on a woman’s head, a man’s shoulders; he cupped a child’s face. But as this holy priest approached me, he lifted his hand and reached out to cover my eyes.
Everything in me tensed. I felt exposed and embarrassed. Everyone will know, I thought.
His prayer lasted only a few moments, and nothing really happened. No goosebumps or prophetic words. I just went back to the hotel with my mom and went to sleep.
Only months later did I realize that I hadn’t needed to confess pornography or masturbation. I checked in with my body, my soul, my imagination. There was no lingering darkness. No stinging shame. I wasn’t bracing for another temptation. Everything felt right. Settled. Steady. I felt… peace.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the prayers of God’s holy priest, the Lord cast out a spirit of pornography and masturbation, a spirit of lust. He right-ordered my sexuality. He set me free.
You Can Be Free from This
The Lord wants you to be free, too. So does His Blessed Mother. So do I!
After battling alone and unsuccessfully for so long, I want to help you find the freedom you were made for. If you’re struggling to defeat these or other sexual sins, here’s what I know to be true.
Don’t be discouraged if you have to go every single week, or if you fall again right after making a good, sincere Confession. Just get back up and go again.
A regular Confessor could also be a great source of support and encouragement. Remember, His mercy is endless. His mercy is for you.
Satan is real.
The same way we “renounce Satan and all his works and all his empty promises” when we renew our Baptismal vows, you can renounce the spirit of the sexual sin you’re struggling against. You can even ask a priest to lead you in a simple prayer of renouncement, download this spiritual warfare app, or read more here (Deliverance Prayers for the Laity).
Mary wants to help.
She is not only Jesus’ Mother, she is Our Mother. Her heart is pure, her intercession is powerful, and she will always lead us closer to her Son. Pray the Rosary. Everyday. It will change your life.
You can’t do it alone.
Praise God for the courage to name your sins in Confession and ask Mother Mary to pray for you. But I also want you to tell another person. It could be a friend, counsellor, or mentor. Or you can DM me (@thebethdavis on Instagram). I want you to know that you’re not alone, that none of us are “the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son,” as Pope Saint John Paul II so beautifully said.
There is Grace for You
God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). What He did for me, He will do for you, too. In fact, I believe that because you’re reading this blog right now, the Lord is pouring out some of that same grace from my miracle over you.
Take courage! You, too, can be completely healed and totally free.
And until then, I’m praying for you.
If you want more help with finding your own story, our popular Write + Pray course offers 9 topics, nearly an hour of guided video, and almost 50 Scripture verses and questions for you featuring Managing Editor Nell O’Leary. Find your story today.