Pornography isn’t an issue that just affects men, and if you’ve read around on the topic you would know that already. Unfortunately, for a lot of people struggling to kick the habit– especially women–there is a stigma of shame, judgment, and ignorance that keeps people from getting the support they need. Nobody should ever have to struggle in the dark, and that is the beauty of testimonies like Cassidy’s, which humanize, personalize, and illuminate an issue that silently affects a large number of people.
Cassidy’s story illustrates that one of the most helpful things we can do if we’re struggling with pornography is reach out for support and accountability from at least one other person who has earned our confidence.
I could summarize Cassidy’s story, but I’ll let her tell it in her own words. Check out the video on YouTube, and transcript, which I’ve painstakingly created for you down below!
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:5
Hi everyone, my name is Cassidy. I’m a female, I’m a Christian, and I am a recovering pornography addict. Now the secret of my addiction was something that I swore I was gonna take down with me to my grave, but it is only by the grace of God that I’m able to sit here with you today and share my story with you, and I pray that the Spirit will be with me and that I will be able to speak the words that God desires for you to hear.
Growing up, my childhood was ideal. I had a loving family, we attended church every single week. I was excelling at school. Things couldn’t have been better for me, and then when I was around 12 years old, my entire world kinda came crashing down around me within a matter of months. My childhood home was foreclosed on, my dad’s alcohol addiction started coming to light, and my parents were on a brink of divorce.
And so here I was in a new home at a new school with my family being barely held together by a thread and I felt like I was drowning, and I was thrashing about trying to find some sort of constant to hold on to in my life, and it was during this time when I first stumbled upon pornography.
When I first saw pornography, I was mortified. I was a very naive and innocent child. I barely knew anything about sex, and so here I was face to face with these images and they were absolutely terrifying, but as terrifying as they were to me, I felt a sort of pleasure and relief that I had been searching for in my life. As a 12 year-old, I couldn’t imagine that these things were normal and that anyone else had these sort of feelings or issues, and so I completely locked that experience up.
I vowed to myself that I would never talk about it. I would never look at pornography again. It was completely over with and I had come to realize that Christ is very, very, very patient with me, but so is Satan. He is extremely patient, and for the next 10 years, they were in a battle for my soul.
After my parents got divorced when I was 13, the gospel of Jesus Christ really became an anchor for my soul. I began attending church and growing in my faith and knowledge about Jesus Christ and who he was. I learned that I was a daughter of God with divine worth, and that he sent his son for me so that he could suffer for my sins and I could be saved.
All of these truths were beautiful, and they were incredible to me, but every time I was seen at church, I felt like I was living a double life. As I was growing in my faith, I was also growing in my addiction, and I began using soft core versions of pornography to soothe the pain and the difficulties that I was facing in my life.
In my mind, I justified my actions that, because I wasn’t looking at full-on pornography, it was OK, and that I didn’t need to really tell anyone, but the light of Christ within me knew that what I was looking at wasn’t right, and that I needed some sort of help, and that no matter how many lies I told myself, I couldn’t hide the fact that I was addicted.
It wasn’t too long after high school that I began looking at full-on pornography. Looking at me from the outside, you would never have been able to tell that I was struggling with this addiction. I was active in my church, I had good friends, I was a straight-A student. There were no, sort of, giveaways that would say, “Hey, this girl is struggling with pornography addiction.”
I feel like with this addiction there is so much shame and guilt associated with it, especially for females because I think it’s typically viewed as a male problem, and if you’re a male and you’re struggling with it, it’s normal and it’s OK because all guys struggle with it. But as a female, no one talks about it. No one talks about this issue. And you put yourself in this little cage, thinking that you’re completely alone, and that no other female has experienced thesefeelings, but it’s just all a lie because everyone does.
By the time I graduated high school, I completely hated myself. I fell into a very deep depression. I dropped out of college, and my relationship with Jesus Christ and God was at an all-time low. I kept making the same mistake over and over again, and I would repent and ask for forgiveness, then go on and look at pornography again, and I didn’t feel worthy to pray to them. I felt like since I wasn’t reliable, they didn’t want to hear from here. They just thought I was blowing smoke every time I would ask for forgiveness, and that I was never going to change.
It literally felt like all of the passion, all of the excitement that had once filled my life was completely gone. I had no desire to do anything, to be anything, because I was filled with so much self-hatred and so much depression and pornography had a major part to do with it.
At this point, I began self-harming to offset the feelings of worthlessness and emptiness that I felt every single time I consumed pornography. I just wanted to feel something, anything. Pornography had numbed my life and numbed my ability to feel any sort of emotion. And pornography would promise pleasure–and for a moment I felt something–but then afterwards I felt so empty and so numb. I felt worse off than I did before I viewed it. I felt like I was in a vicious cycle, but I just kept going and going and going, and I didn’t want to be on that ride anymore.
After getting some help for my own mental health, things began to steadily improve emotionally, but I was still addicted to pornography. The thought of telling someone about my addiction after all these years literally put me into a state of panic, but at the same time, my soul was pleading and begging to just break free and tell someone and open up that I was struggling. That I was still in my own personal hell, and that I didn’t know how to get out of it.
Finally, after 10 years of silently struggling, God gave me the courage to attend an all-women’s addiction recovery meeting. And as I walked into that meeting, I felt like I was going to throw up. I was so nervous, my hands were shaking, and I was terrified to talk about my addiction with these complete strangers. But the moment that I walked through those doors, I felt like I was at home, and I was embraced and accepted by this group of girls who were the same age that I was, and they were struggling with the same thing I was and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m not alone anymore.”
Towards the end of all the addiction recovery meetings, everyone has an opportunity to go around and share how they’re doing with their addiction, and I was determined not to speak, especially since it was my first meeting, and I didn’t really want to open up to these people. But the time it got around to me, my soul just basically brain-vomited onto these people, and I found myself saying, “Hi, my name is Cassidy, and I struggle with pornography.”
That moment was so liberating, and it was the moment that pushed me and gave me the courage to finally go and talk to a bishop, who was like a pastor at other churches. And I told him everything that I was going through, and he responded with so much love and compassion. Then I ended up telling my mom what I had been struggling with, and she responded with so much love and compassion. And it was amazing that after all these years, the fear of rejection, the fear of people thinking less of me—every single time I opened up to someone, there was nothing but love and support from them.
I learned a lot about repentance and the mercy and the cleansing power of Jesus Christ during that time. I was able to be sober for a period of two years. During those two years, I had an opportunity to go and serve an 18-month mission for my church in California, and those were some of the happiest times of my life. I loved teaching people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It brought me so much joy.
When I returned home from my mission, I honestly thought that my addiction was a thing of the past, but it was about a month after I returned home that I relapsed again, and I was so devastated about this relapse. I thought, “Oh, crap. I messed up. How could I have done this.”
I have come to realize since then that that was my pride talking. You see my addiction has always been about myself. My struggle. My addiction. My self-will. My sobriety. It was never about Jesus Christ. Yes, I acknowledged him as my savior and that he was the only one with the ability to cleanse me from my sins, but here I was still trying to save myself. So after a few more slip-ups, I decided to go talk to my bishop again, and again he offered me nothing but love and encouragement as I told him that I was struggling. He just testified of the love Jesus Christ had for me, and that I had not fallen too far for the grace of Jesus Christ to find me.
And so I began to attend addiction recovery meetings, and I was even paired up with a sponsor, and she’s been an incredible support in my life. And all of a sudden, my eyes began to be open to the beauties of the grace of Jesus Christ, and I began to surrender everything that I was to him—my will, my desires, my abilities–or lack of abilitie–in this case. And I realized that I was going to fail every single day. I was going to fail every single time I try to overcome my addiction. And the shocking fact of that revelation was that it was 100% OK that I did fail because Jesus Christ—He never fails. His strength never fails. It is everlasting. It is infinite. It is so much stronger than my own.
And so I began to pray for strength to rely on the grace of Jesus Christ to resist temptation—not my own self-will because I was going to fail every single time. And my sponsor, she told me something very beautiful a few weeks ago, “There is a difference between white-knuckled sobriety and completely surrendering to God”, and it has made all the difference. I’ve never felt happier. I’ve never felt stronger. And I know that that strength comes from Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with me.
Today, I’m 41 days sober from pornography. And although that might not seem like much, that’s 3, 542, 400 seconds worth of a life free from the chains of addiction. These 41 days have changed my entire life. I now understand Jesus Christ and his grace in a way that I never understood before. I feel happy. Life-long recovery seems possible, and I am no longer letting shame and guilt run my life.
I always thought that I was the only girl struggling with this addiction, but as I’ve opened up to my friends and my relatives about my struggles, I have found that there are a lot of girls who are struggling with this. And it’s been a wonderful feeling to realize that I’m not alone. That we, as females, are not alone in this struggle.
Do not believe the lies that Satan tells you when he says, “You are alone. You are worthless. Others will turn away from you when they see who you truly are.” Because who you truly are is not a pornography addict. You are a child of God, and your merciful and loving heavenly Father is able to differentiate between what you’re struggling with and what you’re doing versus who you truly are as his child.
And, just like the prodigal son, when you run to him, he’ll already be running to you. And you’ll fall in his arms, and you’ll feel his embrace, and I felt that in my own life, and I know that he is merciful and we are so much harder on ourselves than he ever will be.
I can now confidently sit here before you today that my identity is no longer found in my addiction. My name is Cassidy. I am a daughter of God, and I’ve been saved by a merciful and loving savior. I love you all very much, and you are not alone.