Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - Pornography is a Jellyfish

Name: Miranda ...
From: Denver, Colorado
School: Regis University
Votes: 21 Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - Pornography is a Jellyfish

Pornography is a Jellyfish

17


Pornography
is a Jellyfish

I
don’t know why I watched pornography in eighth grade. Or, after the
initial look, why I sought other porn-like content. Maybe I looked at
porn because I was lonely. Maybe I was curious about sex. Maybe I
wanted to see what “romance” looked like, but I ended up
awakening a monster. I wonder if there has to be a reason. But then
again it seems like sin and deception doesn’t need a reason; it
just needs a prey. It doesn’t need a why, just a how: how to
immobilize you one addiction and lie at a time.

A
radical sensuality was not something I was looking for. I stumbled
upon it and the damaging images latched onto my brain, because
pornography is a jellyfish. I was intrigued by its form but unknowing
of its progressive sting until I was caught in its tentacles. I am
not anti-sex, but I believe pornography is not true sex; it’s
deception. Sex is beautiful and a gift from God, but pornography
manipulates the fundamental nature of sex—showing images and videos
of unnatural shape shifting scenarios.

The
first time I watched pornography was in 2011, and I was sitting on my
bed with the laptop on my legs. My bed was made—the teal comforter
pulled tight, pillows straight, and my favorite stuffed animal, a
blue cat with a missing button nose, rested in front of the pillows.
My door was closed. I was a kid wanting time away from my family. I
don’t remember how I stumbled upon pornography or if it truly was
an accident, but I think that could be a holy thing: not remembering
how it started could be protection. But I remember how it made me
feel. My head buzzed like a thousand wasps, making it impossible to
focus on anything but the screen. My body temperature increased, and
it felt like slime was imbedded in my pores. I felt dirty. It was a
strange feeling—that I’ve never experienced before—but I wanted
more. It seemed as though my world cracked open and my eyes saw
something foreign and intriguing, taking my innocence with it.

My
parents didn’t officially give me the “birds and bees talk”,
but my mom talked a lot about other aspects of sex: spiritually,
mentally, and the importance of waiting to have sex for marriage. On
our way to events or grocery stores, she talked about sex. My older
sister and I sat in our family’s maroon minivan. The music was low,
the tan fabric seats covered in stains, and my mom talking about
God’s powerful design for sex. She went on to say that sex is not
just an act, but it binds people together. It gives a piece of your
soul and spirit to someone, and in marriage sex is meant to grow your
union—deepening trust, intimacy, and joy. Sex is meant to reflect
the love of God with the depth of love and intimacy.

I
searched for this feeling again. I watched porn two more times over
the course of a month. My parents didn’t know, and I didn’t tell
them.

I
don’t think I understood the depth of sex, however, since I chose
to watch pornography. Maybe I was so hopeful for the emotional bonds,
that I wanted to see the physical bond.

Years
later—and now that I’m married—I know that I truly did not
understand the depth of sex. And I appreciate how my mom was so open
about God’s design for sex. Because of that, my husband and I
waited to have sex until we were married. We both knew that sex is
sacred, and we wanted to pursue sexual purity. Two months into our
dating relationship—in 2016—my husband and I went for a walk in
Garden of the Gods—a stunning landscape and park with towering
sandstone formations. We walked on a dirt trail for a few minutes and
then sat on red-tinted rocks. He gently grabbed my hand and
intertwined his fingers into mine. I looked at him and ungracefully
blurted out, “I think I need to tell you something.” His eyebrows
raised, and I didn’t wait for his response. I told him about my
past with pornography, how I still struggled with mental images,
trances, and sometimes still sought “soft-core” versions of porn:
this time though reading.

He
took a deep breath.

I
was nervous for his response and wondered if I made a mistake telling
him so early into our relationship, but I felt the Holy Spirit
leading me to tell him. My heart pounded as I waited for his
reaction.

His
eyes began to form tears.

He
thanked me for my honestly, and said he didn’t hold anything
against me, and that he understood what I was going through. He went
on to tell me that he started watching pornography in college. I
could see a sense of shame in his eyes and weight on his shoulders.

But
there was a mutual serenity in revealing our battle to one another.
We sat and held hands. I asked if we could pray together and he
nodded. With eyes closed, we prayed in thankfulness that we were able
to freely share our story with each other without judgment. We asked
God for healing and to use this new explored sincerity in our
relationship.

We
were both stung by pornography, and its sting affected both of us.

The
scientific name for a Jellyfish is

Chrysaora
.
Different types of Jellyfish include Box Jellyfish, Portuguese
man-of-war, Hydroids, and Fire Coral. Side effects of a sting involve
intense pain, rash, nausea, vomiting, lymph node swelling,
numbness/tingling, muscle spasms, difficulty breathing, coma, and
death.¹

Porn
left me in a coma. Transforming my mind into mush while my body was
motionless. When I was watching TV, doing homework, in bed, or any
other regular activity of the day my mind would go into a trance, and
all I could think about were the images I saw on the screen. It was
as if my body became paralyzed while my mind played an erotic movie.
These trances lasted a few minutes, but when I snapped out of it, my
limbs were left liquified and my mind unclear of my surroundings. It
took another couple of minutes to regain consciousness and realize my
existence. The sting was amplified.

The
trances weren’t noticed by people—not that I know of—but they
dulled my senses. Smells seemed softened, a hug from my family or
friends seemed distant because of the images lingering and floating
in my memory distracting me from reality. I remember my sister came
into my room after I watched porn for the second time. My laptop was
shut and resting besides me, and my body was regaining consciousness.
She came in, sat on my bed, and talked. Every word she said floated
in the air, detached from gravity. With my limbs still tinging, I
nodded pretending to listen and hear her words. She left my room a
few minutes later, and I sat in silence.

I
also over sexualized everyday objects. At dinner I looked down at my
plate—my spoon wedged in between two potatoes—and my mind
transformed the simple food into a penis. I viewed the world through
this lens and reality became masked. It seemed like this new lens and
mask took a child-like aspect from me. Pornography stole my ability
to explore the world with a blissful wonder and instead left me with
a narrow lens that lead everything back to sex.

After
a month, I stopped watching porn, but my spiritual life had already
shifted—the joy I once experienced while reading my Bible and
worshiping faded—but I had a stirring in my heart to stop watching
porn. I truly believe God was speaking to me, even though I wasn’t
really pursuing Him. I still felt empty like the hollow skin shed by
a snake—a shell of myself—but I listened to the stirring and
promised myself I would immediately stop watching porn. And I did
stop.

But
I still craved the paralyzing sting porn left me with. The motionless
state of my mind felt freeing, and I could just observe and be
fulfilled with instant satisfaction. As justification, I sought other
forms of pornography: raunchy music videos, pictures, diagrams. I
thought it didn’t
officially
count
as pornography, so it
must
be
okay.

I
thought if I gave up “hard-core porn”, “soft-core porn” would
make me feel like I kept my promise. It didn’t. Porn is porn,
whether “hard-core” or “soft-core”, it all has the same
damaging consequences. My addiction to “unofficial porn” lasted
for months. My mind continued to fall into trances, and the slime in
my pores still seemed to stick to me. No matter how many showers I
took, church services I went to, repenting I did, or Band-Aids I
wrapped around my mind, I could not cleanse myself of this
self-induced sting.

But
something kept stirring inside of me like a shallow earthquake that
reminded me of reality. The initial enjoyment of watching porn was
turning into exhaustion. My mind was constantly thinking of what I
saw that by the end of the day I was overloaded. It seemed like there
wasn’t room for any other information. I went to bed exhausted from
thinking and replaying the erotic movies in my mind.

One
day after school, I came home, grabbed a quick snack, and then went
to my room to work on homework. A few hours later, my dad angrily
called my name. He’s a sweet man and rarely became angry, so I
quickly ran down the carpeted stairs and went into the kitchen. He
held a thin stack of paper in his hand and looked at me. I tucked my
hands in my pockets. He told me the phone bill was outrageous, and
that my number was the one that had caused the rise in the price; “It
says you paid to watch something?” he said.

I
didn’t know the cellphone company charged for the content, but I
still knew what my dad was talking about—it was the only suspicious
thing on my phone. My heart pounded
.
It wasn’t really porn,

I thought. My hands began to perspire, and I explained it was
innocent and like a tv show, which was partially true.

He
began to calm down while my heart rate increased.
Is
this it? Does he know?

I thought. He instructed me to stop purchasing the videos and didn’t
say much after that. I quickly walked back upstairs—with my hands
fidgeting—not knowing if he knew what the videos were.

I
closed my door, fell onto the carpet, and began to cry.
Did
that just happen? Does he know?
The
sense of control left my body, and I stumbled over my breathing. I
didn’t know how to calm myself down, so I grabbed my Bible and
journal from my wicker bookshelf and began to write.

Lord,

I’m
going to let it all out. I am so lustful. Please forgive me. Lord, I
am so scared; I am so lost; I feel myself drifting from you! Break
me, father! Why am I so prideful and lustful? I am hurting so much,
Lord, and the worst part is that I honestly don’t feel much pain,
except the fear of being found out. I hurt because I’m losing
communication with You. I feel heavy, but prideful at the same time
and the pride is distancing me from You. Lord, break me! I do not
want to lose sight of You. Help me. I’m crying out to You. I want
You. I need you, because You are my only hope. 

[God’s
response] “My child, I know who you are. You are kind, loving, and
weak by yourself but strong through me. I am with you. Do not be
afraid; I know the struggles you are going through, but I will never
think less of you. My child, you are being so distracted by your own
thoughts and self-pity that you cannot hear all that I speak to you.
Humble yourself, change your ways, and focus on me. Do not worry
about judgment. For I am the judge of all, but do not think less of
you. I will not give you obstacles you cannot handle, but I will give
you the way out. I love you and cherish you, my child. Trust me.”

My
dad never brought it up again, but it shook me with guilt—wondering
if he knew compromised my mental shelter—and awaked my mind to the
severity of my actions. As is read this journal entry now, I realize
two things. One: it’s strange how fear and pride can coexist. Two:
God responded to my aching heart. I did not hear Him audibly, but His
truth came like a thought. Scripture says,
I
[Jesus] have come into the world as a light, so that no one who
believes in me should stay in darkness

(John 12:46 NIV). I believe that speaks to the grace of God and our
ability to choose. All I did was choose to confess to God that my
heart was a mixture of torn and numb. After all, God can handle my
honest mix of emotions—they don’t overwhelm Him. I realize now
that my greatest fear was not pornography or being found out, but
rather I feared losing sight of God. But sin—anything that
separates us from God—blinds us. I was just focused on my sin and
not Jesus.

No
temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And
God is faithful; he will not let you me tempted beyond what you can
bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so
that you can endure it
(1
Corinthians 10:13 NIV).


Last
night, my husband came to bed at one in the morning. I couldn’t go
to sleep, because I was wrapped up understanding my purpose. An
existential crisis, if you will.

He
slowly opened the door and began to talk. I raised my head and began
to unburden my heart to him.

I
don’t know where I belong here [in Montana]. I stay home basically
24/7. I clean, sleep, and watch tv. I’m trying to work on my
masters and writing, but I can’t seem to get it right. I know who I
am in Jesus, but I have no idea where He wants me right now.”

He
hugged me and began to speak. “I feel the same way. Yes, I’m
going to work, but I don’t feel passion or purpose.” He mentioned
before how he felt sad. I asked him if he still felt this way.

Yes,”
he said. He took a deep breath. “I think it’s because I almost
watched porn.”

I
was silent and turned toward him. He continued, “I don’t know
what happened. I just thought ‘well no one would find out.’ I
even opened an incognito browser and typed everything in. I didn’t
hit enter though. I got up and had to walk away, so I came in here.”

My
body tightened. “So, this just happened?” He said yes and fell
silent.

In
that moment I had a choice. A choice to retract or lean in. I
understood the desire of pornography, so how could I judge him?

I
forgive you, and don’t hold it against you.” I said. “I’m so
proud of you.”

You
shouldn’t be proud of me,” he said.

I’m
proud of you because you walked away. You didn’t hit enter. I know
the courage that takes, and I’m so proud of you.”

I
would be lying if I didn’t wonder what he was searching for, but
then again, I don’t think that’s important. It doesn’t add to
anything. It just creates a wedge between us. I caught myself
wondering
who
are you? What are you searching for? Who were you searching? Is she
prettier than me?

The
thing about addiction is that it becomes all about
me.
For my husband, he wanted to satisfy himself. For me, I wanted to
turn his pain into my own self-doubt. It seems as though addiction
wraps its tentacles around our weak spots. Feeling a lack of purpose,
stress, or a sense of emptiness reveals our susceptibility. Again,

sin
and deception just need a prey. I believe a loss of identity is the
source of addiction. Not knowing who we are in Jesus breaks our armor
and we become more vulnerable to the sting of sin. My husband and I
forgot our purpose—our identity in Christ—and he allowed the
temptation of pornography in, and I allowed jealousy to weave its way
in my mind.

But
I am persuaded.

I’m
persuaded that our natural tendencies can be overcome. Not because
we’ve
made progress or because
we
can
say no to watching porn. I’m convinced that there’s breakthrough,
because Jesus gives us grace.

He
gave my husband grace by reminding him of the destructive patterns of
porn. He gave me grace to forgive my husband. He gave us grace to
tell each other. He gave us grace and victory, because it did not
tear our marriage a part, but rather strengthened our bond. Jesus
gave him strength to walk away, and my husband trusted me to tell me.
Jesus gave me strength to forgive him and not make this about my
potential flaws.

I
am persuaded by the grace and healing of God because He gave us a
change of perspective. Not to judge, but to fight for each other. To
fight for mental purity. To fight for peace. And to fight for our
marriage.

Porn
is a cycle. It will claw its way into your desires at any moment, but
Jesus is the one who gives you an out.

I
did nothing. My husband did nothing. We just chose to turn toward
Jesus. That night, my husband and I prayed. We prayed that we would
have a renewed sense of purpose, a reminder of who we are as
followers of Christ, and that our weakness will be used by Jesus. We
prayed over our marriage, our house, and our community that we would
fight to be weak enough to know that we cannot do this by ourselves
and strong enough to turn toward Jesus.

During
our prayer, I realized it’s not wrong or even bad to be weak—weak
in the sense of being vulnerable or out of control. Because when
we’re weak, it gives God a chance to show us how amazing He is
while bringing peace, identity, purpose, and a way out from sin.

Jesus
is the one who forgave us so we could forgive each other. Jesus is
the one who got us out of a lethal situation. And because of that, I
am persuaded that healing means changing our desires toward Jesus.

A
change of perspective is needed to see the light. A choice. To choose
God over sin. To choose to focus on Him rather than the sexual images
on the screen or in our mind.

After
eighth grade, I still sought porn like content over the next year.
The sense of being trapped still hung over me. I knew there was
nothing natural about pornography; it was not how sex was supposed to
be, because it didn’t line up Biblically. I went to church and
preachers talked about the suffocating nature of sin and its sting. I
begged God to help me—to free me from this sin that seemed
unforgivable.

Jellyfish
are beautifully deceptive, though—their iridescent lampshade bodies
drawing in spectators. Sin can be attractive.
And
no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light
(2
Cor. 11:14).

I
remember going to Winter Camp with my church’s youth group. It was
around my sophomore year of high school, and it was three days—more
like two and a half days—of intense sermons, worship, games, snow,
and at least one person injured during the weekend. The camp was
nestled on the side of a mountain in Buena Vista, Colorado with
pristine mountains overlooking the camp like a towering edifice.
After the sermons we went back to our gender separated cabins for
small group. This was my favorite part of camp. The girls grabbed
their blankets off the weathered bunk beds, snacks, Bibles, and
journals and we sat in a circle.

What
did you think of the sermon?” our leaders asked.

Sometimes
it was silent and sometimes the sound of voices couldn’t be hushed.
I don’t remember what was said in the sermon, but I remember it was
about sin. It was quiet in the room, and the scent of a freshly
peeled orange was the only thing that livened the mood. After a few
grim minutes, we began to talk. I have always been a person who wants
to chime into a conversation, but when it’s “my turn to talk”
the conversation has already changed course. I listened. I listened
to girls confessing their sin: cheating on a math test and lying to
their parents. When it was finally my turn to talk, I told them I
struggled with pornography. The room fell silent. I continued. I told
them how I haven’t
really
watched it since eighth grade, but its sting still haunted me. I
lied. Well, offered a half-truth: I haven’t watched “hard-core”
porn since eighth grade, but I still ventured into “soft-core”
porn. Maybe I wanted to seem cleaner than I was—a way to save-face
so I wasn’t judged by them. A few girls nodded like they
understood. That was the first time I told that to a big group of
people.

After
small group was over, an acquaintance came up to me. Her name was
Alea. She said she admired my openness and felt my pain. She never
verbally said she struggled with porn, but by her sympathies I
understood. We spent time together during camp and prayed for each
other, but when we got home, we lost contact. Her words and prayers
made me feel like I wasn’t alone—that I wasn’t the only girl
who dealt with this.

In
a 2017 article,
Why
Porn is Full of Lies,

published by Fight The New Drug—an anti-porn movement that brings
awareness of the damaging effects of pornography—brought to light
the deceptions that porn depict;

Porn
Lie #1

You
can have it both ways; you can enjoy the immediate gratification of
thousands of virtual sex partners and the long-term satisfaction of a
real relationship.

The
truth is, porn often takes a heavy toll on real-life relationships.
They become more critical and dissatisfied with their partner’s
appearance, sexual performance, sexual curiosity, and displays of
affection…

Porn
Lie #2

Porn
is just watching people have sex—what could be more natural and
normal than that?

Actually,
sex is natural and normal. Porn is something entirely different. Make
no mistake, porn is a product…so they dress up their product to
grab your attention…[they] Photoshop away any imperfections, add a
catchy soundtrack, and you have something most definitely NOT like
“natural” sex with “normal” people.

Porn
Lie #3

Porn
is just an innocent distraction and harmless pastime.

Leading
relationship experts, Doctors John and Julie Gottman have expressed
serious concern about the effects of pornography on couple
relationships. They explain, “…With pornography use, much more of
a normal stimulus may eventually be needed to achieve the response a
supernormal stimulus evokes…This may be how normal sex become much
less interesting for porn users…In fact, use of pornography by one
partner leads the couple to have far less sex and ultimately reduces
relationship satisfaction.”

Porn
Lie #4

Porn
is a safe way to learn about sex.

This
lie is especially troubling because many young porn consumers really
do rely on the warped fantasy of porn to form their ideas and
expectations about sex…And as people adopt the unrealistic
standards of porn, they end up feeling bad about themselves and
dissatisfied with their partners.”²

And
I believe there’s a fifth lie.

Porn
Lie #5

Porn
will leave you satisfied.

Porn
left me feeling isolated and alone. During the trances, it seemed
like I was the only person in the world. My family and friends didn’t
exist, and I only focused on the images playing in my mind like I was
in a bubble that suffocated me. And after—when my mind and limbs
regained consciousness—I felt lonely. I separated myself from
others by focusing on the trances and thoughts. And I didn’t even
realize I was choosing porn over my family, reality, and God. When I
did talk to my family and friends, I couldn’t fully focus on their
words. I heard bits and pieces, but my mind was elsewhere. I was
missing out on the joy loved ones brought, which left me feeling
stranded on an island. It seemed like I was the only one dealing with
this mental coma, and my family—and the world—was moving on and
not trapped by pornographic thoughts and trances.

I
also tried to push myself away from God, because I wondered if I
deserved to be isolated. I was walking in a circular pattern of
guilt. Maybe it was a combination of self-sabotage and choice:
choosing to focus on the erotic movies in my mind, which left me
isolated, but also thinking I deserve to be isolated because I was
choosing to think about porn. My addiction to porn made me blind to
the good and healing nature of God. I let dissociation rhythmically
tear through my veins. I let the enemy speak lies into me—I can’t
be healed, God doesn’t want me to be healed of pornography, my mind
will be forever warped, God will never be able to use me because I’m
tainted—and I believed them. I let the grizzly parts of myself
overwhelm me, and it had me right where the enemy wanted me:
immobilized and not fighting for the freedom that Jesus offers.

But
darkness won’t prevail. Its Jellyfish sting doesn’t have to
pulsate. The scars might show, but they have no power, because God is
bigger than my self-sabotage, guilt, and trances. One of the
characteristics of God that I love is His ability to be truthful and
gracious at the same time. He’s not afraid to call out our mistakes
and sins, but He also welcomes us—with open arms—to realign our
priorities and try again. He gave me a second chance to come back to
Him. To not focus on my guilt or shame, but to come to Him and
receive love and community. I felt moved to write in my journal
again, and the Holy Spirit spoke to me.

15
March 2014

My
child, I don’t want you to hide from me because of shame or guilt.
I want you to run to me for comfort, love, and healing.”

After
He spoke that to me, the tension in my shoulders lifted. God pursues
us but will not push us, and we must make the choice to listen to
Him. And over time, I realized pornography was not my enemy; it was
just a tool. My enemy was darkness itself, and porn was just a
product of the darkness. And God’s plan for sex is countercultural
and not always fun to follow, but we are on a battlefield. Good
versus evil. God verses the devil. And to the world, it sounds
crazy—and it is—but look around and signs are everywhere. Evil:
corruption, hatred of one another, sin seeming appealing, the praise
of sin, inviting darkness in. Good: compassion, the love of one
another, joy, peace, the stunning beauty of nature and life, hope,
and salvation. For the word of God is hope, and hope prevails. It
lives; God lives. He dwells within us when we let him. His spirit
guides us, protects us, teaches us, because He loves us and wants us
to live a life that rests in peace, learns through trouble, but
surrendering to Him and living in the salvation He provides.
Submit
yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you
(James
4:7 NIV). Darkness doesn’t have a chance to win when we submit to
God, and it helps to have a community around us to lift us up.

The
stirring I felt years before was becoming an awakening and freedom
from the things that held me back. I continued to write in my
journals.

13
August 2014

I
am weak, but my God is greater. In the name of Jesus, I rebuke this
evil and lust in my heart. I refuse to give into it. I am expectant
that God will bless me and give me the courage and faith to reject
the fear that I let in and that the enemy has taunted me with. 

My
God, You are beautiful. I want more of You. I am not and will not be
satisfied with a mediocre faith. Yes, my faith is weak, but You are
stronger. Lord, give me the faith to endure hardship, but the
strength to depend on You—to fall on my knees in desperation of
You. 

Humble
me. That I may endure in Your presence, and that joy will overflow
with abundance, so that I may speak of Your peace. 

Lord,
I want more of You.

Thank
You for protecting me.

Give
me the sight to see You. Give me the wisdom to know that You are
there. Give me the courage to listen to You and act on Your will. 

Set
a fire in my soul, and I am expectant that the fire will not die. 

Lord,
use me. That I will answer Your call. That I will humbly come before
You and surrender my spirit, mind, and body for You. 

As
I read these entries now, I am beginning to see the transformation of
my mentality from victim to victorious. Instead of bashing myself in
guilt, I chose to see myself the way Jesus sees me: weak in flesh,
but strong by choosing to live free.

Matthew
14:35-26 says,
And
when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all
the surrounding county. People brought all their sick to him and
begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all
who touched it were healed.

At
the touch of His cloak, they were healed. And I truly believe that
Jesus
does
heal.
Over time, He began to change my perspective. I was more focused
wanting Jesus then wanting pornography or focusing on the guilt I
experienced. Sometimes healing is incremental, and the consequences
and scars of addiction are still visible. But there will be
breakthrough and victory.

Notes

¹
Drobina, Barbara J. “Jellyfish Stings Reaction, Symptoms, Pictures,
and Treat.” EMedicineHealth, EMedicineHealth, 20 Sept. 2019,
www.emedicinehealth.com/jellyfish_stings/article_em.htm#jellyfish_sting_definition_and_facts.

³
“Why Porn is Full of Lies.”
Fight
The New Drug
.
Fight The New Drug. 23 August 2017.
https://fightthenewdrug.org/why-porn-is-full-of-lies/.


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