Naming the Monster, My testimony.
Updated: Jan 3
As I am sitting here typing the first words all I can think about is "my family is going to read this", "what is my grandmother going to think?", "this is going to hurt my dad", but at the end of the day this is my story. No one else's. This is the reality of what I have been through and my redemption.
The more we are honest, we take away the power and control that fear and shame can have over us. As you will learn, a foundational part of my testimony came from someone else speaking about this on a platform, so I believe in boldly sharing out loud because you never know who needs to hear it or the impact it will have on someone completely unknown to you, as it did for me. Through it I finally found the freedom I had been searching for and the heaviness I carried day to day was lifted, all because someone decided to look past their fears and reservations, and chose that sharing what God had freed them from was more important.
Though I am sure I could go all the way to the beginning of my life to tell you all about the ways I have been freed, this particular read we will begin in the year 2016. For a little bit of background, I was born and raised in El Salvador as a part of a wonderful and very catholic family. I moved to North Carolina at 15 years old to do high school here in the states and right when I graduated I moved to a few different states. In 2016 I found myself living in New London, Connecticut with an apartment, my first car and a great job. That said I was pretty depressed for too many reasons to get into, I planned to move to Miami in March of that year just because I knew I had some family there and it was like a second home to me. Two weeks before my move I decided to start running as a form of exercise and in a comical spin, the very first day I decided to try, my right knee decided to give out and I ended up on the ground, laying in cold melting snow in the middle of the street, screeching in the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life.
Fast forwarding, this injury brought me back to live in El Salvador for what was supposed to be a couple months that turned into about a year. Finally, at 21 years old on March 2nd, 2017 I officially moved to Miami. Although I loved having the opportunity to go back home, I came back in a way I can only describe with the word "broken". I went through a rollercoaster of a "relationship" that left me with no self esteem, emotionally exhausted and just tired. I had not a penny in my bank account, and a two and a half hour commute through walks, trains and buses to my job but thankfully I have family that gave me a place to stay and sustained me while I got back on my feet.
Within a month or two I was living in Miami Beach, working at one of the most known hotels in the city as I started my coffee journey and with it came full and free access to one of the best night clubs in the world. Naturally, as could be expected, I embraced that position and allowed myself night after night of endless alcohol and dancing, getting home way past sunrise and then again day after day. It was all free, so why not?
As all "good" things come to an end, this was a bad thing that ended worse. It's genuinely hard to think about, I don't even know how to go about what happened to me here and in the following month, how to transition into it. For me it was something from movies, it didn't actually happen in real life. But all of a sudden it was not a movie, or someone else's story, it was mine. During this time I experienced something that unfortunately many women do, I was sexually abused for what I did not know was only the first time and by a complete stranger. I say for the first time because little did I know that about a month later it would happen again, except this time by someone I did not consider a stranger. If I'm honest, it's harder to think about than I thought, I share my testimony often in person but putting it on paper feels like there is more weight and permanence to it. As I sit here at this moment, in a cool coffee shop writing about it by a window, I ponder how deep em I actually willing to go, having to see the whole picture over and over again and crossing the boundaries of memories that I had set on my mind to avoid pain, all so that I can review these situations over and over again to lay it all out there. It’s paralyzing.
In a sick twist, while these episodes of abuse happened I received the biggest job opportunity I ever had and in accepting these opportunities it opened up the doors for procrastination in dealing with what had happened to me emotionally and mentally. I got to travel from one coast to the other and run away for the next four to five months. That whole year I entirely blamed myself for what had happened to me, especially because it happened more than once in such a small window of time. If the common denominator was only me, then it had to be my fault. I blamed myself and carried that with me to a point where it backfired and affected my responsibility in my dream job, my mental and physical health, relationships, etc.
I had a co-worker at the time, she took no disrespect from anyone, she knew her worth, she spoke out when someone made her feel uncomfortable, she did not accept being belittled by anyone. I admired this about her. It was not until a man raised his voice at me while I was working that I absolutely shut down, and made myself so small, that it hit me: "Since when do I feel this way?" "since when do I allow anyone to make me feel this way?", "since when does a man raising their voice at me shut me down?". Surely it began a process of looking back, from my childhood to the most recent experiences I had chosen to suppress. I finally questioned if what was done to me had been wrong, for the first time I called it what it was, I was sexually abused.
This opened up a Pandora's box of self understanding and learning, I did not know where to start with any mental and emotional healing that I turned back to alcohol and drugs to numb me out. It was during this time that I began opening up to the idea of reaching out to God again, of rebuilding a connection. My self esteem was back in the ground, my self worth was not existent, I hadn't taken the time to even heal from the last 3 years. During this time when my friend took me to her Christian church, this was my first time in any congregation other than catholic, I had never been a part of something like it. Though I enjoyed it, it soon became too far for me to attend consistently so she decided to share with me a YouTube series by a popular pastor, called "Relationship Series". This series is a collection of sermons that focuses on different aspects of the relationship process, starting with your personal relationship with yourself, it goes to family, romantic relationship, faith, etc. It's pretty outstanding and it would be an understatement to say that it completely changed my life.
It's important to mention that my current state of mind was overwhelmed and depressed, as I was processing the abuse, I also was processing the way it had affected other aspects of my life. At this point I had been watching pornography for almost ten years of my life and I did not see it as wrong, it was part of my life, it was a part of me. Everyone did it! "It's normal!", I would say to myself.
But then why did I hide from it so much? It had gotten so bad that all these lustful images had taken over the lens in which I lived my life, everyone I met, any image that came on tv or social media, it all became a sexual trigger and I hated it. I began believing I had a sickness, that I needed help, "but no one else goes through this" I thought, "who could I possibly talk about this to and how do I start!?"
In the series my friend shared with me, the church pastor, Mike Todd, opens up about something I had never heard anyone talk about publicly, I did not know this even existed, he talked about his pornography addiction.
THIS👏🏼WAS👏🏼 IT👏🏼 - "I am not alone?!" was my first thought, "other people go through this!". The pastor proceeded to speak about what he went through, how it affected his life, I cannot begin to tell you how much I related to all of it. This was it, and he was freed from it! How could that be?! I had tried for so long. I was finally able to put a name to the face, I was finally able to identify, I was finally able to name my monster.
In this same sermon he asked the question "what controls you?" and I immediately knew, it was so clear and real, "my sexuality". I was so desperate to let go, I was desperate for purity, innocence. I wanted to take off the "porn goggles" that had stained my vision and sight for too long, I wanted to go back into the light, back into shamelessness, and just like that. The night that changed it all for me- I chose to pray.
Pray and let go, surrender, as they say. Pray that prayer that says "God, take it, take my life, I don't want this one anymore, I don't want to live like this anymore, I just want you. I want what you have for me, I need you". Through tears of desperation and also freedom knowing I was not alone, I fell asleep.
This next part many won't believe, or maybe you will. But when I opened my eyes, it was a fresh and brand new life. Purity had overcome me. "Porn goggles" off. No more sexual urges, no more desire for lust, no more seeing anyone through any sexual lense, no more sexual images randomly coming to mind, it was gone. It was a miracle.
I am aware that miracle is a controversial word, and you might say, "well maybe you just changed your perspective", "maybe it was energy", "maybe it was an awakening". The reality is that if you know what I am talking about, then you know. You know what it's like to live with the self-disappointment, the heaviness in your breath and heart every step you take, no matter how much you smile. The guilt.
If you don't know then, you don't and that's okay, this story might not be for you. But if you do know, then you know how hard it is, you know how emotional and mentally draining every day is. I'm telling you, I did not do this on my own strength. It was God.
And though I am almost three years in this journey, I can say it has not been easy, especially living in a highly sexual society AND city. Every day is filled with triggers, for my own mental health I have set boundaries on the music that I listen to, the shows that I watch, even the places I go and people I surround myself with. Trust me, my body begs me from time to time to let go and indulge in the desires of my body, but wouldn't that be unfair? I think of my children. Did you know there's such a thing as generational chains? This means that this thread of sexual lust did not start with me and it goes back generations in my family in ways that are too personal to name. Once I realized this, I knew that I did not want my children to fight with their own body and mind the way that I had for ten years through this addiction. My children, my future family, generations to come, even the people that I'm supposed to potentially help, all worth this choice. Only, and I mean only, through the strength I receive from God every single day is that I have been able to fight this fight. I have personally witnessed the weight of sharing my story in other people’s lives. I've seen the same epiphany of freedom I experienced happen before my eyes in other’s lives, all because of sharing my own story, it’s real.
You're not alone, even if it might not be a pornography addiction, it could be anything. If you live in any sort of shame, hiding, lacking self-value, I promise you the fact that I even just posted this for the whole world to see, speaks on the deep freedom and shamelessness I now have of my story and myself because there IS redemption. God freed me, healed me, transformed me, there is no shame in Him. There is no shame or disappointment in me. I get to share my story now and no one holds any power over me, because I am free and have embraced the identity and value that God has given me.
So, there it is, if you'd like to talk further feel free to email me. You're loved, you're valued and hey, I'm cheering you on.