Wrestling with a particularly difficult piano tuning job today, I started asking God for help — out loud! (I usually pray before I begin any tuning job, but I was focused on praying for a dear friend of mine who’s really struggling, so I forgot…) Since the strings had been out of tune for so long, I was having to re-tune several of them that just wouldn’t stay put. Suddenly, my mind became flooded with images and memories of my own childhood trauma.
Now, don’t get me wrong, my parents loved us deeply, and we never questioned that. And, they did the best they could with the information and upbringing they each had, and as an adult, I now understand that. But as a child, some things hurt really badly, and affected me (and my four siblings) to this day. Everything that happens to us growing up helps shape our beliefs about ourselves, the world around us, and about God.
Before I divulge some very vulnerable truths here about myself (which I have NEVER shared publicly until now), I want to say that I am healed and whole now, as of the last 15 years or so. (Yep… it took that long.) I forgave my dad a long time ago, and even finally got the guts to tell him some of these things while in my late thirties, before Dad died just a couple years later. Incidentally, Dad responded, “Hmmm… I don’t even remember that!” (That particular incident happened when I was four years old — but affected me all my life.)
Mom was pregnant with her fifth child. I was the second-born, and sleeping on a top bunk with my approximately 15-month-old baby brother, Peter (name changed). My older brother, Cliff, was on the bottom bunk with our two-year-old sister, Liz. I distinctly recall what I was wearing that night — my favorite slip that had a flared tutu bottom. I felt like a ballerina when I wore it!
Baby Peter apparently rolled off the top bunk and fell to the wooden floor below during the night. His shrieking cry woke me up and I scrambled out of bed to pick up and try to console my baby brother. Suddenly, my dad appeared in the bedroom doorway, with a folded belt in his hand.
“WHY are you OUT of BED!?” Dad demanded. (He hated being woke up at night, and always gave us strict orders not to get out of bed once it was bedtime.)
Terrified, and still holding a crying baby, I was desperately trying to tell Dad that I only got up to help Peter, because he’d fallen out of bed. Dad wouldn’t even let me finish my sentence, but angrily started “belting” me (as we called it). I was four years old.
Why was there no baby crib for Peter? I don’t know. Maybe they booted him out since a new baby was coming. We lived in a 2-bedroom house, so obviously, we four children were all in one room. And, we were terrified to get out of bed at night. And horrified every time Dad came in with a belt — and it was for every offense, or perceived offense — including unintentional inconveniences, annoyances, or disruptions. It didn’t have to be “disobedience”. (Now we call that child abuse, or at the least, bad parenting.)
So my siblings and I learned to live in fear of upsetting Dad. Over the years, Cliff and Liz got more whippings than I did, because Cliff would misbehave, and Liz was stubborn and argumentative. I recall too many times feeling very sorry for them when Dad would be spanking them. I’d be standing just around the corner, crying my eyes out for them. And, every belting was from 10-20 licks, even when we were five years old. It’s the same way Dad was raised. It’s all he knew.
Interesting how no one is smiling in this family photo except my mom- who tried! I’m on the front right.
So, in hindsight, it stands to reason that children raised in this environment of fear and abuse would develop other issues such as bed-wetting — which most of us did — at least until about the age of twelve. I felt intense shame over this horrid secret, but nothing seemed to alleviate the problem. At night, I would dream I was in the bathroom — but I was asleep in bed — and usually woke up wet — and my shame just compounded. It affected everything I did — nightmares, severe insecurity, FEAR of being “found out” by my friends, etc.
Mom and Dad divorced when I was nine, and it also scarred me forever! I’ll never forget crying until my eyes were covered with red dots all over as I watched my dad taking dresser drawers full of his clothes out to the car. I didn’t understand why Mom was so angry, and making him leave. (Years later, she explained to me about his pornography use, and how that made her feel unloved and cheated on.) Anyway, I felt abandoned by my father (and largely blamed my mother at the time, because I was too young to understand their issues.)
After the divorce, both my parents ended up with new people moving into their lives and ours — including a new stepfather. As my dad told me later, he felt Mom “jumped from the frying pan into the fire” by divorcing Dad and moving in “Larry” (not his real name). Larry moved in when I was nine, and Liz was seven.
The short story is, Larry molested both of my sisters for years, Elizabeth the longest (before Liz finally confided in me, her big sister, while we were visiting my dad and stepmom one Thanksgiving). Larry would LIE to Liz and tell her that if she told Mom, “the police will take you to jail!” (So, Liz believed that she, as a seven-year-old, would be put in jail if she told anyone what he was doing!)
When it all came to light, Mom and Larry split up for a while, and Larry went to counseling for a bit. He somehow convinced my mom that it was a “one-time thing” and he was cured, so she let him come back — until she learned better. (We found out later that Larry was a long-time pedophile, having molested other young girls in his previous family.) My siblings and I all went to live with our dad and stepmom for a while.
The sexual abuse– coupled with the unavoidable consequences of FEAR, SHAME, mistrust and even guilt that all victims suffer with — affected Liz (and Sharla, the youngest) for a lifetime. When Elizabeth drowned in 2004 (saving one of her five children from drowning), she’d been divorced four times, and had children by three of her husbands, the same three who also had prison records. She was the consummate “rescuer” personality, and it showed in her not-so-good choices of men. Heartbreakingly, it marred her self-confidence and kept her from believing she deserved anything better.
A long-time friend of mine married a man who’d been sexually molested by an uncle in his childhood. He’d never addressed the trauma, however, or received counseling for it. Inevitably, it came up in their marriage, with years of issues that threatened to tear them apart. By the grace of God, after thirty years, they are still married, and have finally worked through his healing process. It helped that my friend has a Master’s degree in counseling, and also in Biblical counseling. God is gracious, and He knew they’d need those resources, and a very patient, understanding and forgiving wife!
Another friend of the family’s adult son began questioning his sexuality in his early teen years, and as a young adult, decided he wanted to live as a woman. It was only recently that this young man confessed to his parents that he was sexually molested as a 14-year-old by a 17-year-old girl! No wonder he felt emasculated, ashamed, helpless, and has suffered extreme anger, emotional and depression issues since then. Sadly, he said that he was terrified to tell his parents, for fear they would think he invited the abuse.
So, the lies and fear tactics of Satan have held him in shame, bondage, darkness, depression and estrangement from his family for years. Unfortunately, this scenario rings true for countless lives of those who, for whatever their reasons, cover up and never deal with their childhood trauma.
But whatever we hide will always haunt us.
Unhealed trauma causes us to recoil, hide, or lash out when others try to get close to us. True intimacy, although we all need it and really want it, scares us. We often act like a wounded, frightened, caged animal. When someone wants to truly know us and love us, we react with mistrust, paranoia, fear, and other self-sabotaging mannerisms. Their loving overtures are seen as a stick poking into our cage to taunt us.
This is EXACTLY what Satan does!! He makes the bad things look good, and repels us from genuine love. (See John 10:10 above. It’s been his tactic since the Garden of Eden.)
So, our unhealed trauma continues to hurt us, and the people who love us.
I’ve always told my children, “Honey, anything you hide from your parents, unless it’s about a Christmas or birthday surprise, is designed by the enemy of our souls to harm you. So, don’t be afraid to tell me things, baby, even if you’re ashamed or afraid you’ll be in trouble! Trust me — if you’ve done something wrong [or something bad has happened to you], you’re already in trouble — and confiding in me is how God rescues you!”
Hiding an issue — a sin– whether your own or what someone else has done to you– does not make it go away. The only wounds that won’t heal are the ones we won’t acknowledge.
My paternal grandfather molested my aunt, his own daughter. She told her mom (my grandmother), but she didn’t believe her, sadly. My dad indulged in pornography, which destroyed his marriage, and continued the “family curse”. Both of my brothers also struggled with pornography, and my older brother (who killed himself in September 2020) had problems with alcohol, cigarettes, and (even worse), molested his stepdaughter.
I can’t help but wonder if my grandmother had believed her daughter, and the abuse was stopped and the family got help and accountability, if that family curse might have been broken. If a repentant father (my grandfather) had truly changed, or even if he hadn’t (and they divorced — which they did– for a time– then got back together), if my own father had learned the dangers of porn and sexual addictions — if things might have been different in our family. Instead, nobody dealt with it. It all remained a dirty secret that destroyed lives.
Unhealed trauma causes us to believe LIES about ourselves, about others, and about God. It requires a deliberate, ongoing effort to learn the TRUTH to be set free and truly healed. However, the strongholds of Satan CAN be brought down by the power of the Word of God in our lives! (I am living proof of that reality!)
2nd Corinthians 10:4-5
I have recently discovered several excellent resources for those desiring freedom and healing from various issues, including sexual addictions (of various flavors – including pornography) that I want to share. And, if you know of other resources, please share in the comments below so others can find freedom! Here’s just a few I’ve found to be very helpful:
GOING DEEPER: How the Inner Child Impacts Your Sexual Addiction by Dr. Eddie Capparucci (Christian therapist for sexual addictions; Dr. Capparucci said that in his 20+ years of being a therapist, that over 95% of sexual addictions stem from CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.)
RESTORED: Experience Life with Jesus (Escape Your Bondage and Discover Freedom from: Depression, Anxiety, Inner Conflict, Addictive Behavior, Fear and Anger, Tormenting Thoughts, Negative Habits, Low Self-Worth) by Dr. Neil T. Anderson (This book was a gift from my friend & colleague, Taffiney Williams, a trained trauma counselor.)
ONLINE & In-Person Support (all BIBLE-BASED):
SamsonSociety.org (I was RIVETED by this former pastor’s testimony of deliverance from sexual addiction! That’s how this ministry got started, and is helping THOUSANDS of men — and their WIVES!)
www.secrethabit.ca (This HUSBAND & WIFE TEAM were BOTH healed from sexual addictions, and I was SPELLBOUND and so encouraged by their testimony and their ministry!!)
UNLEASH THE MANHOOD THIS incredibly helpful PODCAST is the first one I discovered, which actually led me to the resources I listed above! (Thank you, Sathiya! Your testimony as a Worship Music Pastor who was addicted to pornography was SO EYE-OPENING, and your podcasts each week are IMMENSELY helpful, brother!)
I’ll share one last memory before I sign off. When I was maybe five or six years old, often I would wake up at night and need to go to the bathroom. However, it was completely dark in my bedroom (there was no nightlight), and my vivid imagination convinced me that Frankenstein was standing in my doorway! So, I was terrified to get out of bed, and would lay there and CRY, because that monster wouldn’t let me pass! I would cry for my mom to come upstairs and turn the light on, but, of course, she couldn’t hear my cries. So, I’d eventually cry myself to sleep — and wake up in a wet bed.
I just wished someone would turn the light on — or leave a nightlight on for me to see!
So, I sincerely pray that this humiliating vulnerability SHINES A LIGHT of TRUTH and HOPE for many who read it. Then, it wasn’t a waste. As a Christ-follower, I am deeply thankful for the TRUTH of the Word of God, the Bible! One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 8:28:
“For we know that all things work together for GOOD, to those who LOVE GOD and are called according to His purpose.”
ALL THINGS — the good, the bad, the ugly and the embarrassing! So, if my transparency helps someone, God is using my shame for someone else’s good! Yay!
I leave you with another FAVORITE verse of mine! Especially as it has helped me overcome the LIES that God doesn’t really love me, or that He’s not really a GOOD GOD, or that He doesn’t really care about the details of my life! (I’ll bet many of YOU have heard and/or believed those lies of Satan!)
Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Thank you for sharing, Becky. So many millions have been and are affected. Principle 8 exists to engage, encourage, educate, equip and empower those struggling with and/or affected by sexual addiction issues – through teaching and testimony – written, spoken, and sung.
Currently producing a topical song called ‘Worth It’. I’ll share when it’s ready.
THANK YOU for your words of encouragement and this added resource, Damon! So appreciate it and can’t wait to hear the song, my brother!
Thanks for sharing your story Becky! The Lord uses our wounds for the sake of others. God is so good and has been so faithful to you! I recommend for others desiring healing on the issues you shared: Ministries of Pastoral Care and Living Waters Ministries. Both have books, resources, conferences and connections to begin healing, safely.
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THANK YOU for these additional resources, Kathleen!! AND, thank you for your encouraging comment! (People so RARELY comment on the actual BLOG site, so it often feels like no one is reading — although I know that’s not the case — so it means a LOT!)
Very well written my friend so many of us have experienced some part of your story in some way. Thank you for writing this. I want to share it with my own children since they grew up with trauma and a father with addictions who has chosen not to deal with them.
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I’m so encouraged to read your words, Lavonne. I do pray it helps your children!