Oct 2020 Ensign Article: Finally Understanding the Savior’s Grace Helped Me Overcome Pornography

Fight the Good Fight

  1. I found this (digital only) article in the October 2020 Ensign very relatable. I am very impressed with the courage and bravery of Cassandra Hulse for being open and honest and most helpful to others struggling with pornography addiction.

    Digital Only: Young Adults
    Finally Understanding the Savior’s Grace Helped Me Overcome Pornography
    By Cassandra Hulse

    I’d always had the misconception that girls don’t struggle with pornography, that girls are inherently virtuous. So I began to hate who I was—until Christ showed me a better way.

    I was 17 and, once again, on my knees, sobbing into my bedside, desperately pleading with Heavenly Father to take away my compulsion to view pornography. I’d spent the last two hours shut up in my room on my laptop, and I felt like I was drowning in shame, guilt, fear, and self-hatred.

    Nothing about this scenario was new for me. I was 11 years old when I first came across pornography. It was scary and made me feel uncomfortable, but it was also very intriguing and exciting. My curiosity brought me back to it again and again, and eventually it turned into a compulsive habit. I soon began using pornography as a way to cope with negative emotions like anxiety, fear, and anger.

    From late childhood until my young adult years, I was caught in a debilitating trap of compulsive pornography use that eventually turned into what many therapists would consider an addiction. It was impacting my ability to function at work and school and in relationships. Most importantly, it was hurting my relationship with God and myself.
    In my double life, I saw the good Cassy, who was a good big sister, made lots of friends, got excellent grades, and attended seminary. Then there was the bad Cassy, who struggled with a horrible secret and believed she was inherently broken because of it. I’d always had the misconception that girls don’t struggle with pornography, that girls are inherently virtuous and don’t have issues with sexual sin or desire the way boys do. The adversary fed my misunderstanding until I began to hate who I was and what I was going through.

    Taking the First Steps

    The first time I told anyone about my struggles with pornography and masturbation was when I was 19 years old. I was certain that if anyone knew about my problems, they would think I was a freak, a hypocrite, and a horrible person, so you can imagine my anxiety over deciding to tell my branch president.

    I’d reached a point where I thought my habit was behind me, and that gave me enough courage to open up to him about my past struggles. He responded with more love and kindness than I ever imagined. I felt the joy that Alma the Younger describes: “Yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:20). I felt as though God had truly forgiven me and I’d finally left the darkness behind.

    God Would Not Abandon Me

    Soon after, I left for college, and while I enjoyed my college experience, I was also hit with the stress of homework, grades, and finances. Yet again I found myself trapped in the cycle.
    I felt horrible. Was everything I had repented of all for nothing? How could I have actually repented if I still made the same mistake? And why didn’t God heal me from this compulsion when I repented? I didn’t want to view pornography—didn’t God understand that?

    I decided to meet with my student-ward bishop. Together in his office, we read from the scriptures:
    “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, …
    “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:9–10).
    When I read those verses, I knew that God still loved me, and that he wasn’t excusing my behavior but encouraging me to keep moving forward. I knew that God would never abandon me in this battle as long as I continued reaching out to Him for help.

    I left my bishop’s office with a new determination, and after meeting with him regularly, I established a new period of sobriety and once again thought this issue was behind me for good.

    After My Mission

    I decided to serve a mission, and for 18 months, I lost myself in the service of God. I taught the people of Lima, Peru, about repentance, Christ’s infinite love, and how His Atonement could change them for the better. But then my mission ended.

    After I returned home, the pressures of life came back in full force, and I fell right back into pornography. I’d spent 18 months teaching the doctrine of Christ’s Atonement, but when it came to my own failures and weaknesses, I felt I was exempt from that gift. How could God ever forgive me for returning to this sin over and over again?
    In God’s timing, I began to receive unexpected answers in unexpected ways.

    Over the course of the next year, I began to feel God’s encouragement to reach out to more people for help. I started seeing a therapist and diligently attended 12-step meetings through the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program. These things, along with scripture study, prayer, and meeting with my bishop, are still vital to my recovery today as I continue to learn about Christ’s infinite Atonement.

    Surrendering Myself to Him

    For most of my life, I wondered why God wouldn’t take this away from me. I thought, “If God could just take away this one weakness, I wouldn’t have any more major problems.” Oh, the pride!
    Ether 12:27 says: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

    In any 12-step program, you learn the basic principle of surrendering, a fundamental part of accessing the power of Jesus Christ and the blessings of His Atonement. Step 1 is admitting that we’re powerless to overcome our weaknesses on our own and we must surrender our entire selves to God.

    To surrender ourselves to Heavenly Father means setting aside our pride and turning our will over to His. I slowly learned that it is impossible for me to deliver myself out of bondage. So many times I asked God to give me strength to climb out of the pit, but I was missing the point. It wasn’t God’s will to give me super strength so I could instantaneously climb out on my own. Instead, it was His will that I rely on my Redeemer, that I humble myself to receive help from my friends and family, and that I let go of the pride that constantly said, “I’m fine; I can take care of things on my own.” Strength didn’t come until I finally admitted, “I can’t do it on my own.”

    The journey of recovery brought me closer to my Heavenly Father—closer than I ever would have been if He had just instantly removed my habit, as I had so often begged Him to do.

    Relying on His Strength

    It’s been four years since I started on the path to recovery. This journey has been long and difficult, to say the least. I’ve had to face many past traumas, insecurities, and mental health challenges, and a myriad of physical, emotional, and spiritual obstacles.
    I fully expect to be actively involved in recovery for the rest of my life. Not because I’ll never overcome this habit, but because it will help me stay strong. I’ll be going to 12-step meetings, checking in with an accountability partner, praying and reading my scriptures daily and attending the temple to stay spiritually afloat, taking care of my mental and emotional health, keeping a solid accountability system in place for electronics (including a good filter), constantly reaching out for help from my support circle, and making many more lifestyle adjustments because that’s what God has instructed me to do so I can keep progressing along the covenant path.

    Since entering recovery, I’ve also had many opportunities to serve those who are facing similar struggles. What was once a dark secret I thought I would take to my grave I’ve now shared with thousands of people across the globe. Through blogging, social media, interviews, and public speaking, I have been able, with the Savior’s help, to use my experiences to do His work. I truly just want people to know that God loves them and that there is hope for a brighter future through Jesus Christ.
    I know that my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love me completely. They have always loved me, even when I’ve struggled. And the Savior’s grace is always extended to me. As I continue to partake of the glorious gift of His healing Atonement, I know I will one day become like Them. Despite the things that have happened to me and the mistakes I’ve made (and inevitably will make), Christ walks with me, tenderly leading me to the heavenly throne of God.

    Cassandra Hulse works as a youth mentor at a mental health treatment center. She studied linguistics at Brigham Young University, but she now hopes to attend graduate school for marriage and family therapy. She loves hiking, swimming, learning languages, and connecting with friends and family.

    What Can I Do?

    Every path to recovery is different, but the first step is to remove secrecy. Tell someone about what you’re going through. Reach out. There is hope and help for you.
    Pray daily, read your scriptures, and work with your bishop to make temple attendance and partaking of the sacrament a regular part of your spiritual routine. Sometimes we may feel unworthy to participate in spiritual activities, but remember that God gave us these tools for our growth, healing, and repentance. God never tires of reaching for us. Spiritual tools combined with temporal tools can do wonders.
    You can find helpful resources from the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program at addictionrecovery.ChurchofJesusChrist.org and addressingpornography.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
    Shame can have a major effect on your efforts to recover from addiction. Reading the Ensign article “Shame versus Guilt: Help for Discerning God’s Voice from Satan’s Lies” can give you a clear view of how Heavenly Father feels about you, even when you struggle.

    Discover More

    You can find more articles about overcoming addiction in the Young Adults section of the October 2020 Ensign.
    Check out YA Weekly, located in the Young Adults section of the Gospel Library app, for new, inspiring content for young adults each week.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2020
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