I’m a habitually messy person with good intentions. Good intentions meaning, at the beginning of every school year, I intend to make my room look spotless because there’s nothing better than the feeling a clean room can give you, right?
So I spend a few hours roaming around my room, putting another sweater into a drawer. Until finally, when the room appears to be clean, I find the things that I don’t quite know where to place. In a mad rush to feel accomplished and orderly, I shove the miscellaneous items into drawers, corners, and under dressers where you can’t see them, and only to stumble upon them later.
I believe my domestic habits apply to my life and the choices I’ve made in my past. On the outside, I appear to have it all together; I am the friend others turn to. I give advice to those who want it, and often play the role of a moral sounding board to the friends who don’t want to do the right thing but know that they need to.
But I too, deep inside, have a couple of dirty socks that lie shoved under a dresser.
The dirty sock represents my struggle to remain pure. For nearly five years, I have battled with the desire to masturbate. Pulling this sock out from under the dresser and letting it see light is particularly embarrassing and painful, because… well why?
I have the reputation of doing the right thing most of the time. I am also a Catholic woman which means again, I should know better. But most of all, I’m just ashamed and sad…
Masturbation may not seem so bad at first. What’s the big deal? It is not like I am hurting anyone in particular.
But I have found I use this pleasure when I’ve felt lonely, unloved, ugly, unwanted, unworthy of anything good…and the list goes on to the times I questioned if a man would ever love me, and when I started to ask why so many bad things had happened to me, my family, and my loved ones.
Until finally, when the questioning grew too great for me to answer, I stopped listening to hear if God, someone, anyone would answer them and I stumbled upon a way to fulfill my desire.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t get what I wanted. The love and wanting I was searching for was replaced with a ten second pleasure that disappeared as soon as it came. And when I came down from the peak, I was left utterly shattered and more alone than I felt in the beginning. It was like someone had ripped me open to see what I really was. And I began to hate myself more, unable to even look myself in the mirror.
The ugliness of masturbation is covered up and shoved under drawers like those of popular magazines and websites today, in which we fully encourage others to seek pleasure and happiness from your own body; you no longer need anyone else to make you happy. But I am a firm believer that those of us who struggle with masturbation can affirm that it only leaves you more broken than before, and the more you continue, the more you can barely find the courage to face your own reflection.
So where to place your foot on the path towards change? Well…
It’s time to air out your dirty laundry. This is no simple feat, but I have found that slowly fishing these socks out from the darker corners of my life gave me strength to continue on and also the desire to quit. So find a person you can trust whether it be a friend, a family member, a priest/pastor, counselor, etc. Keeping this secret can often heavy the load, rather than lighten it.
Do something productive to change the habit. Whenever I find myself tempted, the times that I’ve successfully escaped it is when I’ve gotten up and done something else. My weakest moments are when I’ve had a particularly hard or stressful day and I want to release my stress. So think of other ways to release that stress; whether it be reading, spending time with a friend, working out, praying, or spending a few moments in silence. Whatever it is for you, seek that peace instead.
Finally, forgive yourself and never give up. Baby steps. We’re human. The sooner we forgive ourselves, the closer we are to loving ourselves. And that, I believe, is the root of the problem. When we don’t love ourselves, we don’t believe we are worthy of anything good and wholesome, and slowly we stumble upon these darker corners of life.
Let us begin again together. Let this struggle and pain show you that we desire something more than empty and fleeting pleasure, that you can escape it, and that you are worth so much more than the loneliness and emptiness you feel. And while it might feel like this cold winter and room cleaning will never end, spring is just around the corner. Let’s open the windows and get rid of the cobwebs in our lives; hope is waiting to be stumbled upon by you and me if we would only just do a little spring cleaning.