After a few weeks of struggling, I decided to write the second letter in this series to my 30-40-year-old self. The letter only addresses one aspect of my journey. As I navigated the path through the darkness of recovering from childhood sexual abuse toward peace and joy, I encountered many twists and turns. At each turn, I chose which way to walk. While the choices were mine, I often based my choices on negative experiences which distorted my view of myself, my circumstances and God. As I considered the second letter in my series, I wondered where to begin the next letter. While I wrote the first letter in this series to my young adult self, the second letter tells the story of a young woman who wanted to change, lost her way, and turned to married men to meet unmet needs. By using the voice of an older adult speaking to a younger person, I hope the words will bring peace, comfort, and reassurance to another young woman who experienced similar distortions and exhibited similar behavior as a result.
Hello, again beautiful,
A lot has happened since I wrote you last. You married someone who you thought would fill your empty heart. Instead, the hole grew larger as love proved no match for the anger your husband expressed. Eventually, you left him, but not before you had a beautiful daughter. While you were married, you never strayed to other men. In fact, the thought never crossed your mind. You believed that your husband’s anger and lack of desire was God’s punishment. Yes, God saved your life, but at a cost that confused you. Why did God allow your apartment manager to rape you? Why did God lead you to an angry man who did not understand the struggle you faced? God must not love you at all. He must want to torment you. At least that is what you thought.
Life had shown you that love equaled pain.
After eleven years, you were strong enough to leave the marriage. You thought that you could do what you wanted without fear. Still, you didn’t want to be involved with anyone again. Life had shown you that love equaled pain. Love and sex were the same things, but sex was power, not affection. You vowed that you would be in control and never again would you give your heart away. You would be the one in charge. No one would hurt you or deceive you again.
You believed the lie that you were unlovable and only good for one thing- bringing pleasure to men. You were confused, hurt and sometimes you wondered if life was worth living. You got professional help, but your soul remained empty. You were angry, very angry and wanted to prove you were strong. You wanted to show that men were your pawns. You returned to your old ways, but now there was a new twist. You discovered the anonymity of internet chat. You felt in control, but, you were out of control. At the click of a button, you could end an encounter. You got great satisfaction in leaving someone in the middle of an intense chat. However, you were leading a double life. You hated yourself because you sometimes gave in and met the men in person.
Going out with married men was the norm for you because, in a distorted way, they were safe.
You could imagine that you were important to them. You could enjoy the company, but leave anytime you chose. You could pretend they were not married to assuage your guilt. You created a fantasy life when you were with them. However, when they left, you were once again alone. They went home to their family, but you were alone. The emptiness remained after each encounter. You desperately wanted to feel whole but did not know how to achieve that goal.
Enter King George II (AKA David)
Then you met David. David advertised on an adult dating site that he wanted a companion for motorcycle trips. You were hooked! Although you did not realize it at the time, David reminded you of George. After a few weeks of chatting an emailing, you met David. He was perfect! He was funny, mature, and treated you like a queen! He was 20 years older than you, but you did not care. In fact, David’s age was part of the appeal. Over the next several months you lived a fantasy. You believed that David loved you. You believed that his wife must be horrible to deny him physical intimacy. Sometimes you pretended that he was not married. You believed the fantasy would never end. Then, just as suddenly as it began, the relationship ended. You were devastated! You let down your guard and once again, your heart was broken! Once again, you vowed no one would hurt you like that again. You vowed never to love anyone again.
The internal conflict between anger and loneliness led you to seek God for answers. You wanted something different. You wanted to behave differently, but you did not understand how that was possible. You prayed, read scripture, and begged God to help you change. Deep within your soul, you cried out, “Why do you hate me, God?” You answered the question, “You hate me because Daddy was right, I am damaged goods that no one will ever love.”
God had other ideas though, beautiful one.
He gently guided you, showed you how to capture your thoughts, and helped you understand that Daddy’s definition of love was wrong. Slowly, you practiced taking your thoughts captive. You were not always good at doing so, but you tried. God helped you realize that you could only get better through practicing a new way of thinking. The first step was accepting that your worth was not defined by what Daddy did to you nor by what he told you. Your worth came from God before you were born. You struggled with this first step. In your mind, you knew God loved you, after all, He saved you from death more than once. However, believing you were loved was difficult for your heart to accept.
Beautiful one, I still occasionally struggle with how God could love me. The struggle is less intense, but writing to you reminds me that our mind is a powerful thing. You worked very hard to understand and believe that you are “Fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139) I am the woman I am because of your courage. For that, I am eternally grateful. The tools that you allowed God to show you not only saved your life but have helped countless others understand and believe that they too are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I no longer believe that sex and love are the same. I no longer feel compelled to fill the void with physical pleasure.
The journey continues beautiful one; I try to capture my thoughts daily. I try to recognize the lies in my mind before they become my truth. When a new trigger occurs, I try to remember to understand the source of the trigger and replace a negative thought with truth from scripture.
Beautiful one, this letter is not the end of the story. In fact, the letter is not even most of the story. I hope you understand that you acted how you were taught by those who should have loved and protected you. I know the truth, and hopefully, you also see the truth. God loves you.