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Meet Cara.

She’s a 19 year old college sophomore who, like many of you, is fighting the good fight against pornography addiction. She is living proof that girls are not only just as affected by porn as guys but they are amazing fighters. We had a quick Q&A with Cara about her journey through recovery, take a look at what she has to say.

When and where did you first see pornography?

I first saw pornography when I was in seventh grade. At that time, I was constantly being bullied by a group of boys that I went to school with. They were very rough with me; almost every day I would be shoved into lockers, walls, or other people. I was called names and made fun of about my physical appearance and my shyness. Not only did they physically and verbally abuse me, but I was sexually harassed as well. The boys would walk by me and grab my butt or my chest, corner me and try to touch me, or put my personal things (ie. erasers, books) down their pants and make me take them back. They would ask me to do inappropriate things to them and use foul language, but being a very naïve girl, I didn’t understand much what they were talking about.  This just made the make fun of even more, so one day I just got fed up I guess. I came home from school and went straight to the computer to look up something they had asked me to do to them. A video came up, and I clicked play, not knowing how it would affect me in the future. Honestly, I don’t think that I even realized that I was watching porn until after I had watched the video several times.

At that time did you have any idea how it could affect your life?

I grew up going to church so the harmful effects of pornography were mentioned on occasion. But whenever it was talked about it was always directed specifically towards the boys, so I never put much thought into how it could affect me, because porn was “just a guy thing”. I really didn’t think that women struggled with pornography because it was never talked about! I thought that it was a really big deal for me to be watching porn just because I’m a girl, but it was a big deal because it was affecting who I was and how I viewed intimacy.

How did porn begin to affect you personally?

Porn really affected who I was and how I thought about myself and others. I carried a huge weight of guilt with me every day. I felt terrible about what I was doing in my spare time, but I was too afraid to tell anyone. I had never heard about a girl who had a porn addiction, so I thought that something was wrong with me. I was way too scared to talk to anyone about it, even my close friends or family, so I kept my struggle a secret for about six years.

I felt as if I was living a double life, with a smile on my face despite the terribleness that I was experiencing behind a screen. Even though looking at porn made me feel guilty, empty, and lonely, I would act as if I had everything together, and that was exhausting. I would compare how actual people looked compared to the porn stars I saw on screen to see if porn was realistic or not. I guess I wanted to know if what I was seeing in porn was how relationships and people functioned in the real world.

How did porn affect your life? 

Looking at pornography took a lot away from my life. In school, I finally knew what those boys were saying to me and what they were asking me to do, but I was shocked to see that it didn’t help the situation at all. Now that I knew what they were asking of me, it made me feel even more uncomfortable and in danger. It scared me, and what was even more terrifying was that I was attracted to those actions. I would go to school and refuse their demands, but as soon as I came home I would invest in them behind a screen. It was really messed up.

Pornography taught me that the boys at my school were real, that they were right in demanding me to do things for them. It showed me that sex was violent and male-dominant, that it was just physical and not emotional. I used it as a stress reliever, only to become more stressed after viewing it. Porn did not teach me about loving another person, it taught me that I would be used by someone else, and that was probably the most harmful aspect.  Now it feels like the way I see physical love is skewed, it is hard for me to remember that intimacy can be beautiful.

What are your goals?

My goal is to be pornography free for the rest of my life. I know it’ll be hard, but I’m already a few months sober! I don’t want to have a guilty relationship with pornography, I want to have a real emotional connection with someone. I want to have a tender, loving relationship, and if porn is going to teach me otherwise, then giving it up is definitely worth the fight.

What about The Fortify Program has been really useful or meaningful to you?

The Fortify program has been an amazing help to me. It has taught me several strategies to use in different situation when struggling with porn, and that has been extremely helpful. I really like how I can put in my own thoughts and responses after watching the videos, it really helps me to process through everything I’m learning. This program reminds me that I’m not alone, and it motivates me to keep fighting! And not only for myself, but for others as well.

What makes the ups important and what do you do to deal with the downs?  

There are definitely ups and downs when trying to recover from a pornography struggle. It’s really hard to bounce back from a setback; you find yourself having to try harder every time it happens which can be really frustrating. When I would give in, I felt like I was letting myself down, and that has been hard for me to get over. I know that I could have made better decisions that wouldn’t have affected myself or my relationships, but Fortify has taught me that you can’t focus on those things. You acknowledge the mistakes, learn from them, and move on.

The downs are tough, but when you conquer the addiction and don’t give into temptation, that’s the best feeling. Seriously, it feels so empowering to know that you didn’t give in, that you’re stronger than how you feel! I think the best part is knowing that I don’t have to go back to porn, that I don’t need it to feel satisfied. What I want is a real relationship, and I don’t need porn to find that.

How has your life started to change since you began this fight?

Making the decision to give up pornography was a hard step to take, but it was so worth the effort. I ended up telling my best friend/mentor shortly after I graduated high school, and once I told her a huge weight came off of my shoulders. Once I had accountability I had more motivation to avoid porn rather than give in to it.

What advice do you have for Fortifiers?

Talk to someone. Tell somebody you trust about your addiction and get accountability. I know that it’s way easier said than done, but when you tell someone you’re not just fighting for yourself anymore, you’re fighting for them as well. Before I talked to my friend, when I found myself struggling it was easy to cave into my feelings. I prioritized temporary satisfaction over recovery, but once I had someone I cared about involved, I became motivated to avoid porn all together.  When I told her about my struggle it was really important to me that I didn’t let her down. I didn’t want her to be disappointed in me. Did it happen? Yes, but I didn’t have to go through the setback alone. I received encouragement to do better instead of shame in what I had done, and that makes recovery so much simpler.