This is a guest post from Lacy Alajna Bentley, a first-time best-selling author who has been working with women in self-destructive behaviors since 2000.
Women are amazing. That’s not to say men aren’t, because they certainly are. The women I work with though, have been through so much. They have been traumatized, abused, neglected, assaulted, even bought and sold. And every day, though some days are harder than others, these women get up. They get out of bed, and they work at improving themselves, their homes, their lives. Their stories are not for the faint of heart. In fact, many of these women’s stories are so intense, they’ve learned most people can’t handle hearing them. So they play small, speak small, or don’t speak at all. All the while, they just want what we all want: deep, healthy, nurturing, forever love. It doesn’t have to be romantic, though even they don’t know that yet. Their losses are stacked so high that their hearts scarcely believe anything more is possible for them. That’s when my first miracle entered.
Writing a book was always something I wanted to do. It was something I always knew I was meant to do. What I didn’t know was how that book would be used, and by whom. I did hope a few women would pick it up and improve their lives. It was enough for me to touch a few lives and teach a few women to love deeper, more fully. Since that idea years ago, so much has changed, and I’m already planning the second book. But what about the women now? What about these Earthly sisters of mine, suffering in pain, in bondage of their own making or someone else’s. What about them? That is the second miracle.
I joined a movement to end sexual exploitation in all its forms. We fight the heights and depths of child porn, sex slavery (yep, it’s a thing, even in the “nicest” cities of the U.S.), and we fight the roots of these abominations: pornography. We fight with facts, with stories of men, women and children trapped in pornography use, creation, or worse, sex slavery. And we fight with our whole souls. A few years ago, I was invited to a meeting that would change the course of my life, the culmination of which is yet to be seen. That was the third miracle.
It doesn’t surprise anyone that women and girls are victims, then survivors, of sex abuse, sexual assault, and often, human trafficking. It doesn’t surprise anyone that men use pornography, and many do so compulsively. Those are not the conversations I have though. I have the conversations that seem to always raise more questions than can be answered in a brief conversation, and that keep people thinking for days. I talk about women, girls, and their pornography addictions. That’s right, girls use porn, too. And they are doing so more and more frequently. In fact, most young women have seen some form of pornography well before they graduate High School. They have dated young men who use it, and have asked them for “nudes.” Some are even full blown compulsive pornography users themselves, feeling freakish and horrible for their draw to see more. Porn is a guy’s thing, isn’t it? This is where I have chosen to employ those previous miracles.
First, as a woman who knows abandonment, neglect, and abuse, my heart knows these women’s hearts. Second, I love writing, and I love changing minds, opening hearts with my words. Hearing “You really made me think” is the best compliment anyone can give my writings. Third, I’m smart enough to know no major change ever happened alone, and that slaying a giant is much more enjoyable (and sustainable) with friends. It doesn’t hurt that I used pornography myself in Junior High and High School. That was the early to mid-90s. Shocking, I know, but girls and porn have been friends for a very long time. My own history has greatly informed my research, conversations, and now book. But it isn’t just about me. I weave the stories of many women who deal with myriad forms of compulsive love, sex and relationship patterns. Many even consider themselves “love addicts” with or without a co-existing pornography addiction. After all, they are looking for love, and modern media tells us that is best found through sex, so why not believe it?
Women need more than what modern media has to offer, though, especially if they have sexual trauma. This trauma leaves her feeling unworthy, used, empty, even full of rage and self-loathing. When treating a woman with compulsive relationship patterns (sex based, love based, or both), it is important to help her find her voice and power again. It gets stripped away by events, then the hole gets deeper as she fights to feel loved. She often only knows how to use her sexuality to try and get that love. We must teach her a better way. But first, we must empower her through teaching her to decide for herself again, and to trust the wisdom within her. When she was little, she dreamt of mansions, and horses, and fairies. Somewhere she lost her taste for magic, and her connection to love went with it. She stopped believing in fairies shortly before she stopped believing in other magical creatures, like the safety of untainted Love.
By giving her the gift of hearing her, seeing her, and holding space for her pain, we can help her regain that magical joy that only real love brings. In the process I’ve noticed our own feelings of wonderment and laughter can return. It’s like watching our child learn a new skill, or laugh at her own accomplishment. The feeling of delight these women gain at learning to love themselves is contagious. They learn to love themselves again by letting our love be a mirror, reflecting back at them all that they can become, all that they are. Through watching us trust them with their own emotions, their own inspiration, their own wisdom, they come to trust themselves. Then, through our acknowledgment of their grief, they allow themselves to feel again, but this time without fear. They start to see how the past cannot hut them anymore, and that the future is theirs for the taking. They learn to live, perhaps for the first time, free of fear or excuses. This new level of living gives them power to create a new life, the one that was always waiting for them. That is the greatest miracle of them all.
That is also why I spend so much of my time with women, guiding them to their own inner guide, cheering them on, and holding space for their mistakes. It is such a gift to watch them grow and unfold, right before my eyes. So I keep speaking, I keep writing, and I keep looking for the next woman who is ready to let her life inspire others, even if only because she gets up in the morning to try again. Yes, I do it through helping her overcome sex, love, pornography, and relationship addiction. That’s what it looks like from the outside. In truth, I teach her to live without excuses, empowered by honesty, hope, and courage. That, I’ve learned, is really all anyone needs. With these skills, she knows she can face the truth courageously, she can hope for the love she so desperately needs, and stop giving herself counterfeits and empty dreams.
A Few Tips I have Learned Along the Way:
About Lacy Alajna Bentley:
Lacy is a first-time best-selling author who has been working with women in self-destructive behaviors since 2000. She lives in the benches of the beautiful Utah mountains with her family and a 5-foot python named Titus. She also loves to give away her book, so email her for a copy!
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