Marie is a middle-aged single working mother with two teenage children who slid into the porn trap when she discovered that masturbating to porn helped her cope with difficult life experiences. Like Hank and Mitch, Ma­rie got involved with porn when she was a teenager, starting with detec­tive stories and pulp fiction that featured something sexual on every page. In her late teens she worked at a motel as a housekeeper. “I could get my hands on just about anything when I worked there because people would buy porn and leave it behind in the room. I collected everything I found and had quite a stash of different kinds of magazines. I had so many, I’d act kind of like a dealer, giving them away to friends and family members. I looked at them first, but mostly found them boring—the same thing all the time. The greatest excitement was that they were forbidden. When I stopped working at the motel I gave up my porn collection.”

Marie’s parents got divorced when she was fairly young, and she alternated her time living with each of them. Both her parents dated a lot and watched porn on cable. Marie would watch their porn when they weren’t around. “I was drawn to it. It gave me a buzz. If I had the chance to find something or see something, I would.” She now realizes that part of the reason she was drawn to porn was that she grew up in a highly sexualized atmosphere. Not only were both parents involved with porn, she was molested several times, including by her father and one of her mom’s boyfriends when she was just fourteen.

Marie married in her mid-twenties and became a born-again Chris­tian. During her marriage she would occasionally watch porn on cable. “As a Christian I didn’t want to be doing that kind of stuff, but I couldn’t stop thinking about watching porn when I was switching the channels. If there happened to be a sex scene, I’d just stop on that channel.”

She watched despite the fact that her sexual relationship with her husband was very active. “When I was married I used sex like a drug to relieve stress. It was my ‘legal fix.’ I could legally go ahead and have sex and do whatever, because I was married now. I loved my husband, but I never really knew what healthy sex was. Sex was just a way of getting stress relief.”

Seven years into her marriage, with two children—one five and one eighteen months old—her thirty-two-year-old husband died suddenly from an asthma attack. “I called an ambulance and tried to do mouth – to-mouth resuscitation, but it didn’t work. He died in my arms just as the paramedics put the oxygen mask on him. My son’s first day of kin­dergarten was the day of the funeral. My husband’s dying was the worst pain I have ever experienced.”

After her husband’s death, Marie became more and more isolated. “I didn’t want anything to do with anybody. I hurt so bad I vowed I wouldn’t hurt like that again. I didn’t have any friends to go out with, so I stayed home and went back to using porn. That’s when my addic­tion to porn just took off. When I was involved with porn, I didn’t have to feel the pain of losing my husband and my loneliness. I didn’t keep much around the house, like books or magazines, because I didn’t want my kids seeing it. Plus, since I live in a small town, I didn’t want anyone seeing me buy porn. I didn’t subscribe to cable, but the Showtime chan­nel came through, it bled through, anyway. I could see the pictures pretty clear and hear the voices.”

Marie soon discovered that masturbating to the scrambled porn was a lot more thrilling than just watching it. “Then it got to a point where I didn’t even need to see the pictures. If I just heard the sex scenes and knew what they were doing it was enough. I started masturbating to scrambled porn as a reward, and as something to do to help me relax and fall asleep. If I had a bad day or didn’t feel good I would go into my fantasy world replaying scrambled porn in my head. Or I would go view it and masturbate. The pornography always enhanced the masturbation. I thought, This ain’t right! But I’d still do it anyway.”

When Marie discovered Internet pornography, the problem wors­ened. “The kids would be asleep and I would go on the Internet and spend hours clicking away, just looking at all the free porn,” she said. “I’d look at practically anything. Whatever popped up I would click into, except for the really perverted stuff. After a while, though, I found myself going places on the Internet I never thought I’d ever go to. For example, I would go into the homosexual chat rooms. It wasn’t so much to see what they were saying. I never talked to anybody. But they had pictures that were just unreal. I couldn’t believe them. Some were pretty bizarre, but mostly they were groups of men, all aroused, sometimes in unbelievable positions. I didn’t think of them as being homosexual. I thought of them as just a bunch of guys.”

Seven years went by with Marie masturbating to porn on cable and on the Internet as a regular routine. “I’d do it mostly every day, some­times a couple of times a day,” she said. “It was a craving, like a drug. I’d think about it and I’d have to go do more and more. It was taking over. Sometimes I’d get real emotionally involved with the people I was seeing on TV and the sexual acts they were doing—whatever that might be —imagining I was there with them, one of them. Then, I started thinking about getting involved sexually in real life with other people to act out these porn scenes. The idea dangled there in front of me. I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to be like my mom, bringing men home to sleep with when there are children in the house. But after a while the pornog­raphy and fantasy and the masturbation were not enough, not exciting enough. I began to want more. When I found myself thinking this way, it scared me. I knew I had a real problem.

“In addition, I began feeling like I was losing control of my mind and my body during masturbation. I would start clicking away and two or three hours would go by. Next thing I knew it was three or four in the morning, and I had to get up early. Several times I’d be looking at porn on the Internet, clicking wherever I could, and suddenly I’d climax, with­out ever having touched myself—a ‘no hands orgasm.’ All I did was click and view and think about what I saw and boom. I lost control, something else took over and my body reacted. I was scared by the power porn had to affect me like this.

“I felt very ashamed because of the porn. It affected my relationship with God. I could not follow God and continue viewing pornography, fantasizing and masturbating. In the Bible, there is a verse that talks about how we cannot serve two gods. For a while, my god was pornography. There were times while sitting in church that I would go off in my head and have X-rated thoughts, or I’d look at someone in church and think sexual thoughts about them. I spent a lot of time thinking and fantasiz­ing about what I saw on the Internet and on cable television. I felt a lot of guilt and shame. I felt God could not love me because of what I was doing.”

While her self-esteem, sexuality, social life, and relationship to God were suffering due to her porn habit, Marie also became concerned about how porn was affecting her relationship with her children. “I kept retreating further and further into myself. I met my basic responsibili­ties as a single parent—holding down a job, getting them fed and off to school, but I wasn’t capable of really connecting with them. All I could think about and get excited about was when I would get my next porn fix and how I would do it. I lived in the same house as my kids, but I really didn’t know how they felt or who they were. We never played games to­gether. As I discovered later, both my kids were pretty depressed, prob­ably because I wasn’t really there for them.”

One day, Marie’s eight-year-old daughter got upset with her. “She started crying and saying that I didn’t even know her. She wondered if I even loved her,” Marie said. “It broke my heart and made me start real­izing how much I was living in my head instead of connecting with her and my son. They had lost one parent to asthma, and now because of my preoccupation, they were losing another to porn. I knew I had a problem. And I knew I needed help. But I had no idea where to go or what to do about it and was way too ashamed of it to even try to find out.”

Shortly after her experience with her daughter, Marie says “fate inter­vened.” Her computer had stopped working and the youth pastor from her church just happened to be at the house visiting her son. Knowing he had a lot of experience with computers, Marie asked if he would help fix hers. “I didn’t know a lot about computers. I didn’t know that your computer saves your Internet history, keeps a record of all the Web sites you visit. I also didn’t know you can delete this stuff. So it was all there.

“The youth pastor started working on my computer and suddenly I could see that he was looking at my Internet history. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped as he read through this long list of triple-X-rated porn sites I’d been visiting. I just about died on the spot! Neither of us said much. It was incredibly embarrassing. I thought, Oh my God, now what am I going to do? I just told him, ‘I will go talk to pastor about this.’ I was totally humiliated and embarrassed. But that’s what it took for me to wake up and realize I had a very serious problem with porn and it had to stop. Now I was exposed. Somebody else knew that I was going to all these sites. It wasn’t a secret anymore.”

Unlike Mitch and Hank, who hit bottom suddenly with one major in­cident, Marie’s life had already begun crashing in multiple ways that were troubling to her. She felt isolated from her children and other people, and alienated from her faith. Her sexual responses and interests had become more extreme and were scaring her. Even though Marie could tell that these areas of her life were suffering, she didn’t know what to do about it. She was sure no one would understand. “I felt a tremendous amount of shame being female and using porn,” Marie said. “People expect men to be into pornography and all that sexual stuff, but they never dream of a woman doing it. The fact that I had a problem masturbating to porn made me just want to keep it a secret that much more.”

Marie’s ordeal of having her porn use discovered by the youth pastor was an important part of her bottoming-out experience. It was the final blow and broke the shell of her isolation. It triggered such intense embar­rassment and humiliation that it was no longer possible for her to not get help. A week after the incident, Marie met with her pastor and his wife. She told them what she had been going through with her porn use. They listened without judging her and gave her information on healing from sexual addiction. Marie said, “Talking to them was uncomfortable, but in a weird way, it was a relief.”