Happy fault | On addiction

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4 Apr 2015

At every Easter I can recall, the Exsultet has always captured my attention. That one line specifically “O, happy fault” would constantly turn in my mind. How could I call my fault blessed, when it sinks me in the deepest darkness of self loathing? How could the shame of pornography, of masturbation, be ever ‘happy’? How could the thorn of sexual sin and addiction ever be a blessing? I could think of nothing but hatred and intense fear of my darkness, my hopelessness; and could not understand why Easter, would call me to bless my fault.

One night, as I stood before the Sacrament in church, wrestling my shame and guilt after yet another failure; I remember reproaching God in tears “Where is your mercy? Why have you allowed this addiction?” I fought God in anger and the sheer pain of failure until I had ran out of mental words to throw, as had happened many times before. Yet this one time, once the ordeal of confession and the bliss of absolution had eased my restlessness, I reflected on how many times this scene had been repeated: temptation, sin, anguish, repentance and grace, despite my anger, my despair and despite my ever wavering faith. I saw every time I had angrily challenged God to magically rid me of the grip of addiction, every time I had writhed in bed, pleading with him in tears that he would heal my heart from sins and failures, every time I’d cringed in shame at the mere mention of Mary, our Mother, and the many times I had found no other words to her than “Mary, my mother, I am not worthy of setting eyes on you”.

It suddenly became clear to me that at no time had I prayed more eagerly, loved God more dearly, and trusted Him more truly, than when the pain and fear of addiction had brought me to my knees, when the freedom and peace of His pardon had soothed my aching heart, and when the hopelessness of my weakness had rendered me powerless at his feet. It was then that I understood that salvation came through a cross, a sign of shame and dishonour, of pain and suffering, yet the very instrument God chose to show his love and his mercy.

That night I could kneel before the cross and for the first time, I looked up and thanked God for the cross that He allowed that I carry, I thanked him for my addiction, for my weakness, for my failures, because through them, I had experienced the great mercy of God. I found myself then reciting that line of the Exsultet: “O, Happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a redeemer.”

If sexual addiction is something you struggle with, I recommend Matt Fradd’s webpage www.theporneffect.com which contains practical advice on overcoming addiction, articles and podcasts (among which I especially recommend Audrey Assad’s talk to women). Accountability software is also a good place to start (covenant eyes www.covenanteyes.com) Most importantly, know that you are not alone, and there is hope.

Isabella Brunn is a recovering pornography addict.
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