I’m back here again. I have missed this city. It has been just shy of a decade since I’ve been here. I breathe in the coastal air. The cooling embrace of the sea in front of me, and the towering skylines and mountains behind.
But old memories soon come flooding back. I breathe deeply and surrender them to my Higher Power. This conscious contact with my Higher Power is incredibly life-giving. My younger self would have never imagined my life turning out this way, nor that I would feel as I feel now. But it’s true – I am really grateful that I don’t live that way anymore; I’m not that woman anymore; I don’t make those choices anymore. And a sense of gratitude slowly settles inside me.
My first time travelling to this city was too good to be true: The opportunity fell on my lap to stay with my friend and her aunt’s family for two weeks. Between the hustle and bustle of our host’s travel itinerary, we were free to explore the city’s nightlife by ourselves. Unlike in our own country, we were free now to do whatever we wanted. We went to places we could never have gone to and did things we could never have. We even visited a specialty shop to buy “souvenirs” for use with acting out partners, since such shops are banned in our country and when I got home, I was determined to live life to the fullest.
Little did I know, I had made a contract with a thing called lust, a very dangerous disease of the spirit that was about to take over my life. It got so deep into my heart that I became infused with lust; my identity, my being, my relationship with others, with the world, with reality all sodden and rotted with lust.
Lust became king. I worshipped it but, by degrees, the altar of pleasure became the altar of sacrifice, and now I began sacrificing my safety, my boundaries, my dignity, and my will. Time and again, I was beaten and broken on this altar, sacrificing all to lust, until beaten so low I could hardly stand, I surrendered to a Power much greater than lust and was restored to sanity.
I fully embraced the Lord of my faith tradition. This time, I desperately needed Him to be more loving, more accepting, more compassionate and more gentle than the Lord I learned about when I was a child. I begged, I pleaded, I cried, and surrendered over and over. And, at each new step of surrender, He showed me that He really can do what I cannot not. In fact, all this while, He was far more generous and merciful to me than I ever realized. Gently, He guided me further and further away from sources of lust. My journey began with regular prayer. Then came fasting. In the course of time, I dressed more modestly and changed my manner of interacting with men, my looks, words, touch. My intentions changed as well, which helped to keep the interactions dignified. I stopped looking at inappropriate material, threw away my stash of “souvenirs” and blocked all ways that former acting out partners could reach me. Along the way, I took up the sobriety definition of SA; it followed so naturally in the progressive elimination of lust.
Miraculously, and for the first time ever, I was sober for more than a month. God was truly doing for me what I could not do for myself. I had a new lease of life. Soon, I was called to give service to a local NGO. Serving with this NGO over the next few months led to an opportunity of representing them as their speaker at an international conference. When I found out where the conference was going to be, I chuckled – God’s definitely got a sense of humor. It felt nice to have a little inside joke with Him.
And so, my return to this city is a completely different experience. This time it’s to give back. To give hope. To inspire. What a world of difference God can make if only He is sought. After the conference, I stayed on for an extra few days. I revisited the places where we had had more wholesome experiences together; explored new places too. One night, there was a little carnival in one of the islands nearby, and I got to try my first ginger ice cream there (it is lovely, I promise!). These new memories are more serene, more wholesome than those old ones, don’t you think?
I left the city sober, by the grace of God.