Sandra’s Story

 

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I grew up feeling alone and isolated, and spent a large amount of time by myself. At the age of 10, I found some magazines that sparked an addiction that began to rule my life even at that early age. I thought, “Hey, that is what a woman is supposed to be.” Everyone looked so glamorous; the men in the pages of the magazines seemed to really like these women–and I wanted to be liked by someone. Because I was alone so much, I spent most of my hours creating a fantasy world in my head to help with the loneliness I felt. By the time I got to college I had full blown addictions in hand and was creating wreckage around me.

I went to college, and I tried to fill this void I felt with excessive partying, and it didn’t work. I got married in college, divorced him, and pursued a relationship with someone else that in turn caused damage in his marriage. I had started drinking heavily, and after my sophomore year I dropped out of school and went to North Carolina for the summer. The fall after, I spent a short time in Ohio with some friends and became a go-go dancer to help pay some bills. I drank heavily during that time to ease the pain of being an object on display. After having a night where I wanted to die, I drank 151 till I thought dying was a good option. My friends asked me to move out, and I moved in with a customer who was almost 40 years older than me. I made him believe I loved him so I would have a place to stay, but I hated every minute of it. After saving every penny I could, I got on a bus and moved in with a man I had met and had an affair with that previous summer. He became my second husband after leaving his wife due to our affair. We didn’t have a ton of money, and by this time I had addictions to alcohol, pornography and cocaine. I turned to other men in the middle of my marriage and began to have a series of affairs. As a result of that I became pregnant twice and had two abortions, so he wouldn’t find out. I had started to go to adult bookstores and massage parlors to be wanted by whoever was there. So, by the age of 24, I had destroyed my second marriage and asked him for a divorce.

To escape the world I had created around me, I fled to Mexico City and continued to feed my addictions. All the things I thought would give me comfort didn’t, and I spiraled out of control. I began a massive string of encounters with men and women that left me alone in hotels, waking up, not knowing who I had been with the night before, waking up with multiple partners around me, and trying to convince people to watch porn with me. After being in Mexico for a year and putting myself in numerous dangerous places looking for cocaine, I found myself one early morning on the side of the road after having been raped and thrown out of a car by three police officers and a taxi driver. That week, on July 15, 1996, a friend of mine called a twelve-step program for me, and I became sober from drugs and alcohol and have been clean for the past fifteen years. I would try to have “healthy” relationships with men; I thought that healthy meant living together and trying to not sleep with other people. Yet, all the while, I was stripping and watching up to 5 hours of porn a day on 8 channels. Anything that I thought would make myself feel better I did. I didn’t think I was hurting anyone by “taking care of myself,” to try to not act out with other people.

I started booking entertainers into Mexico while I was dancing. Pulling in other women to do what I had done. I became a leader in helping people step into brokenness. I thought I was in control then. That at least I was only dancing every once and a while, and other people were working for me. I felt in control after so many years of being out of control. But in the end–I was still out of control. In 2002, I went to England for the summer with a friend. I flew back to South Beach, Miami, and was at the Internext Porn Convention, and looked around me and was so tired. I remember being outside the hotel, and a guy was standing on the side of the street, protesting porn with a sign in his hand that said John 3:16. I started talking about him and laughing at him with the people I was with. I remember thinking, “I bet he never gets to have sex.” I had just begun looking at starting a pornography production company with a friend of mine. At the end of the convention, I packed my bags and went down by the pool before I flew back to Mexico. And all of a sudden I started to cry. I had no idea how my life had gotten to where it was–I felt TOTALLY ALONE even though I was surrounded by people.

Each time I really started to process that, or look at the possibility that there could be more for me, I would stuff the feeling back down. During this time I went back and forth, believing that God existed. On one hand I didn’t believe he existed, and on the other hand, if He did exist, then surely I had messed up so badly that there was no hope for me. I thought a change of locations could change me, so in the fall of 2002 I moved back to Lexington, Kentucky.

I gave up my adult-entertainment booking business and left all of my belongings in Mexico City. Not long after I moved home, a friend of mine asked me to come to church, and I thought THAT was the craziest idea I had ever heard. After everything I had done and the person I had become, I didn’t want to go. I was used to this idea of hell-fire and brimstone, hymns and condemnation, and I thought if I started going to church I would have to stop wearing makeup and wear dresses with little flower print on them all the time. I felt disqualified from loving or being loved. I felt ashamed of my life, even though I was very vocal with people that I wasn’t.

When I first walked into the church I was met with love and grace from people and from God. I asked lots of questions about who this man Jesus was and could He really love me despite what I had done and even will do–the bad and the good. And it turns out He does. After six months of questioning, on April 27th, 2003, I finally got a picture of grace, all I needed to do was ask Him for His forgiveness, and ask Him to come live in my heart and lead my life. He made me a brand new person, and He changes me every day to look more like Him. He is restoring and redeeming parts of my life that I had no idea could be healed.

Even though the whole beginning of my life was following my own bad plan, Jesus redeemed it, and now I get to fully live in the dreams and plans God has for me and had for me from the beginning.

In 2005, I became one of the worship leaders at my church and still lead worship to this day. I joined the staff of my home church, Quest Community Church, that same year, and loved every second of it. There I found so much hope, healing and leadership from people who were just like Jesus in the flesh to me. During those first few years after giving my life to Jesus there was a lot of healing work to do (and there still is–I’m not perfect). I got to walk through the earlier abandonment issues I had. I got to really forgive myself for the decisions I made and began to see myself the way that God sees me. Pure. Forgiven. Redeemed. I had to grapple with the fact that I led people into huge amounts of bad decisions. God showed me that I was a lot like this guy in the bible named Saul. He was a leader in taking people down a wrong path, and after he met Jesus, his name changed to Paul. Paul began to lead people down a path of love and life instead of death and unforgiveness–and I could do that too. I could use my leadership gifting to lead people to freedom and life. I got to ask forgiveness from some of the ladies that I booked to work in Mexico–forgiveness for leading them into a dark place, and I am now friends with some of them.

In January of 2006, He used my history with addiction to pornography to begin an ongoing recovery program where multiple groups meet weekly for women who struggle with pornography and relationship addiction, and in that–over 300 women have found hope and healing. In that same year, I got a really clear picture from God about what it would mean to walk back into the clubs and let women know that no matter what has happened in their life, they are loved and wanted by Jesus. I knew I had to go through a healing process before that could happen, so I took great steps in pulling trusted leaders into my life to walk me through steps of freedom and forgiveness. I also got loads of people praying. I was staying accountable and asking for help every chance I could get. I started praying through the idea of taking in little gifts and cards with my email on it, and, in 2007, I stepped back into a club. We started the ministry BeLoved, and it is so amazing. I started getting emails from ladies there, and some of them started coming to church. The first woman I ever spoke to in a club, the woman working the door, gave her life to Jesus last year after realizing that she needed Jesus more than anything. So many more have since then. We have also just started a weekly support group for ladies currently or formerly in the sex industry.

In 2009, I married the man of my dreams. We had met a couple of years before at our recovery ministry, and after a year of being friends we started dating. We had both been in loads of bad relationships, so we asked our leaders for help on how to date well, and we ended up dating like we were in 1950. It was amazing! A year later he proposed, and six months after that we were married. He is such an honorable man to me and to everyone around him. He is an actual gift from God to me. Around the time we got engaged, after being in my job at my church that I LOVED, I stepped off of my position on staff with a huge amount of support from my church to use the best hours of my days focusing on BeLoved. Then in 2010, my pastor said the words, “Your story is your ministry,” and I was reminded of the business I had before I left Mexico. I had led so many women to feel great about dancing, talking them into thinking it was ok—that they were the ones in control, they were just exercising free will to make money selling themselves. I convinced them they wouldn’t have any regrets. And then it was so clear.

I had moved home to find hope, healing, restoration, and Jesus. Other women could too. I had a vision of a beautiful home for women who were survivors of the sex industry and sex trafficking. It could be free of charge. The girls and women who had already paid so much with their mind, heart and bodies could have a place where nothing was required from them. I texted my leaders immediately and started praying and doing research. I started having meetings, asking people onto a board of directors, getting all the paperwork in order to become a non-profit, and here we are today.

By next year, we will have a beautiful home in place to start taking in ladies. A safe place for hope and healing–and this really is just the beginning…

If you think that you have gone too far, that there is no hope for a fantastic life, that you could never be loved; borrow hope and courage from me. No one has gone too far. Everyone who runs to Jesus makes it.

Thank you Treasures for being a place where I know there are people who understand what my life looked like, even when I didn’t think anyone could, and for giving me a community to be a part of. Thanks for your love, encouragement and hope!