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Rachael Killackey, who struggled with pornography habit for years, tells St. Thomas More Oratory group ‘there’s always hope’

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Rachael Killackey, who runs a ministry for women in recovery from pornography addiction, speaks Feb. 16 at St. Thomas More Oratory. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

NEWARK — Pornography addiction is not a problem for men alone, and there are resources available for people who want to kick the habit, said a woman who runs a ministry helping women find recovery. Rachael Killackey, founder and executive director of Magdala Ministries, appeared at the St. Thomas More Oratory on Feb. 16 as part of the University of Delaware’s campus ministry’s “Catholic Conversations” series.

Killackey, speaking to an audience of about 30, began publicly talking about her sexual addiction when she was a junior at Ave Maria University in Florida. She began a support group on campus her senior year, and a few years later established Magdala Ministries. Today, Magdala is helping approximately 1,000 women, she said.

“I’ve seen what Christ can do in my life and in other women’s lives,” she said.

Killackey gave some sobering statistics to the audience. The average age of first exposure to pornography for boys is 9 and for girls is a few years later. Her first experience with it came at 13 with something written. As her addiction grew, she found ways to justify it.

“I knew porn was wrong, and I knew that only men struggled with it, which was a lie,” she said.

“It took me a really long time to admit it. I justified what I was reading and watching by saying that I knew not to do these things in real life. One of the hallmarks of addiction is that you make excuses for yourself.”

About one-third of pornography addicts are women, she said. In his introduction of Killackey, University of Delaware Catholic campus minister William Hamant said one in five searches on mobile devices is for pornography. Sin, he said, no longer seems remarkable after it has become a habit.

After trading in her smartphone for a flip phone in the hopes that it would help her stop her addiction, Killackey said she relapsed several times. She recalled going to adoration one evening.

“I found myself saying, ‘Jesus, I’m a porn addict. Please help me,’” she said. “And he did.”

As the Eucharist passed in front of her, she said she heard a voice say, “It is finished.”

Killackey said she has heard more than 1,000 stories from women in similar circumstances. That helped her realize she was not an anomaly.

“The real battle isn’t with addiction, it’s with shame. With the woundedness and the fear that we’re not worth anything better,” she said.

She feared that there would be no recovery and that sexuality was out of her grasp. She felt unfeminine and that other women felt so comfortable with themselves, but she didn’t. She felt unsafe in the company of men.

Each of us wants to be seen, known and loved. What any habitual sin does is work their way into one’s life to prevent that from happening, she said. Even after entering recovery, she felt uncomfortable. She finally confronted her fear.

“After graduation, I decided to go there, to confront this, what is actually going on,” she said.

There are a few steps to the healing process that she outlined in her presentation. One has to find vulnerability, to agree to “’go there.’ What is it? What’s at the center? Is it the rejection and the abuse you experienced as a child? Is it the fact that you felt less loved than your siblings? What is it? He wants to know.

“Until we let the mask fall, we can’t see his face.”

You can’t treat the symptoms and expect the problem to go away. That is like taking aspirin for a broken arm. Changing habits is harder than quitting the addiction, Killackey said.
Often, the things that wound us are the triggers for people to engage in pornography or other broken behaviors. Those wounds include isolation and fear.

There are others out there who are willing to fight the fight with addicts. She said her organization has a great time fighting the porn industry. It is “fun and freeing.”

Overcoming an addiction is not easy. It will take hard work and confronting the lies one has been told. Fighting these lies takes honesty, vulnerability and prudence, Killackey said. They are not easy topics to talk about.

“But I’ve seen so much freedom come from them, from finally confronting this,” she said.

Her addiction allowed her to know Jesus the way she does now. Her recovery has changed her life and brought her a vocation she never saw coming.

A second step is to decide what you are willing to do to be free. That might mean deleting social media or getting rid of a smartphone.

“Find your triggers. Learn to respond,” she said. ”Getting over addiction is difficult. Do difficult things.”

Thirdly, she recommends going to counseling, even if one has recovered.

“There’s always hope, and tomorrow’s a new day.”