Keeping Secrets

Secrets. The better theyíre kept, the more powerful they become. For nearly half her life, Gigi Garcia kept her secrets so well they almost consumed her. Gigiís world blew apart at age ten when her father shot and killed himself in the backyard. With that one act, life as she knew it ended, and there was no going back. Her mother, now the single parent of 12 children, had to work two and three jobs to provide for them. Her siblings, who had been her primary playmates -- tightly bound by their fatherís control -- now dispersed. Her usual play area had become the site of her fatherís suicide. The world was suddenly a very scary place, so Gigi created her own secret world and retreated into it. In Gigiís world, she was loved, adored, and eventually, desired. ďI found pornography, and that was my way of escaping pain, escaping reality, escaping the dark world as I knew it.Ē Gigi was only 11 when she first discovered her brotherís stash of magazines. Their addictive power, accompanied by her own imagination and the critical element of secrecy, held her captive until she was 26. The outgoing, extroverted girl became shy and quiet. She withdrew more and more from real relationships in favor of fantasy ones. She became obsessed with men: ďI was inwardly thinking about them all the time, fantasizing, creating my own little world of what I wanted for my future. I imagined them as mine Ė my possessions.Ē Gigiís addiction limited her life more and more. After high school, she had no direction. First her mom, then her brothers, pushed her to get a job, but she preferred to be alone in her room with her fantasies. She found comfort there, and at least temporarily, her fears, her problems, disappeared. She was loved. Or so she imagined. Gigi became a Christian at 18, but her addiction didnít end there. Because it wasnít readily apparent, she could keep it secret. At the same time, she felt strongly convicted and desperately wanted to change. Only she couldnít. This back-and-forth battle of wanting to change and not being able to do so left Gigi loathing herself. If anyone really knew her, knew what went through her mind, she felt convinced they would despise her, too. She became depressed and began to have thoughts of suicide. Knowing the devastation of what her father had done, those thoughts pushed her to seek help. She went to her pastor, and her pastor recommended Anna Ogden Hall. At Ogden, Gigi found what she most needed and most feared Ė real relationships Ė ones where people know you for who you really are and love you. Ones where there are no secrets. She found Godís unconditional love reflected in the actions of people in the house. In this environment, she was able to admit her addiction, and the secret began to lose its power. She discovered that real relationships didnít have to be painful, and while not perfect, they had the benefit of being tangible. Real people can touch you and hold you and speak to you with thoughts other than your own. True, they can also hurt you, and when that happened, Gigi was tempted to withdraw, isolate, and comfort herself with fantasy, but she was surrounded by community. That community called her to accountability, to do the right thing and risk once again. Faced with the stark contrast between a loving community and the isolation of her secret life, Gigi chose community. She chose the truth over secrets, and the truth Ė met by unconditional love Ė did indeed set her free. Gigiís living in the real world now. After completing the majority of her program at Ogden, she worked at the Missionís thrift store, the Classy Rack, for a year, testing her new relationship skills in a work environment. She recently began attending Whitworth University and working toward her goal of one day owning a Christian bookstore. She chose to live on campus so that she would continue to be in community with people to hold her accountable. Gigi walked into Anna Ogden Hall two years ago as a woman enslaved to her secrets. Her bondage showed on her shaved head, her posture, and her facial expression. At Ogden, she found a group of Christís servants ready to extend His grace to her. She found a safe place, a healing place where she could be freed from the fantasies that had enslaved her for almost fifteen years. It didnít happen overnight, and it wasnít easy. Gigi did the hard work of moving toward her fears, of allowing people to care about her. She took the risk of sharing her secrets and found that people did not reject her. She slipped up, admitted it, and began again. She found the unconditional love of Christ that does not demand perfection. Gigi was transformed from slave to free woman by the healing power of Christ.