***Trigger warning: sexual violence, sexual assault, rape.***
The consequences of my active addiction have long since disappeared. My debts are paid off, my health problems have vanished, and my relationships are stable. The people in my life trust me, I have references if I decide to apply for a job, and the fallout from my many lies is not tumbling down around me. I’ve been sober long enough now that my life is simple, quiet, and predictable, and I very much like it that way. But there’s one consequence of my drinking that still haunts me. I have no idea if it will ever go away.
The trauma of my rapes is with me every single day, and nothing I do seems to make it better.
I’ve been raped three times and sexually assaulted more times than I can count. In a culture where victims are so often blamed for their assaults, I defiantly declared that I was not at fault for what happened to me. Whether or not I actually believed that is another story altogether.
When I got sober and began 12-step work, I got to the part in the process where I had to look at how I was to blame for resentments I carried. I became angry, telling my sponsor that I refused to admit I was in any way responsible for resenting the men who had raped me. But as I began to write, a couple of things became clear. The first was that while I was not responsible for someone else’s decision to violate me, I was responsible for the way I used that pain to manipulate people—to get people to feel sorry for me—and to give me an excuse to drink.
The other thing that became clear was that, while I was not assaulted every time I drank, every time I was assaulted I had been drinking. While that in no way gave anyone the right to harm me, I also had to recognize I was in those situations because drugs and alcohol brought me there. Those were two of the hardest truths I ever had to admit to myself. And for a while, I was okay.
I used sex as self-harm for so long that I’m not sure I ever knew what it was like to have sex for pleasure.
I had sex because I wanted to feel wanted. I had sex because I wanted people to like me. I had sex because I didn’t want my partner to be angry with me anymore. I had sex because I wanted drugs. I can’t remember a time that I ever had sex because I wanted to have sex. At the time, I sometimes thought I wanted to, but looking back it’s clear that I didn’t know what it meant to want it. And the more sexual trauma I suffered, the more I drank. And the more I drank, the more sexual trauma I suffered. It was a vicious cycle that was impossible to remove myself from.
When I was around one year sober, my trauma resurfaced in the form of dissociation. Every time my partner tried to touch me, I disconnected. I checked out. I was not present. And in the two years since, nothing I do has fixed that. I’ve tried step work, I’ve tried therapy, we’ve tried various different “take it slow” methods. When I took a 7th step, I said I was willing to give up any part of me that I had to in order to be well. Maybe the sexual part of me is something that I have to lose in order to find peace, but I’m not sure I believe that. And it’s definitely not fair to my partner.
I am three years sober, and it has been over a year since I last had sex with my partner. I’m no longer angry at the men who hurt me. I forgave them long ago. But I find that it’s harder to forgive myself for the harm I allowed to happen to me, while drunk, under the guise and lie of consensual sex. I wonder if I’ll ever know what it means to have sex for no reason other than because I want it. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to have my partner touch me while I stay fully and completely present for it.
I wonder if I’ll ever know what it feels like to believe that my body is really and truly mine.
What I know for sure is that the harm done to me by other people when I was drinking, is nothing compared to the harm I did to myself. Maybe one day this will all be behind me, but today is not that day.
This post was submitted anonymously.
This post originally appeared on Sober Mommies in December, 2014.