14 Years Sober – A New Perspective

14 Years Sober – A New Perspective

Every year, around March 28th (the day I got sober), I have the privilege to reflect on how my life was before I got sober and why I so desperately needed to completely abstain from drugs and alcohol.

Today (3/28/19) marks the six-year anniversary of when I went public with my sobriety journey.  I reviewed my first entry (from 3/28/13) and I am filled with such gratitude that my perspective has shifted from confusion, fear, and some underlying darkness, to acceptance, faith, love, and light.  I promise to continue sharing stories of my past that emulate VC Andrews and Steven King books.  But today, I am feeling an extremely powerful God-given gratitude that supersedes reliving the struggles associated with my past.

I had a good day yesterday.  I worked, went to the gym, met with my sponsor (a fellow addict that mentors me in sobriety), purchased a few days worth of groceries from Trader Joe’s, then drove myself home to my humble (and cozy) apartment in East, West Hollywood.  After unloading my four double-bags of groceries, I heated up some vegetarian burritos and prepared a salad, juiced some ginger, then turned on my Apple TV in my living room, and set the empty Trader Joe’s bags near my front door next to some boxes of items that I need to sort through.

I did my ginger shot (burns so good… ginger is a natural anti-biotic, expectorant, and helps with digestion), brought my plate of food into the living room where I had created a dining space to watch a show on Netflix.  I then reached into my pocket and pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus, opened the Netflix app, and clicked on the first episode of the second season of the show, ‘OA’.  I then air-played the streaming show to my 60″ TV.  The show is about blind faith… how appropriate.

After finishing my dinner, I continued watching and fell asleep on the couch.  I woke up after midnight and acknowledged my 14 years of sobriety.  I thought to myself, “Thank you God for everything that I have today”.

From an outsider’s point of view, my ‘yesterday’ probably seems relatively “normal”.  Now I want you to try on my “sobriety goggles” and see and feel the subtext of yesterday’s journey.

Work:

The ability to work is a luxury.  I was able to show up for jobs amidst my addiction, but I wasn’t always present and wasn’t capable of doing “my best”.  I am grateful today to be accountable.  Like everyone else, I make mistakes (not excuses) and I get to correct them.

Self Care:

Working out is an activity that I couldn’t partake in when I was high.  I would attempt to work out, but my body became weak and vulnerable.  I don’t recommend doing yoga on meth.  Cobra pose wasn’t so bad, but try balancing on one leg or breathing into a meditation.  Good luck with that.

Today, I am blessed to have a gym membership that I use almost every day.  I am not a bodybuilder or “meathead” (nothing wrong with either), just someone that cares about staying in good shape so I can feel good as I grow older.  Thank you God for this privilege.

Personal Relations:

When I was using, I barely connected with anyone.  When I did, it was usually from a place of desperation, need, or manipulation.

Today, I still isolate and sometimes act selfishly.  However, I am lovable and kind and have the potential to develop strong relationships.

Thank you God for granting me the personality of an empath.

Groceries:

The four bags of groceries included a small arrangement of flowers that I gifted myself because I wanted to reward myself for my sobriety milestone.  There was a time in early sobriety when I relied on food stamps and utilizing food banks.  I remember going to High Holiday Services where they were accepting bags of food for a food drive.  I had brought a few cans of vegetables to donate to “their” drive.  I was too ashamed to tell my fellow congregants that I was going to be a recipient of these bags of food in the following days.

Today, I am grateful for each item that I am able to purchase.  And every time I see donation bags, I take their inventory.  I remember how I felt when I would get home from the food bank.  I would see the bags of groceries as mystery gifts.  I would take out all of the items and place them on my kitchen table.  It was a bittersweet feeling.  I was excited to have groceries, but felt that I didn’t deserve the hand-out.

IMG_3168Today, I have groceries in my refrigerator that I was able to pay for with my hard-earned cash.  The flowers are perfectly arranged on my kitchen table.  I notice each flower and color and think to myself, “Thank you God”.

Why the emphasis on the Trader Joe’s Bags?

IMG_3173The boxes of things to sort through were belongings of my father who passed away about 2 and a half years ago.  On my last trip to Dallas, I was determined to help my mom and sister find some closure by going through my dad’s closet and taking what I wanted.  I sent myself the boxes that have been sitting by the front door of my apartment for two months. It’s now time for me to find some closure.  I am going to use the Trader Joe’s Bags to sort; for keeps, give away, and two bags for undecided items.

Today, I get to practice self care and sort through the boxes.  It is time for me to let go of the things I will not use and give them to someone in need.

Materials:

I remember showing up to a high school reunion with a flip-phone with an antenna and one of my fellow classmates commented “I didn’t think they made those anymore”.  Clearly, the guy was an asshole.  Even so, the experience left me feeling shameful for not being financially secure enough to upgrade my phone.

Today, I spend way too many hours on my phone.  Taking photos and videos, playing casino games, unlimited calls and text, and streaming media consumes a huge portion of my day.  It is a guilty pleasure that I get to abuse.  Thank God for my materials.  I also ask God for help when I am gluttonous with my phone.  And I am grateful that my ex hasn’t removed me from his Netflix account.  Thank you God for helping me maintain a bridge that easily could have been burned (the friendship and the Netflix).

The Past:

Today I look at my past as an adventure that has brought me to where I am today.  I don’t regret my childhood trauma.  It is my story.  That’s it.  It could have taken me down, but I am resilient.  There are times when I get pissed off at the after-affects of molestation.  But those times pass and I get to grow stronger each time I get back on my feet.  A wise-person said, “Pain is a touchstone of spiritual growth”.  Year 14 was my most painful year to date.  Thank you God.

 

 

 

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I Was Molested, Chapter 1

I Was Molested, Chapter 1

 

Am I a victim?

IMG_2681The thought of calling myself a victim of molestation is nauseating. I’ve been down this road before and each time I get to the finish line, the road extends another block. In my head, the word “victim” sounds weak. Everyone is a victim of something. Why can’t I just get over it? I can’t get over it because I am living proof that the truth doesn’t always set you free. Will telling my story cause more pain and heartache for me, or will it allow me to break free, butterfly-like, from a cocoon of secrets?

What happened?

 

8 years 2In order to protect those who decided to shift my world before I knew what sex meant, I am refraining from naming the people involved in the crime. I don’t remember my age at the time of the incident that occurred while my parents were on vacation, but my gut tells me that I was about eight-years-old. It was at a time before I had pubic hair and had not yet considered the act of sex. I was sitting on the couch in the den of my family’s home with a man (friend/family member). We had been watching cartoons when he subtly landed his hand near my crotch. He inched his thumb and forefinger towards my penis and attempted to squeeze it through my shorts. At first, I wasn’t sure what he was trying to accomplish. But he explained that we were playing “Can you find it?” That made more sense. I told him that his hand was in the wrong spot and I guided his thumb and forefinger to the actual location of my penis, which was barely large enough to crease the cottony pajama material. It was now my turn to try and find his penis. I remember putting my hand where I estimated his penis would be above his blue jeans. I looked up at him smiling down at me and shaking his head like I had made a wrong guess. He proudly redirected me, “up, up, up, left.”   I was in disbelief when I saw the surreal enormity of the outline of his penis.   “That’s not it!” I exclaimed in disbelief. I remember reaching for his penis like a child greedily reaches for a gift on Christmas morning. “I found it” I said with excitement. I had won. Unfortunately, “Can you find it” ended abruptly when we heard the footsteps of his wife approaching. I remember the excitement that I felt when we played that game. It was our secret game and it made me feel special.

Initial Consequences:

That’s it. That’s all that happened. If the story ended here, I might have been able to walk away with a minor emotional scratch or scar. But that’s not my story. This experience may (or may not) have taught me that I yearned for attention from a man or an adult. This became especially confusing around puberty when I began fantasizing about men, including the molester. Was I fantasizing about the attention I received from this guy because I was gay or because it made me feel important to have the undivided attention and sexual arousal from an adult? I think it was both.

Either way, I hated myself for potentially being gay. I was confused, depressed, lonely, and too weak to kill myself. This state of mind opened me up for a second chapter (Chapter 2 will be shared at another time) of child abuse and a promising future of yearning for and obtaining instant sexual gratification. By the time I was 17, I was dabbling in an assortment of drugs, and letting others treat my body as a blow-up sex doll. I was like a wild animal seeking the same gratification from others that I had received from my perpetrators. Yes, perpetrators – plural – because there would be more than one.

The Unexpected Twist to My Story Our Story

Addiction is a progressive illness. The progress of mine seemed to be gauged by the increasing layers of secrets and emotional trauma that I was harboring. When I was 21 years-old and a sophomore in college pursuing my degree in psychology, my past and my secrets were comfortably compartmentalized and hidden by a thin layer of substance abuse, fraternity life, and scholastics.

That normal routine was interrupted by a phone call from a distressed family member that changed everything. When I answered his call, I could tell by the somber tone of the greeting that this was not going to be a casual conversation. Frankly, it was a relief to have the opportunity to listen to someone seeking my help. I had been seeing a therapist at the Student Health Center at this time for depression and chemical dependency. He was lightly sobbing and was having a difficult time revealing what was troubling him. I knew that if he was anything like myself, that there was little chance he was ready to share the core issue. So I dared to use a method that no one had ever tried with me; the blunt, no BS, un-sugarcoated approach. I asked him three questions that unearthed a decade of repressed feelings and memories.

Question #1:

“Were you raped?”

Answer:

“No.”

Question #2:

“Were you molested?”

Answer:

“Yes.”

Question #3:

“Was it (Perpetrator’s name)?”

Answer:

Yes.

Victim – Question:

“How did you know?”

Me – Answer:

“Because he molested ME TOO.”

The conversation stunned us. We both realized that we were not alone or at fault for what had happened. I wish I could say that I was comforted to no longer be alone. Instead, it filled me with rage. I realized that my childhood encounter with this adult wasn’t a “special bonding.” It was a crime scene.

I Am A Survivor of Child Abuse

IMG_2122 2In retrospect, this conversation initiated a series of life events that forever altered my life’s path. As a young adult, it was finally confirmed by association with the other victim that I was the product of sexual child abuse (the word “misconduct” is insulting). I had so many questions, emotions, and feelings come up that it left me feeling off-balance and rudderless.

Most people don’t understand the complexity of recovering from child abuse. In this situation, the duration of the actual abuse was about five minutes.  I carried the secret with me for over 10 years before I was comfortable sharing it with one person. When a victim shares their story, the recipient of the information now has the responsibility to process it, inform another person (or people), or keep the secret. When I shared the secret with my parents, they became victims and blamed themselves for the abuser’s action. When extended family members found out about the abuse, they shamed my parents for “allowing” it to happen and how they “handled” the situation. I can’t help but think of how this is also going to affect the perpetrator’s children who were my friends when I was younger. The victim list keeps growing.

I kept the secret because of shame and fear of how people would react. And when I found the courage to tell people what happened to me when I was eight years-old, I had to live through the abuse again while I was simultaneously feeling responsible for possibly placing a strain on my parent’s relationships with extended family and others related to the incident. What’s worse? Harboring a secret of my child abuse? Or revealing my secret that will inevitably split up families and put me on trial for public scrutiny?

It has been over 20 years since I came to realize what happened was molestation. I sit here now, ready to tell all, but I can’t. I can’t express the details because the perpetrator is still involved in my family’s life. And the other victim is not comfortable sharing his story. All I can do is share bits and pieces of my struggles so maybe another person dealing with this type of abuse can find some relief.

To The Survivor:

If you are a product of abuse, you are not alone.  If you are withholding secrets to save someone else’s face, you are not alone.  If you are just realizing now that abuse is part of your story, I can relate.

To the Perpetrator:

Hopefully this story will find its way into your hands so you can better understand the devastating after-affects of your self-seeking actions.