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.

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Lucky 13

lucky 13Lucky 13? I have to be honest. The thought of turning thirteen years sober was not pleasant. Apparently, I have some internalized superstition about the number “13” meaning bad luck.

Had you asked me 13 years ago what I would be doing today, it is quite likely that I would have said, “Please God, let me be sober”. I was desperate, exhausted, and willing to finally ask for help. I was pretty much agnostic at that time, but my desire to escape survival mode and start living inspired me to seek a power other than myself.

I remember my last line of crystal meth like it was yesterday. I had been pondering the idea of quitting for a few months and didn’t know till a week before the “finish line” that I was ready to quit. My addiction towards all drugs was a juggling act.  I smoked weed and bumped K to relax, sleep, eat, laugh, and escape my chaotic thoughts. I did Special K (Ketamine, not the cereal) to fall into a different universe that would sometimes give me hints to what my life’s potential would be. I remember flying over a concert-filled venue looking down at my fans that were cheering for me. Apparently they saw my potential. I think I was singing to them or maybe taking a break from my DJ set to fly by and give a round of hi-fives to the roaring crowd. Regardless of what my skill actually was, a few bumps of K before lying back on my waterbed was the perfect formula for inviting my fans into my trip (K-Hole).

I want to say that I didn’t drink too much. According to Lacie, the cocktail waitress at the bar where I used to DJ three nights a week, I was consuming quite a bit of alcohol. I remember running into her years after I got sober and made a comment that “alcohol wasn’t really a problem. I told her “I would have a couple Corona and a few shots of Patron – and would always finish my last drink before 11pm so I could responsibly drive home.” She looked stunned at my response and replied, “Those were triple shots of Patron”. Either way, my drinking wasn’t so bad compared to the bar regulars that could easily have had their names engraved next to their barstools. I could really take or leave the booze, weed, K, and other drugs. But Crystal or any other form of speed that would keep me up for days had seduced my inner-consciousness into a co-dependent marriage. Thirteen years ago today, that horrific relationship resolutely ended in divorce.

So what does that all mean today? It means that since Monday, March 28, 2005, I have been lucky enough to begin changing my life. How is thirteen years just the beginning? It’s just a gut. I have a strong feeling that the best is yet to come and I am starting to see my potential naturally.     

Something that a lot of people don’t understand about the addict mind (and I will refer to my own rather than speak for a group) is that I am addicted to anything that will temporarily relieve me of my harmful thought process that inevitably wants me dead if it goes untreated.

There is nothing anyone can say or do that will fool my natural, “stinking thinking.” For me, desperation was my best friend. It led my seemingly lifeless, skinny, infected corpse to individuals and groups that had figured out different methods of combating my mental “dis-ease (uneasy).” I prefer that word to disease because it’s easier for me to accept my terminal mental state as an inconvenience, handicap, or nuisance rather than a sickness.   From them, I learned that my situation was called alcoholism and the sooner that I surrender to this word (that I hated because alcohol wasn’t “my thing”); the quicker I was going to recover.

Since March 28, 2005, I have slowly learned how to better take care of myself. I have sought help from groups, taken direction from an individual that I call my sponsor, and found a therapist that I can be honest with (imagine that- not lying to a therapist). I have learned that it is absolutely essential for me to incorporate people that I trust in my thought process so I don’t hurt myself or someone else. Isolation is not my friend.

Am I happy? Yes, today in this very moment at 1:30 AM on March 29, 2018 I am completely content. Three days ago, I was engaging in a pretty uncomfortable argument with the guy I have been seeing since July. The silver lining is that I feel we learned something about each other. Rather than angry or sad, I felt compassionate, then loved. He lives in Manhattan, about 3000 miles away. But for some reason, my heart wants me to speak with him at the end of every day. How many couples can honestly say they speak for about thirty minutes a day to each other? How many couples can honestly say that they can’t wait to see each other?

I have learned how to live in gratitude. Living in gratitude does not mean I am always happy. It means that I have the ability to acknowledge each day as a gift. On November 18, 2016, my dad passed away a month after an unsuccessful attempt to remove a tumor from his lung. This was the worst month of my life. I felt emotions that I had only partially imagined. But somehow, I was able to reach into my sobriety toolbox and find a few things to be grateful for. My immediate and extended family and friends came together and took care of me. I felt needed when I was able to return a hug and take care of them. The experience turned me into a crier. I can’t even watch an episode of The Voice without crying. I love that my dad has given me the gift of being emotionally fearless.

Months later, I came down with an infection in my lungs, and found myself in the hospital for eleven days. Each day I was there seemed to get longer and it was difficult to feel gratitude at that time. But in retrospect, I spent few days without a visit from a friend. Some visits were from people who barely knew me. The experience taught me to see each day as a gift and every sick friend as an opportunity.

Clearly, there have been some setbacks the last couple of years. Sobriety has taught me that setbacks are only detrimental if you don’t see them as an opportunity to learn and grow. At my celebratory dinner tonight, my friend Paulo and I were discussing my angst of turning 13. He informed me that the number 13 is a holy number in the Jewish faith and that it is the age when a boy has his Bar Mitzvah. Paulo was surprised when I informed him that I had a Bar Mitzvah. Every once in a while, it takes a friend to help me see the silver lining. A Bar Mitzvah is defined as a “son of responsibility”. I like the sound of that and I’m ready to fly towards my potential.

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Nine Years Off Meth: What Happened

despairNine short-long years ago (Monday, March 27, 2005), I found myself sitting on the steps in front of my apartment complex feeling nothing.  I had been on a final walk after being awake for nearly six days and I knew the marathon had come to an end.  My body and soul were beaten into a comfortably numb state of shock.  I didn’t want to go to sleep, knowing that my body would need a few days of a xanax-induced coma just to begin recovering from the damage I had done to it.

Earlier, the first stop on this shameless walk had led me to the apartment of some guy I had met in an AOL chat room.  He greeted me with a bright smile (give or take a tooth).  I didn’t want him sexually, I just knew that he was partying (ie, high on speed) and that I could have some brief companionship with another human who was also high.  I snorted some of his meth, watched some of his porn, tinkered with his projects, and – insultingly – departed when he wanted to breathe a cloud of meth smoke onto my penis.  I didn’t enjoy smoking meth because it always gave me pneumonia, so I certainly didn’t want to know what that stuff would do to my penis.

I left his apartment and vigorously yet aimlessly walked down Santa Monica Blvd. at about 8am.  Knowing that I only had about one line left in my final stash, my mind was mapping out my journey home (about a five-minute-walk).  I held my flip-phone up to my ear and pretended I was having an intense conversation so passers by wouldn’t strike up a conversation with me.  I knew a lot of people in my hood and feared someone might notice me on the walk.  Looking back, I realize I was just like the crazy man I used to mock, the one I’d frequently see talking to himself on a payphone. My next stops were Los Tacos – a 24-hour Mexican restaurant so I could provide myself with some of the nutrients I’d deprived myself of for nearly a week (a tamale and enchilada combo with rice and beans), and then one last stop at 7-Eleven where I picked up some Gatorade and a bag of Nantucket chewy chocolate chip cookies.  I then floated home and found myself seated on the walkway steps that led to my apartment complex.

I sat peacefully, plastic bags of food at my side, as the bright morning grew even brighter. Finally, I made my way to the dust-filled apartment that I called my home.  My cat cried out for food as I entered.  I immediately tended to Kiki and pried open a can of Fancy Feast for my neglected baby even though my hunger pains screamed louder than his deep meows.  Fortunately, I was an addict who treated my pet better than I treated myself so he remained pleasantly plump. Physically, my body was speckled with infections.  I had small, itchy bumps on my arms, legs, and ass- jestingly I would call them my speed bumps.  Once again, one of my eyes was infected with mild conjunctivitis.  The edges of my nostrils and the corners of my lips were cracked from days of dehydration and poisoning myself with meth.  My asthmatic lungs were slightly filled with fluid making it hard for me to catch a full breath without yawning.

My friend Greg was in my living room, where I had left him before I had set out on my final journey.  He fearfully watched as I gorged on the food I had purchased.  I could tell by the look on his face that my eating manners reflected an animal that was consuming its first meal after a long period of starvation. I pushed the bag containing empty containers of food aside and told Greg I was done.  He had witnessed my week-long party and it was clear he doubted that this was my finale.  I looked him in the eyes and said:

“Seriously, this time It’s over.”

I reached into the pocket of my jeans and pulled out the Bic pen-cap that contained a rolled-up miniature zip-lock bag of crystal.  Then I opened the bag and poured the remaining contents of my crystallized speed on the table where I proceeded to smash the meth into powder form.  I used my California Driver’s License to line up the substance, rolled up a somewhat crisp dollar bill, and snorted my last line of meth.  I looked up at Greg and said:

“That was it, that was my last line.”

I threw away the bag of food along with the empty bag of meth and proceeded to shower off my filthy body.  I cleaned up well enough to be seen in public and put on my signature going-out outfit (jeans and a white t-shirt.)  I cleaned my apartment to the best of my ability and spent the rest of the day organizing things. The evening approached and I told Greg “It’s time for me to go to the meeting”.  Greg insisted that it would be rude for me to show up at a recovery meeting for crystal meth addicts while I was still high.  I replied that it was my only option and that I had to go.

I was greeted at the meeting by bright smiles, hugs, and “welcomes.”  The speed had worn off so I was struggling to return the smiles. It didn’t matter, though: these people understood me.  The meeting started and the leader introduced the “chip guy” – someone who presented little key chains to reward members who were celebrating sobriety milestones.  When he called upon those who had less than 29 days of sobriety, I stood up, dragged myself to the line of newcomers, and hugged the chip guy (who whispered in my ear “Welcome, keep coming back.” I faced the crowd of about 70 men and women and said:

“I am Jonathan.  And I am a crystal meth addict.” 

The crowd replied, “Hi Jonathan, welcome”. The lights dimmed which meant it was time for the main speaker.  I can barely remember what he said.  My mind was so spun and kept tuning in and out – I just wanted it to be over.  Then, something he said caught my attention: “If you are new here and used meth today, I thank you for being here.  Without your presence, I would not remember how bad things are on the other side.” After his share, I thanked the speaker – his name was Donato – for addressing me personally without even realizing he had done so.  He invited me to come to his home the following night where he hosts a recovery meeting for alcoholics every Tuesday in his backyard in Hollywood.  Although I didn’t realize at the time that I was also an alcoholic, I said yes.

Vitamin-D(2)Tuesday night at Donato’s has since become my recovery home group (ie, a meeting that I attend regularly.) My first day of total sobriety was March 28th, 2005.  Since then, I have had to change just about everything about myself and my life.  Some times have been extremely rough, while other times have been so full of joy that I am overwhelmed with happiness.  The main difference now is that I am living rather than surviving.

Each day is a gift and I thank God regularly to be blessed with the next dawn.