Surviving and NOT Ashamed.
It has taken me a long time to wake up in a place more healed and less afraid. To rise up with my own agency and feel confident telling others we are not alone. And neither you, nor I, have a reason to be ashamed. And to everyone in our society who blames the victim and fails to support them when they stand up you are the ones who have shame on your hands.
It was late one night in the early 2000's and I drove alone on an empty highway through Colorado. Where I was going or where I had been I don’t remember, maybe hiking, maybe cross country road trip, maybe some odd job in some odd place, it really doesn’t matter. Talk radio was going deep into the suppression of childhood trauma and sexual abuse. The repression that occurs and how often it creates intense feelings and often negative life outcomes but the mind often blacks out the exact memory to cope…
I don’t know how much time passed maybe weeks, maybe months. But serendipity is the confluence of life. I got a call from my mom and the neighbor who lived behind us sometimes babysat me had passed away.
A flood of emotions returned. A tidal wave, full tsunami crashing over my life that night. No clarity came but I knew what had happened. If I could see her one last time what would I say. Would I scream at her for what she took from my childhood. For the complications she created in my relationships around trust that would linger for another decade.
If I could see her now and talk to her, I’d hug her and tell her too it will be OK and I forgive her for I know she had been hurt too. That together we could break the cycle.
I don’t care what happened back there. I don’t need to regress for the details. With each day I walk further from that darkness and take a step closer to the next era of my new self. With each step, too I hope our culture gets better. That the collective we stops shaming victims of all kinds of abuse from mental, to sexual, and physical violence.
For so long I lived in fear…
Once I realized what had happened I wondered how I would tell my mom. I didn’t want her to think I blamed her. But for a few years I did. I don’t now. She couldn’t have known.
I feared that somehow it would taint who I am as a man. That if too many people knew, that if I ever ran for a political office, it would make me weak. If you choose to read following stories about my life you’ll see this theme reoccur. A fear of our society and that somehow the truths of my life must be hidden. I’m fearful no-more and will not be ashamed of my journey. For these highs and lows make me up, I am human.
But it led to so many complications and I want to keep them secret no more. Because I think these kinds of secrets hurt. Not just me being bottled up, but everyone who is struggling. Everyone who feels like they have to go through these things alone. You don’t and you’re not alone. We are the survivors and that makes us stronger and capable of a love that others may never know.
The struggles — trust
There is no one I can speak for but myself. But the aftermath of this left a stain on my life I’ve been cleaning up ever since. Stains like this are probably common for most survivors. For me it manifested itself in trust issues, self-medication, sexual exploration and something that looked like addiction.
The trust is maybe the simplest. For most of my life I had been pretty distrustful of others especially in the context of relationships. It manifests itself in not really believing a partner or believing they’ll stay. That can lead to some really self-destructive behavoirs and more often than not pre-emptively ending what might have been a good relationship.
It’s a work in progress. We all are. I‘ve been on a long personal spiritual journey to make sense of this world. In 2010 I finally found a spiritual practice that helped me make sense of all of this and for that I am thankful. It has allowed me to clear away the fear, the shame, and anger. It’s been replaced with hope, power, and love.
The struggles — self medication
Only after a lot of self-reflection can I talk about the personal complications with alcohol. Oh the stories… You’ll see that I have a pretty bold zest for life which coupled with alcohol lands one in some beautiful, sometimes sticky, sometimes dangerous, and sometimes dark situations.
In context to this story it’s probably all of the above. But I think the darkness is the one that is resonating as I type this. I could start the story in a hundred locations. First a something triggers me, a word, a phrase, a movie, a who knows what. Second the emotions arrive in a swirl of passion, anger, sometimes shame, then those emotions mix with chemicals like testosterone, adrenaline, alcohol. They all keep feeding on each other. I step from this body. Maybe it looks like the most epic dance party you’ve ever seen. Other times I would slip into silences.
I would show myself out and walk into the darkness. Maybe drinking more. Not concerned about this tainted mortal body any number of chaos filled adventures ensued…
I need these adventures no-more. Now that I’ve broken that cycle of pain, I can respect this body. The beauty of this lifetime.
The struggles — sex and addiction
Juicy at the end. If you’re reading I hope it’s good for you. I hope you’ve covered your children’s eyes.
So much fear attached to the world knowing. We’ve made sex so taboo. The social ramification for being public about sexual exploration can be career ending and force relocation from a community. I hope being honest is another crack in the stigma and lets others who have a freak flag fly it a little more bravely.
From a young age I was a drawing images of naked people in somewhat strange and compromising situations. I’m talking like 7. I guess if any adult would have found them I would have been in counseling then and the rest wouldn’t have happened but that is not how the story went.
Early on, I pushed sexual partners into more exploratory and dark S&M scenarios. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of gray but it’s probably a bit like that. Convincing each partner along the way to engage in different and more complex acts. Being less satisfied with sex as a normal act. For me it had to have pain to be truly pleasurable. It had to be dark. Because that is what I knew, that was my introduction. Sex and pain and love were all inter-connected.
It also connected to porn, a lot of porn. Dark and S&M porn. It strained relationships. It ripped them a part… It would consume hours and hours of my life and I couldn’t stop. I wanted to and couldn’t. It somehow comforted me. It was so bad, I would have sex even the dark kind that fed my need and if I didn’t fall asleep with my partner I might be up for hours more consuming. Like any addiction it hurt me, it hurt my partners even if they didn’t know why. Because the internet would always serve up more they could never compare. They would never have enough costumes. They could never be as good as the fictional world I lived in inside my mind and online. I can’t erase the pain that caused. To those partners I’m sorry.
For you the reader though I’ll share a story. A glimpse into this world. It was late in September and I was in the middle of an intense and stressful campaign. I questioned what would happen if the world had pictures of this campaign staffer going into a fetish club. It seemed like a bad idea and yet I couldn’t stop.
Crack, crack, crack, the whip came down. I was leaned up against something in just combat boots and shorts. Drift into the image of any dominatrix and that’s probably right. “Hard enough?” she asked.
“You can go harder” It played into this theme of self-destruction. Of pain as key to some sensual, and sexual experience.
It turns out she thought it was as hard as she could hit. The whip came down with fury until she caught the side of my face. Breaking the skin, blood trickled from my cheek. I don’t remembered what she said but she was done.
I walked off again into the night with a bruise across my face and my inner demons still not healed.
The next day I explained I was in a fight to my boss. How could I tell here where I’d been?
The wasn’t the last time there but the more I looked, the more I saw people in pain. Not in pain just from the whips but trying to exercise some demons from their past. Maybe not the same demons but demons none the less. No judgement, I think also some folks were just having exploratory fun too.
But on more than a few faces I could see pain similar to mine. I remember my last night at one of those parties. What I was looking for wasn’t there. I broke that cycle of pain walked out the door and never went back.
It’s been over two decades and it still lingers in. I meditate a lot now. I focus on the beauty and love that makes up the universe. Sometimes jokes about child molestation or rape culture still dig deep. Start to draw on the demons. I breathe through it.
If you are wrestling too feel free to reach out. I’m here and happy to share what has worked for me. You can see a bunch of things above that haven’t.
I’m no longer ashamed and fearful that you’ll find out.
I am empowered to be a shoulder for others who struggle.
I am a survivor and I’m not ashamed.