Alcohol dulls the senses. It hides pain. But only temporarily. It is ultimately a depressant. It eventually takes one’s unhappiness and magnifies it tenfold, a hundredfold. It at once allows you to hide yourself from others behind a series of masks, but unmasks you to yourself and shows you the worst aspects of who you are underneath it all.
Even with that I think my psyche needed the alcohol for the eleven plus years when I was drinking. In a strange way it protected me. I did not know how to deal with the pain of my childhood and it allowed me to survive–not in a healthy kind of way, mind you, but to get through my days with at least the perception of less pain in my wounded soul. I didn’t know how else to deal with the sexual abuse I had suffered from ten to almost eighteen years old. I have shared this before but what I went through was devastating. At ten years old I was manipulated into thinking I was going to play a game. I consented to being tied up to play the game–because I didn’t know any better–and instead of some fun childhood game my pants were pulled down and I was molested. The image I have of that day is my abuser’s back as he sat on my chest, and a crucifix up on the wall just past him, with Jesus looking down on everything but no intercession on my behalf. Jesus was silent. I have often said I lost both my innocence and my faith that day. The abuse, including rape, continued for more than seven years of my childhood.
I know now that my descent into drugs, alcohol, and other dangerous behaviors was in large part a reaction to that abuse (not to mention that I was just simply wired as a very addictive personality). It kept me from having to deal with it until I was better prepared. There was a huge cost for that emotional delay, though. I lost a lot during those dark years.
And yet I came through it. I survived–not unscathed, but I survived–and I believe I came out of it a stronger, more empathetic person. This is not the way I would choose to teach empathy and give strength to someone I love. Not everyone survives what I put myself through; I was lucky. But life has its ways. It gives its lessons when and where they are needed. One just needs to be open to the messages and the lessons that are presented. Without alcohol and drugs creating a fog my spirit opened up to the universe, to the lessons it had for me, to self-revelation and some universal truths.
Since I quit drinking my life has turned around. I became honest with myself. I grew strong. I became more open. I have shared the hard lessons in my life so that others’ lives might be a bit easier, and that has made my life better, too. I faced my abuse. I forgave myself for my drunken wasted years. I forgave myself for the abuse–those who are victims of sexual abuse often blame themselves–and I forgave my abuser. I still do not like him or trust him, but I let it go. I was able to write a play about those abuse experiences. I’ve had articles published about it and I’ve given written testimony in support of Wisconsin’s Child Victims Act. I formed a Facebook group for supporting survivors. I got several organizations to help sponsor and support a day-long conference on surviving childhood sex abuse that will happen on June 20. And in July I will be co-facilitating a male survivors support group. I am no longer hiding behind masks. I have unmasked myself and I have allowed myself to like the person behind the mask.
Today I am thankful that I stopped drinking 24 years ago. But I am also thankful for everything that has happened in my life, good and bad, because I have grown from it all. I will never drink again and I will never hide behind masks again. I am living my life authentically, and I am thankful for the opportunity. I am thankful for my life. I am lucky to have it.