This story does not define me or my life. This experience is integrated into the fabric of my being. I am more than a survivor. I am resilient. I thrive in my life.'
This is the story of how I lost my virginity against my will.
I was 12 years old, the summer before I turned 13. The boy (almost a man at 18) had been one of my babysitter's boyfriends.
I had recently moved in with my father, after years of conflict with my mother. It was early summer, nice enough to be outside but not oppressively hot. There was no camp or summer vacation for me that year. The summer was spent hanging out in the neighborhood, around the basketball court.
I was not particularly interested in making girlfriends in this new neighborhood. I was looking for thrills, excitement, cigarettes, attention, anything to keep me away from the pain of being me, of being alive. The intoxication of intrigue and sexual desire had already become a drug for me. I hadn't had sex yet (other than a few kisses and childhood sex play with peers), the euphoria that I felt from obsessing about boys, fantasizing about sex and being in love was satisfying my need to escape reality.
When this boy/man talked to me and showed interest in me, the sensations in my body felt good, I felt good about being alive in that moment. He had never really paid attention to me before. He was older and sexy with his beautiful skin, thin muscular body and big lips. He had no heart, he was cold as ice, this may have been the most attractive part of him. I wanted to be that, cool and hard, invulnerable. His attention gave me a little cred with the other kids at the basketball court because of his tough guy reputation and his criminal enterprise. This attention and cred was giving me everything I thought I needed in life, the euphoria of attention and a place to belong.
My father was new to parenting, but he knew enough to give me a curfew (maybe 9PM). As my curfew approached I knew I wanted more of this good feeling; the perfect weather, the cigarettes and pot, the feeling of belonging and being special. I decided to ask my dad if I could stay out later.
I went in to find my dad and his friends sitting around on the floor playing cards. I asked him if I could go back out and he said yes. One more hour.
I went back to the basketball court for more marlboros and more of the good feelings. Too soon my hour was up and it was time to go home again. This time Jimmy walked home with me, my house was just a few blocks from the basketball court. My front door was actually a gate to an alleyway that led to a back apartment. Jimmy kissed me at this gate. I woke up inside. I didn't really like how wet his kisses were but I liked being physically close to him and feeling his desire for me. I decided to ask for more time so I could get more of this. Jimmy waited at the gate for me while I went in to ask.
My dad and his friends were still sitting around on the floor playing cards. The apartment was filled with smoke. There were beer bottles, money, ashtrays and cards arranged neatly around the circle. My dad knew what I wanted. He was always seemed to know what was in my head. He said I could have one more hour.
As soon as I came back out Jimmy had his mouth on me, he was more forceful now, pushing me against the wall next to the gate. I felt the bricks pushing into my back. I started to feel more conflicted now, not liking the way he pushed into me or his wet kisses that now felt almost like he was drooling on me. I was still enjoying the feeling of being touched in a way and feeling his desire for me. I am not making euphemism for his erection. I mean I enjoyed the energetic feeling of his desire for me.
He whispered in my ear "Do you want to get Fucked?"
I liked the feeling of his hot breath in my ear, but I froze with fear, because I did not like the tone of his voice. I thought I liked sex (from my imagination, masturbation and the games I had played as a little girl with my peers), and looked forward to playing with someone that I loved. I was pretty sure that' s not what he meant when he asked if I wanted to get fucked. I was pretty sure he wasn't asking either. I couldn't speak.
He whispered "Have you ever been fucked? I think you want to get fucked"
Still I couldn't answer. I was frozen with fear inside.
I know now that when the nervous system detects a life threat, there are three possible reactions: Fight, Flight, Freeze, or some combination. At 12 years old, my nervous system had been habituated to freeze in the face of danger.
Jimmy was not really asking anyway, he didn't need an answer. He had decided that he was going to fuck me no matter what my response was.
He started to lead me across the street, heading for a patch of grass behind the I-95. Moving my body snapped my mind back and I knew I did not want to go with him. I turned to walk away from him, back to my apartment.
He grabbed my arm and yanked me back to him. He easily picked me up, holding my arms against my body and carrying me like a baby. I squirmed and kicked. Now my words came back.
"I don't want to"
"Yes you do" he said.
The fear and the guilt and confusion set in, the defeat. The certainty that I had made a mistake and now I was going to pay for it. I once again froze.
He carried me to the hill behind the I-95. The highway was across from our house on Front St. in Queen's Village. We were literally 4 lanes away from where my father was winning at poker on our living room floor.
I don't think I tried to run before he put me down the grass, I had surrender to the guilt and defeat and was now in freeze survival mode. He held me down with the weight of his body and his hands.
Then the panic returned and I struggled to get free, he was crushing me with his body. He pulled my underwear down enough to get access and so that they became a restraint, holding my legs together so that I couldn't kick him.
As he tried to push inside of me, it hurt and I felt as if I was suffocating from the inside out. I held him away with one hand I had free, but he was stronger than me, he just kept pushing into me.
I wasn't strong enough to hold him back.
This is the part that remained the clearest in my memory. I have seen this memory from many angles over the last 34 years; sometimes crystal clear, sometimes opaque. The memory of my hand on his hip pushing him away, the feeling that my greatest effort was useless, has always been crystal clear. I prevented him from crushing me and from fully entering me but not from penetrating me and totally overpowering me.
Eventually it was over. He came on my belly. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever seen in my life.
I made my way home, stunned, dazed, crushed. Full of guilt, remorse, shame. I walked into my house to find it empty.
This empty house was and has been a defining moment in my life. My father and I were close emotionally. I believe that if he had been home that he would have known something was wrong and he would have been my father. Jimmy would be dead or in jail. Probably dead.
As it was, I was left alone to integrate this experience in such a way that I could survive and go on. I took a shower and went to bed.
By the time I woke up, my guilt, shame and fear were buried. I convinced myself that I had not been raped, I had sex willingly and now thought of myself as an adult who was going to pursue sex at every opportunity.
I buried the parts where I was afraid and had resisted. I couldn't shake the feeling that I had made a mistake that I had to pay for. That feeling haunted me through addiction and sometimes still does. I survived by making sense of this experience in a way that allowed me to feel in control of my life and sexuality and move on.
The twists and turns back to the full experience of that night are another story.
Today, a little over 34 years later, I am thriving. I have embraced vulnerability, authenticity and life. I do not live or think of myself as a victim or even a survivor. I think of myself as a human being living my best life.
I am not responsible for my disease. I am responsible for my Recovery. I am responsible for my own happiness and freedom.
The line between taking responsibility for all the harm that I caused during my active addiction and blaming myself, my parents, society, or God is fine and often elusive. This line is illuminated through introspection, stepwork and meditation.
In order to make amends and live in such a way that aligns with my belief system I must acknowledge the harm that I cause without getting stuck in blame. Blame (whether assigned to myself or anyone else) strips me of the power to change and live as I was born to be. When I hold other people accountable for my feelings, for my experience in life, then I have no responsibility for myself. As long as I continued that process I was never going to be happy or even in my own life because I was giving my power and my life away by giving someone else responsibility for it.
I take responsibility for my life and my happiness, and my behavior. I learned this through changing my behavior first. Changing my behavior, so that I became familiar with how the process of taking responsibility looks and feels. Choosing to engage in a recovery process by taking my body to the places where other recovering people congregate, choosing to begin new habits. Choosing to tell the truth to best of my ability. Choosing to trust another person to guide me into a new way of living. These are the choices that demonstrated my responsibility. I gradually stopped waiting for someone to fix me, give me what I thought I needed or make right all the wrongs I thought I had been done to me.
Choosing new behaviors had an effect on my thinking in such a way that I became better and better at choosing actions that were aligned with my beliefs. Beliefs that were buried under lies and revealed through practicing spiritual principles like surrender and acceptance. These new behaviors and thoughts changed the way I felt about being alive and being a part of this world. I began to embrace this life and tentatively take the power of responsibility for my happiness and my destiny.
I am responsible for my perspective and my behavior. I am responsible for my own happiness. I am responsible for knowing that when someone makes me feel some type of way, that's because I feel some type of way. It's not about what the other person did. Even if the other person was clearly wrong or harmful, I have a choice about what I do with my behavior, thoughts and feelings. Learning to take responsibility in this way gave me the freedom to explore and discover my likes, dislikes, wants, needs, values, and beliefs. I can now choose to live in alignment with my truth, operating from an internal locus of control. Free from the burden trying to figure out what I'm "supposed" to do, free from the illusion that I need to be anyone other than myself.
These choices and the act of taking responsibility gave me Freedom from guilt and shame. I used to think that not being responsible for my addiction was a copout, something that addicts told each other to get out of being accountable. I have learned that having compassion for myself and knowing that I was not in my right mind gives me the freedom to acknowledge and accept the things I did. I have learned that Accountability and responsibility are not the same thing. I am accountable for the harm I caused in active addiction and in my entire life. Accountability is what drives my amends process. Responsibility holds me accountable in the present and pushes me into a future where I am fully aligned with my highest Self and my beliefs.
Early in recovery I discovered that I did not know the difference between rage and disappointment. It took a few times of me feeling rage and acting out on it (throwing things, breaking things, screaming, feeling out of control) and then being responsible for my own emotions by looking at why I was acting in this way and feeling out of control. I learned that rage was how I reacted to not getting what I wanted. Once I had this knowledge, I became accountable for my behavior. Over the years, as I integrated disappointing experiences from my life and learned how to manage expectations, I have learned how to accept disappointment, most of the time. If I find myself enraged, I ask myself "am I disappointed?".
There are plenty of things that make me angry, being responsible for my life and my happiness means that I look at myself before I go looking to make someone else accountable for my own feelings.
Today, I take responsibility for my happiness and my life by choosing to be honest with myself and others about what I like and don't like. I choose to get a better perspective on my life. I am the first one I look at when I'm unhappy with someone or some circumstance. What are the choices that brought me here? What motivated those choices? What choices do I have now regarding my behavior, my thoughts, my perspective? The more consciously I choose my actions, the greater power I have to manifest the four aims of my spirit: Purpose, Abundance, Love, Freedom