Friday, January 11, 2013

Rachel's Story - Trigger Warning - Talking About Sexual Abuse

***Submitted by "Rachel"

My story begins as a 6 year old child.  The day the life I think I might have had ended.  I’m building my new life now and telling this story is a start. 

I grew up in an affluent neighborhood filled with doctors, judges, college professors, and politicians.  On the outside it was picture perfect. Nice homes, nice families, nice kids. 

 I lived with both of my parents and although they drank socially they are not alcoholics.   My relationship with my mother did not match the ideal neighborhood.  Outside of the home we were the Cleavers, inside the home she was difficult, and both physically and verbally abusive.  I was afraid of her moods and my sister and I did our best to keep her happy.  My dad was mostly absent or oblivious as he worked on a graduate degree in addition to working full-time.   In the battle to keep my mom happy and to stay safe, my sister, older by 4 years, was my biggest ally.  I often went to her for comfort when things were particularly bad at home or at night when I was afraid of the dark and storms. 

I spent many summer days and evenings traveling our perfect neighborhood with my best friends while my parents enjoyed cocktails and games with theirs.  Winters were spent in a similar fashion inside and the kids ruled/policed themselves in a rotation of basements.

Our favorite game was Capture the Flag.  In addition, the older kids on the block built a fort in the woods that was the pride of those granted entry and the envy of those that were not.  Access to the “club” was invite only and the clear leaders were 2 older brothers whose father was a judge.

I was invited to join the “club” by my older sister along with my 2 best friends when I was six.  Initiation into the club was performed in a dark basement and involved acts of sexual abuse performed by the older kids. I was the last to be initiated and by the time it was my turn the oldest boys were amped up by their experience and were increasingly violent.  All participated, including my sister.  I left that basement bleeding and in tears. 
Threats from the older kids, as well as fear of my mom and her reaction, cemented my decision to never tell anyone what had happened that night and I convinced my friends to do the same. 

I wish I could say that it stopped there, that the one evening was the end of my pain.  It was the beginning.  Following that incident my sister began to sexually abuse me in our home.  The person that was my biggest comfort became a source of tremendous pain.  The abuse stopped when I turned 12 and finally stood my ground and was willing to accept any threats and consequences of that decision.  I never spoke of any of these experiences to anyone.

In that basement I lost my innocence and I believe to this day that what occurred there, along with the circumstances within my own home, set off a chain of events that forever altered the path of my life.   I was left with both physical and emotional damage.  I felt a hole inside of me that felt dirty.  I experienced a deep level of shame that over the years has grown like a cancer.  I felt a constant need for approval and an unquenchable thirst for success as a way to erase my pain.   I experienced nightmares and was terrified of sex.

My coping skill was to attempt to be as perfect as possible.  I had to be the best at everything I did and I always thought that the next big thing I accomplished would be the thing that would erase my pain and fill that hole. On the outside I looked like a superstar, on the inside I was slowly falling apart.   I developed an eating disorder while trying to find something I could control in my life.  I spent 10 years thinking that starving myself was the answer.  I was not a drinker yet, it was too many calories and it did not fit with my perfectionism.  Instead, I was the designated driver and the “responsible one” that everyone else teased but called when they needed a ride home.

 I met my husband during this time and I hid the seriousness of my problems from him.  We dated long distance and I managed to look totally together on the weekends and would then fall apart during the week.  When he asked me to marry him I was both thrilled and terrified.  I knew he fell in love with the woman I portrayed on the outside and did not know the awfulness on my insides.  He had no idea how much I dreaded and hated sex.  I felt like a fraud.  I married him anyway because I loved him and he took care of me, he took me away.    

Our first year of marriage was a disaster but was the impetus for me getting treatment for my eating disorder.  I spent time hospitalized and in intensive outpatient.  I still did NOT talk about my abuse, but I did find meaningful recovery from my food obsessions and the next several years of my life were pretty good.   I discovered that with a glass or 2 of wine I could manage a sex life.   My career was skyrocketing and I loved the professional success, my marriage was stable, and I had 2 beautiful children.  I battled periods of depression, but I managed with medication and therapy. 

I found a therapist that I loved and trusted.  For the first time, at the age of 33, I began to talk about the abuse from my childhood.  It has been a slow and painstaking process.  I have spent many years pretending that it didn’t happen and then convincing myself that I was a willing participant and therefore at fault.  It is not easy to rewire that thought process and for every step forward I feel like I follow it with 2 steps back.  Drinking became a wonderful way to escape the shame/guilt spiral.  

My life felt overwhelming, 2 kids, a high pressure career, a desire to be the perfect employee, wife, mother, friend, neighbor.  I needed a level of perfection that was impossible to achieve to even feel worthwhile. Perfection was no longer enough.  Hard painful work at therapy was stirring up painful emotions that I didn’t want to feel and a glass of wine or two at the end of the day seemed like the perfect answer. 

From there the downward spiral was fast.   Fast forward a year and a half and a glass or 2 of wine had become a bottle or more a day.  I began to hide my drinking from my husband, I had blackouts.   I was and continue to be obsessed with alcohol.  How much did I have on hand, is it enough?  How can I drink more without people noticing?  I was full of shame, guilt, and hatred towards myself.  My life felt worthless and unlivable.  I found myself in a hotel room with 2 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of sleeping pills, letters to my dear sweet children and husband, and the intention to end my life.  I’m still not sure what stopped me from acting on my plan that night, but I will feel forever grateful that I did not.  

I found the Booze Free Brigade through an article in a magazine.  I found a group of women and a few men, with successful careers, mothers who also struggled with balancing it all, women who are not afraid to be real even when it is ugly. Women that may or may not also have experiences like mine, but   offer support in a way that I never dreamed possible.  I know that I was drawn to the group for a reason.  I still struggle with the idea that I am an alcoholic, but what I do know right here, right now, is that alcohol is running my life in a way that I am not ok with.  It is ruining my life.  My children deserve more, my husband deserves more, I DESERVE MORE. 

I am working hard at building a life I can be proud of.  I am giving that six year old girl a second chance at the life she should have had.  It’s not easy and I have many bumps on the road ahead of me.  I am going to take this journey SOBER with the help of my therapist and BFB.  

This is where my story begins…


  1. Thank you for sharing so bravely. Just want to send you some encouragement and a hug as your new story begins!

  2. "This is where my story begins..." That's the most beautiful statement. I also am sending you encouragement and hugs on your journey. You ARE worth it and I know that you will be successful in your sobriety.

  3. I too was sexuallized starting at a very early age....having no one to talk to, I believed it was my duty to carry my shame and the secrets with me like a black cloud....never could I be enough...I was always seeking perfection and yet never attaining it-thus compounding all the shame that weighed me down!! Ever more a F-up, I would say to myself!!!

    I am grateful that I don't have those same feelings about myself today!!!

    I encourage you to continue the journey of recovery and one day at a time the rawness and the shame dissipates and the pain of life's storms become eased!!! There is hope in the healing process!!!

    You are beautiful and loved and whole!!! Your life is precious and so is your story...Thank you for sharing yourself with me today!!!!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. You made me cry with your honesty and I wish I could go back and hug and protect that 6 year old girl. You are in my prayers and I hope that your new beginning is filled with nothing but happiness. you deserve it!

  5. You have taken a very brave step. l can hear in your voice that this is going to be the greatest thing you could ever do for you and your family. Be strong and reach out in any way you need to for help. We are all here for you. Karen

  6. You are on the path to a new way of living. It will be the best of times for you. Thank you for sharing your story. Light dispels darkness and you have lit the past.

  7. Thanks for your bravery and honesty in telling your painful story. You are an inspiration to many! Keep up the hard work, it is the best choice will you make. Blessings to you. Keep talking to yourself positively and lovingly :0)

  8. You are now embarking on the next phase of a journey, a life that began when you were 33. I was also abused sexually between the ages of 9 and 14 by someone in my family... and physically, verbally, emotionally and spiritually by my mother from as far back as I could remember. Though the physical part stopped when I was 16, the rest continued until I had to finally cut ties with her as part of my own recovery from codependency, a recovery which started in 2009, nearly 4 years ago now.

    I coped with all of that for many years by trying to control everything and everyone around me. Because I wanted to never again be little enough for people to push around, I became morbidly obese and I still am. My therapist tells me that this will take care of itself as I grow in my recovery.

    The journey is difficult sometimes, and those first few months are the hardest; getting used to a new lifestyle of rigorous honesty is a bumpy one for someone who always had to be a chameleon, to be liked... which is in itself a lot of pressure! However, now that I've lived this lifestyle for the last few years, I can say without a doubt that I am happier now than I have ever been, that life is so much better since I admitted I couldn't do it on my own.

    I still have to "parent" that small child in me that believes she is worthless and lazy, and only good for one thing, and will never amount to anything. She's grown up a little bit, and has even come to believe that what happened to her was the fault of those who chose to do what they did in their own dysfunction. I learned that forgiveness doesn't have to mean embracing the unrepentant offender or saying that what happened was okay; it means you free yourself of the burden of trying to make the other person pay for what he or she did. And that addiction is simply an obsession with getting or using or doing something, anything, that takes the pain away ... even if only for a little while.

    You are worth all the effort that it takes, you are worth every bit of help you are getting, and you will recover from the obsession with the things that "make you feel better." You will be able to be comfortable inside your own skin, and to look at yourself in the mirror and smile. Telling your story is a big part of that. Brava!

  9. Rachel, I cannot tell you how much my story mirrors yours and how much your courage for telling your story inspired me. I only recent told my therapist of 5 years what happened to me an soon after told my boyfriend. It felt as though a weight were lifted, but now I wonder how I could ever approach my sister about what happened. I wonder what your relationship with your sister is like now and how you are doing in your journey of sobriety. My thoughts and prayers are with you.