I used to hate the #metoo movement, but then I got sober.

Photo: Piotr Marcinski on Shutterstock

My “Anti-Feminism” Facade

I used to think being raped meant being assaulted in a dark alley by a stranger. I hated the #metoo movement. I blamed the victims for being weak and had nothing but sympathy for the accusers. The stories I heard didn’t phase me.

This isn’t real rape, I would think to myself. I’ve been through way worse and I’m fine!

I had no choice but to blame the victims, because the alternative meant having to identify as one.

This made me a loud and proud anti-feminist to anyone who would listen, not that I had even the slightest clue what any of these words meant. (Ridiculous, I know.)

But all this changed the moment I got sober. 

The anti-feminism mask I wore was nothing more than a shield. It was the armor that protected me from facing the truth. I felt comfortable on “Team Man.” Here, I could chug beer and watch football and distract myself from deep personal issues I wasn’t ready to face.

But now, with alcohol out of the picture, it’s no longer possible to hide from the fact that I, too, am a victim.

The Alcohol Disconnect

I learned from an early age to mentally check out during uncomfortable sexual moments. And as I got older, I realized that adding alcohol to the mix made it even easier to disconnect sexually. This made me the perfect target for abuse, and when you are inebriated every single day of your life, it’s not very hard to attract that type of attention.

Most of the times I was taken advantage of sexually throughout my life were isolated instances, and considering the fact that I was under the influence almost every time, it became natural for me to constantly blame myself.

You’re getting yourself into these ridiculous situations, what the hell do you expect? I would ask myself, then promptly absorb 100% of the blame.

It was easy to operate under this mindset, especially with drugs and alcohol as my loyal companions. So each time I was violated against my will by yet another man, I would blame myself and whatever substances were pumping through my body at the time and swiftly shove the bad memory away.

It wasn’t until my own boyfriend sexually assaulted me that I woke up to the reality that I, too, had been a victim. Or rather, #metoo.

My Double (Sex) Life

Among many other awful things that my boyfriend used to do, one of his favorite past-times was to ambush me with threesomes when I was drunk and coked out. He would convince me that the complete stranger in my living room was a “surprise” for me, and that I should “just relax and have fun.” 

It became such a regular occurrence in our relationship that I eventually became terrified of doing coke with him because I knew the hell that awaited me next. And as the party girl who never said no to coke, this was a pretty good sign from the universe that shit was getting bad.

I would also twist these awful stories around in my head, re-crafting the narrative until the day’s events no longer resembled the truth. In the beginning, my boyfriend was the one lying to me, trying to convince me that I was having fun. But in the end, it was me trying to convince myself of this fact, because the truth was so much more disgusting to handle.

It was much easier to paint myself in the “cool girlfriend” light than admit the fact that I was being presented to complete strangers for sex against my will – in my very own home. Even in my perpetual state of inebriation, I knew that there was no way in hell I could tell my friends what had really happened without twisting the story around to say that I agreed to it.

Giving the Abuse a Name

When you are systematically being abused or raped by your partner, you begin to feel alone and unworthy of help. The more it happens, the more isolated and trapped you begin to feel. On one end, you know in your gut that what is happening is not okay, but the other half of you is riddled with self-doubt that keeps you from speaking up. 

Society has conditioned us to think of rape and a dangerous encounter with a violent stranger, so many of us are unable to even label our own abuse as such without feeling like an overly dramatic bitch.

Because we often feel helpless, many of us build walls of protection around ourselves to justify and cope with the behavior. After all, this is often much easier to do in the moment than to accept the truth.

I know in my case, I began drowning myself in more and more drugs and alcohol as a means to detach – not only from my physical body, but also my emotions.

Near the end of my abusive relationship (and addictions), it was as if my subconscious mind was screaming at me to get out. I was scared but also neck deep in self-hatred. The only way I knew to cope was to double down on my growing list of addictions.

In the end, nothing made sense to me. Not in my life, not in my relationship, and certainly not in my head. I was completely lost and drowning – even my addictions couldn’t hide this fact from me anymore.

Accepting the Ugly Truth

Admitting that I have been sexual assaulted has been one of the hardest thing I’ve had to do in sobriety. It’s forced me to face uncomfortable truths that I had kept deeply shoved away for the past two decades of my life.

Sobriety has forced me to look at people I love and admit to myself that they violated me against my will.

When I was drinking, it was easy for me to brush these events under the rug. I preferred to blame myself, because doing so exonerated my abusers from their crimes and allowed me to continue loving them and having them in my life. My victim-blaming stance was the only way I could justify the hell I kept putting myself through, while continuing to avoid facing difficult truths about the people I considered the closest.

In a strange way, allowing this abuse was also a form of control over my life. By convincing myself that it was my fault for inviting the negative attention in, I still felt like I had a shred of power to stop it. But the truth is, I had been completely powerless all along.

No Self-Respect, No Boundaries

The real protection I needed was boundaries. Drugs and alcohol stripped me of my dignity and self-respect, to the point that I wasn’t even sure what I was trying to protect in the first place. I wasn’t present enough in my own life to define who I wanted to be as a person, so I allowed others to do it for me. 

I prioritized everyone else’s needs over my own, which I now realize was a desperate attempt at seeking validation. Combine this quality with my “surprise” threesomes with strangers, and I’m pretty sure you can figure out how my boyfriend was able to use me for so long.

But now, with drugs and alcohol out of the picture, I am finally getting to know myself and understand my values and needs for the first time. I have a much clearer picture of the boundaries I need to set to stay safe, while finally seeing the dangerous link between my lack of boundaries and addictive behavior.

Learning to Forgive Myself

I’m still trying to forgive myself for allowing this to happen, while also coming to terms with the fact that I have been extremely unfair to other women who have gone through the same thing. Re-framing the belief systems I desperately held onto all these years is going to take time. 

Even now, it’s so hard for me not to revert back to my victim blaming ways. It’s hard for me to pity myself for what happened, due to the simple fact that I didn’t leave him right away after the first time. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” If that’s the case, then shame on me at least ten times to his one.

I resented myself for not leaving after the first time. I hated myself for hating myself so much that I allowed it to happen. Even now, I still blame myself more than I blame him.

It doesn’t matter that I said no 100x and cried and pretended like I was going to die to make it stop. If actions speak louder than words, the fact that I would eventually cave to his demands makes what happened partially my fault.

Because I was never violently forced to do these things, it was hard for me at first to accept the severity of the situation. But now that I am not in a drunken haze, I realize that being threatened, locked out of the house, slut-shamed, screamed at, and humiliated with revenge porn is pretty textbook sexual assault. 

I wasn’t strong enough to leave him on my own, which is pretty indicative of the mental state I was in when my addictions had a hold on me. But luckily, this cycle abuse helped me to realize that it was in fact my addictions running the show and not me.

Admitting I was an Addict Meant Admitting I Was a Victim

For some reason, the revelation that substance abuse was now controlling every aspect of my life is what finally gave me the strength to face my addictions head on.

I knew that I wasn’t capable of stopping the abuse while my addictions still had a hold on me, and I also knew that my boyfriend would no longer be able to control me once I got sober. I was finally waking up to the fact that getting sober was the only way I would be strong enough to protect myself and leave.

Come to find out, I was right. My boyfriend was no longer interested in me once I wasn’t a fucked up mess. Now that I have a sense of self and an arsenal of new boundaries in place, he doesn’t want me anymore.

It wasn’t until I began freeing myself of my own prison that I was finally able to escape his.

As an addict, it is so easy to stay in denial. There is always a justification or excuse to buy more time under the influence. So while I wouldn’t wish this particular event on anyone, I can say with complete confidence that being sexually assaulted by my partner was the firm line in the sand that even my addictions could no longer could justify.

Finally on “Team Me”

I always knew that getting sober was going to solve a lot of my problems, I just didn’t quite understand how. But now that I am getting to know myself for the first time, I think it’s safe to say that I’m finally learning how to really like myself too.

I actually want to keep myself safe and protect myself. This is an extremely strange and foreign feeling that I have truly never experienced until recently – to the point that it feels corny and uncomfortable to even put into words. I am so accustomed to self-sabotage and abuse that it still makes me cringe to even type the words “self-care” without a hint of irony.

But now, I am beginning to view myself as a small child who needs my protection. For the first time ever, I am a proud advocate for this little girl. Outward me and inward me are finally on the same team, and it’s both weird and oddly exhilarating.

I know I still have a lot of work to do in this department, but the pieces are finally beginning to fall into place. I am starting to realize that the only way to move past this pain is to first identify it and give it a name. While this process is deeply uncomfortable at times, it is in these honest moments of reflection and honesty with myself that I will finally be able to grow.