Disclaimer: If you are reading this and you are a family member of mine you may find this topic and story upsetting or uncomfortable. You may want to skip this post.
I like how WordPress prompts you to share your story…but sometimes I’m not sure I have a story. I often feel empty of words when I want nothing more than to share. But right now, I have a story to tell and share with you.
I was 14 years old…only 14. Do you remember 14? I remember it pretty clearly, which is impressive to me because my memory can be cloudy at times. It was summertime, sometime around the 4th of July. In fact, it may very well have been the 4th of July. Hence the reason I have never liked the 4th of July, until the last two years. I’m so grateful I have new and wonderful 4th of July memories now.
At that young age of 14 and on that night I was drinking alcohol and spending my free time (which I had plenty of) with some girls who lived with very little supervision and drank more alcohol than any 14-15 year old should ever drink. Little did I know how those first summer nights of drinking would lead me down a path of torturous regret for the next 20-25 years. (I don’t feel like doing math right now, so we’re just guesstimating here about the time spent with alcohol wreaking havoc on my life.)
I grew up with a sense of anxiety in my belly. I’m not sure exactly when it started but I’m guessing sometime around the time my parents divorced at age 6. I battled for a sense of fitting in, for belonging, from such an early age. I believe with my heart and with all of my genetic predispositions that this anxiety and emptiness made me the perfect candidate to become one of alcohol’s many victims. It perforated my blood and brain matter leaving me mostly defenseless against the conniving snake, alcohol. Like an open wound begging for a bacterial infection, I was of particular vulnerability.
As young girls with our own personal struggles in our hearts and souls we found the attention of older “boys” particularly attractive and they found us attractive, too. Not to mention they had a Jeep! What teenage girl didn’t think a tan boy with a Jeep was attractive in the early 90’s? One in particular found me to be of special interest or perhaps it was more like an animal finding easy prey, I’m not sure. His name was Jack, not really, but that’s what I’ll call him here. I don’t know anyone named Jack, so that sounds good.
I remember little but a few things stand out from that night. Beer, an endless supply of beer, a sandy beach by a lake, fireworks and strangers everywhere. I felt lost. I remember feeling lost. Then, later, a dark dining room floor…carpet, confusion, pain and helplessness and that boy/man, 21-23 year old Jack. But most of all, more than anything, I remember shame.
A shame that wouldn’t leave, for years upon years, because it became layered with more shame and regret, and incidents and a variety of abuses (both self-inflicted and not) piled on top of one another.
I don’t know what to call that night. My first time? A nightmare? A bad memory? Or was it something more…was it rape? I still don’t know what to call it 25 years later.
Later that same summer I experienced an event easily identifiable as date rape. I remember scenes from that night as well…like a movie (gratefully not a full length feature) playing in my mind. A montage of feelings, smells, and images that have haunted me since.
I don’t know what to call this, me writing these memories out, but I know that too many women and men have experienced dark moments like mine and have not been able to share. I know too many sit in silence. I know we human beings need or want to know that we’re forgiven, EVEN if it’s not our fault.
I’m grateful now that I know I’m forgiven. God’s grace covers me and fills me. I no longer have to sit in that slimy dark pit of shame. I’m free.
But I wonder how many don’t feel free. I wonder how many teenagers have experienced something like this already this summer and last summer and the ones before who are stuck in despair.
Maybe one of them will read this somehow and just know that they aren’t alone. Maybe they will talk to someone. Maybe they will find freedom much sooner than I did.