Spectacular Failure

I failed at something I loved, spectacularly failed. I never thought the end would be like this, but, alas, it is. I now question myself constantly. What else could I have done?  Could the outcome have been different if I had never said anything? But now it is known, even if I’m not believed the secret is out. It is no longer a secret that this person gaslights, and makes you doubt your sanity by denying the truth of what you experienced. The denial of that experience is far more destructive than the original inappropriate behavior. It makes for more interesting reading if I put forth examples of this crazy-making behavior. However, in the interest of discretion, I should not, though I ache to convey the insanity.

There’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve experienced where as the complainant I became persona non grata when I was previously well-received by the same people who now will not even say “good morning.” Some of these people I adored, and had respected greatly. When you originally assess that a person is credible, lovely and a good judge of character, it can be a jolt to your system when that same person no longer speaks to you with no explanation. I’ve cried over it, theorized about it. And now I have to move on, and accept that it will forever be one of the mysteries of my life. I have to work to make this experience not define me, though it is hard to stay out of that tendency.

It’s hard to go back to my okayish self. I’m out of that job with a new one, but the scars remain. I get freaked out easily, and still question my reality and my sanity. I want it to be behind me, but there it is, like a March mud season that does not relent.

I tell myself that it’s okay to come out to the living again. But the fear is right there beneath the surface, ready to bloom to defense or flight at a moment’s notice.

I tell myself that I am more than just a job. I am more than a document I produce. I need to not leave this earth of my accord, despite the nightmares and the flashes of visions where I go into oblivion.

I drive very little these days because I get in that floaty cloudy state far too often. I’m on the bus a lot, and it seems I’ve found my people. The woman who speaks to herself at the bus stop is my sister, my sister in confusion and trying to make a life with a brain that works differently from the rest of the world. The homeless guy on the bus is all of us trying to make it in this life. The mom with 3 kids on the way to the mall is going to give her kids a fun Friday night, just like other moms all over the country endeavor to do on a Friday night. On the bus I can sit there and silently cry about the job I no longer have, and the people I no longer see. There’s a quiet acceptance of each other on this bus-the homeless guy that needs a shower, the woman that talks to herself, the mom with 3 kids that are full of noise and laughter, and me with my head against the window with a broken heart, but a hope for all of us on that bus.

it’s not an option

No question, yesterday’s post was tough.

I woke up today with that familiar stuck-to-the-bed feeling, but this time with darkness and a despair that gripped me enough that it evoked the sensation of heightened loneliness. In the midst of that feeling, I was scrolling through Facebook when I came across the articles from the Fix, and this one in particular about relapse with alcohol caught my eye. Essentially, the author conveyed that even with working the 12 steps, sponsoring people, doing service work, and going to meetings the author still relapsed with some regularity. He realized that his sobriety did not stick when alcohol was still an option. When he finally took alcohol off the table for good as an option his sobriety found the stability that was previously elusive for him.

After I read that article I realized that my sexual assault went a long way in taking alcohol off the table permanently. Without the assault I probably would have tinkered with moderation and/or going in and out of “the rooms” as AA is often called. I could envision the alternate universe scenario with me going in and out of sobriety while my life bobbed along at a slow but steady descent into eventual disaster from alcohol dependence.

Few things would have been as bad or worse as what happened. My excess drinking put me in vulnerable situations, and the bill came due on that day. Aside from the physical and emotional pain from the experience, my job was adversely affected by what happened. Yes, my employer handled it properly, but it was obvious that I was damaged goods for a fair amount of time after the assault in that it was very clear I was suffering in trying to find my footing in the recovery process. Out of all the consequences suffered, the fact that I could sense my reputation changing at work was the hardest one to take. I always prided myself in doing a good job, and having a fine reputation. I loved my job, loved doing it well, and I got satisfaction from being seen as a credible professional.

That’s how I got into sobriety. I wanted to be a credible again, and I was willing to go to any lengths to keep my job. To be clear, no one ever threatened taking my job away. They knew they had to tread carefully there, especially with the whole sexual assault situation. But I knew I was under the microscope, and I could tell I was being sized up frequently to assess as to whether I was fit for duty. If I had not stopped drinking when I did it would have been a long bumpy road into deterioration.

This is why I can be a complete freak about my sobriety. I hold on to it like a life preserver, and woe to you if you try to interfere with it because losing it is not an option.

in short spurts only

Today I learned that a high ranking state official where I live resigned in the wake of sexual harassment and forcible touching allegations. Even more egregious is the discovery that in this particular agency allegations of sexual harassment were regularly covered up, and there was a culture where female employees may have felt pressured into intimate relationships in order to gain promotions.

When I read this news piece this morning I caught my breath, and had to tell myself that these were different circumstances, not my own.

In 2008, at a different agency less than a mile away from today’s news making agency, I reported sexual harassment, which included a sexual assault, from my own director. Today that experience is nothing and everything all at once. I call it nothing because I hardly recognize the person I was then. My life is now completely different, and thankfully there are times when I recall that period of time and realize that the assault is no longer part of my every day thoughts. I thought then that there would never be a time when it was not somewhere in the crevices of my mind. I feared that the assault would become and be everything in my life, and at that time it was. There was rarely a moment free of the memory of the experience.

I’ve never forgotten the fact that I was so damn lucky in the simple serendipity that I drew a special investigator who was only interested in figuring out what happened. He had no political motivations, and was, by all measures, objective.

I want women similarly situated to know that reporting it is the best thing you can do I did for yourself myself, even in the face of awful hatred from colleagues you once thought were your friends, and the hell of a long investigation. Soon after it happened I went to see my doctor. I told her what happened, but I made it clear that I had no intention of reporting it. She said to me, “This will stay with you for the rest of your life if you don’t report it.” She was right and wrong all at once with that statement. By reporting it I’ve experienced a certain freedom from it that would not have happened if I never took action. However, it will always be with me in some way, but reporting it lessened it’s long term impact on my life.

I don’t regret reporting it, but I hope there comes a day when reading similar stories doesn’t shut my brain down to the point of wanting to jump out of my skin.

And with that I have to sign off for tonight. I have a small capacity for writing about this experience in that I can only do it in short spurts.