Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: 23 Years Sober

Monday, February 04, 2008

23 Years Sober

Today I celebrate 23 years of freedom from mind-altering substances.

Over the weekend, the Anchorage Daily News ran an editorial on the problem of sexual assault in Alaska. That plus my sobriety birthday drove me to write this piece that I submitted as a Compass article:

"I was encouraged to see the Daily News editorial regarding the recent report on sexual assault in rural Alaska. I hope that it generates, as the editorial states, “a real determination to help victims, stop predators and prevent more of the same.”

However, I fear that it may be awhile before the public gives the benefit of the doubt to many who have survived sexual assault.

I became clean and sober in February of 1985. For the first couple of years I kept myself in a sort of cocoon between meetings and hanging out with other recovering folks. However, every sober person gets an additional wake-up call at some point in their sobriety…an opportunity to examine their past with clearer eyes.

Mine came in 1988 in the form of the movie “The Accused,” where Jodie Foster brilliantly played an alcoholic woman gang-raped in a bar while folks watched and cheered. (The story was inspired by a similar incident in 1983, New Bedford, Massachusetts) The acting was brilliant, terrifying, and raw – it dredged up excruciating memories from years ago. It felt as if some kind of exoskeleton was being ripped from my body right there in the theater, exposing every nerve ending.

That pain gave me a new clarity. Previously I had wondered why recovering-alcoholic men could easily joke about their drinking stories while women stayed silent about their experiences. It dawned on me that the reason was simple…many of our stories are rife with verbal, physical and sexual assault.

I concur with those who stated in the report that “alcohol was not involved in a majority of the incidents reported” when it comes to influencing the behavior of the perpetrators. However, alcohol makes women more vulnerable targets, a reality which society has long found entertaining.

In college, I stood by while some frat-rat hauled an inebriated woman out of a party and up to his dorm room. The sound of laughter from the other party-goers followed them out the door. That scene was repeated when I was the woman being carried out.

It’s easy to understand and believe the social stigma about alcoholic women that says we “ask for it.” Heck, I believed that same stigma about myself for years. In reality no victim “asks” for anything. Perpetrators go for the most easily accessible and vulnerable like trusting family members, friends, or women and children who live in the shadows.

It can’t be a coincidence that many missing or murdered women were “last seen” at a social setting involving alcohol since a crowd can easily give a false sense of security. It’s already difficult for a woman to protect herself when she has a clear head and all of her faculties. The danger increases exponentially when the senses are dulled by substances.

This month I celebrate 23 years of sobriety. I’ve been blessed with a husband and daughter who have never seen me use a mind-altering substance. While it took me years of painful work to get here I have something that was unthinkable 23 years ago – a normal life. I still carry scars and I am grateful that my loving husband has the patience to support me at those times when demons from my past come back to haunt me. I hope that my sisters who still suffer may also find the better life waiting for them through sobriety or at least find a way to be safe.

To those who would judge those victims of sexual assault afflicted with addiction: while our disease makes us more vulnerable it doesn’t taint the truth of our stories nor does it make us deserving of such violence. "


Post a Comment

<< Home