When Life Taps You on the Shoulder and Reminds You…

I’ll survive you even with all these wounds. I’m alright, I’ll undue all of the damage you’ve done to my life. That’s right. You’re not going to see me cry. I’ll survive you.

I’ll Survive You – BC Jean

Saturday started out as an incredible day! Normally, I would set up the scene but I’m going to dive right in and let you follow this story with me firsthand.

Saturday, September 14 is National Sober Day!! How cool is that? I didn’t even know it was a thing! It’s even cooler that I get to proudly celebrate it! I don’t know why but I feel unusually good this morning. Don’t question yourself! Just enjoy it. I check the clock and think about the day, it’s 8:30am. This has become my body’s natural wake up time and I’m actually ok with it! I do some meditation and knock out the majority of my homework for the week all before noon. Man, I’m productive when I get up early! And when I don’t have a hangover! I look out the window, the sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day!!

Josh and I get ourselves together and take advantage of the beautiful weather by going to the beach. I am so happy. I feel really good about today! I feel so inspired that I post on my new sober Instagram account a picture of myself with the caption: Happy National Sober Day Everyone!! Perks of waking up without a hangover? Productivity and Motivation!! Woke up at 8:30, meditated, and got the majority of my homework done all before 12!! Something that was impossible while I was still drinking. Now I get to reward myself the rest of the day! The weather is still beautiful which means I’m ready to hit the beach!

I am right, the beach is a treat! It’s gorgeous weather. Josh actually has off tonight, an extremely rare occurrence during the summer time. So, that means we get to go to dinner!! We decide to go to one of our favorite spots that we haven’t yet gone to over the summer because of our schedules. The food is delicious! Our conversation is sparkling! We are laughing, being flirtatious with one another, smiling, and having a great time. I love this so much. I feel so good. Rose is right, I do deserve to be happy and to feel this good. And no, I’m not referring to Rose from Titanic…

Special Note and Sub-Story Break: Rose is my incredible and phenomenal acupuncturist and friend that I met at school. I see her regularly for treatment and I literally can’t express in words how much she has helped me. My post, 11 Incredible Sober Months stemmed from sessions with her. I met Rose my first trimester at school – she came in for one of our observation classes and shared her story. Immediately, I was awe of her. One of the first parts of her story that she shared with us (perfect strangers at the time) was that she is in recovery from heroin. You could hear a pin drop, and the second I heard those words, I got goosebumps. After sharing her wonderfully inspirational story, we were able to get up and offer a gift – a bow, a hug, a simple thank you, anything we wanted to express how her being there impacted us.

I took a huge leap of faith, went up to the front of the room and sat down in the chair across from her. I thanked her for her courage to share her story with us, especially how she overcame addiction and found acupuncture. My eyes started tearing up. There were major aspects of life that totally sucked for me up until this point and I was scared to be on this journey. The words she spoke that were most impactful were when she got clean and sober she said “it was like someone turned up the volume on life” (something I have referred to on this blog). I told her I wanted to experience life that way too. She was brave so I could be brave too. I told her the reason this meant so much to me was because I was sober. Pause. I have been in school for less than two months at this point, I am less than a month sober, and I have no idea if I really even mean it because I’ve been trying and failing for over a year. Now, I have admitted to a total stranger and my classmates who barely know me that I am sober. What have I done. To my surprise, everyone clapped. Rose asked if she could give me a hug. Tears were rolling down my cheeks.

I couldn’t explain why then but the connection I felt with Rose in that moment, I knew it was an important sign. Before she left, she told me to reach out to her if I ever needed to and while I thought she was being nice, I ended up doing just that a few months later. I asked if I could be her patient in clinic. I wanted to try acupuncture at school with a fellow student and who better than with Rose? Well, not only is she a total bad ass herself, she inspires me, supports me, and is one of the bravest, most incredible human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She never judges me and more importantly, she helps me take away the judgement I feel towards myself. There aren’t enough words and there isn’t enough time in the universe to express how grateful I am to her.

Although I have yet to write much about treatments and school – my acupuncture sessions, friends and teachers, and classmates are my everything. My school is my second home. The people there are my tribe, my family. Starting school when I did was the second best decision I have ever made in my life. School, acupuncture treatments, and my acu-family are essential players on my support team and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that support.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program! Our plans following dinner are to meet friends who came in for Bike Week (genuinely my favorite week out of all the speciality weeks) at a local bar to listen to music. The bar we originally plan on has an out of town band that we’ve seen before and weren’t thrilled with due to their egotistical and rude behavior. So, we decide to go to another local place that has a nice outdoor scene.

Josh and I get there first. As we walk in to head to a back table, Josh tightens his hand around mine and says “We are leaving.” What!? Wait. What happened? “Babe! What’s wrong?!” Instead of circling back around the bar, Josh pulls me away towards the opposite entrance of the place. We get back into the car, he has a serious look on his face, a look I’ve only seen a handful of times. “Babe. What happened? What’s wrong?” I ask. “There’s someone in there I don’t like.” He says. His tone unwavering. What?? Who the hell don’t you like?? You like pretty much everyone. I start running through the very short list in my head. “Who don’t you like?” I ask, slightly confused and slightly knowing deep down there is only one person who would invoke this type of reaction. “He’s in there.” Josh locks eyes with me. He looks concerned, sad, and upset all at the same time. I immediately look away. My face gets hot, my eyes burn, I lose it and start to cry. This is the same reaction I had the last time I “ran into him” a few months after the assault.

We quickly drive home. Josh’s hand tightly holding mine. I hear him say “I’ll tell them we are just going to stay at the house. We will sit on the porch, listen to music, and chill. We will have fun, ok?” I shake my head yes. I can’t talk, I’m trying to hold myself together. Josh asks me what I’m thinking. He asks if he did the right thing by telling me. To be honest, I don’t think he had a choice. I wouldn’t have let it go until he told me what was wrong. I tell him he did the right thing. I want him to tell me. I need to be reminded that running into JJ can and will and does happen. He hugs me tight. His voice sounds muffled to me. I don’t feel good. I’m trying to stifle my crying. I feel disgusting all over again. All of these emotions are coursing through my body, I can’t even attach words, I just know how I feel. I feel like I did three years ago. Like my body just shocked me right back to that night.

Our friends meet us back at the house, I pull myself together before they see how upset I am. I don’t want to deal with all of this around anybody. We sit out on the porch, we listen to music, and I play solitaire while the conversations swirls around me. It’s 1am and I’m exhausted. I go to lay down but I can’t fall asleep. I stare at the ceiling in the dark. Tears rolling down my face. It’s quiet. I can hear Josh and our friends muffled voices from the porch. The moonlight is shining in through the window. The moon. The moon was my friend that night.

Flashback….I’m laying on the cold mattress. I don’t know why this matters but it’s worse to me that there are no sheets on this bed. It’s crude. It’s cold. It’s bare. Tears are rolling down my face. I’m scared. The room is dark but the moonlight is shining through the window. It’s full and bright. It’s pretty. It’s peaceful. It’s not like the ugliness and the hurt that I’m experiencing. Just focus on the moon. It’s going to be ok. Just hold on.

I snap out of the memory and out of my head. I realize the song Josh and our friends are playing has changed. I realize my pillow is wet from my crying. I get up, wipe my tears, and go outside. I can’t sleep anyway, I might as well be social. Another hour goes by and I’m just plain exhausted now. I essentially pass out rather than fall asleep. Waking up the next morning, none of these awful feelings have left me. Josh and I are intimate but the entire time I’m in my head. I don’t feel close to him at all.

After the assault with JJ, I forced myself to be intimate with him sooner than I wanted because I wanted everything to be normal again. I was in so much pain. I wanted to feel numb so I used alcohol. I also wanted to feel something besides pain, so I used sex. I didn’t help but it was something.

I’m not sure if what I’m feeling again is shame or guilt or a little of both. I hear JJ’s words again. You knew what would happen when you came over here. I thought you’d be more mature about this. You need to pull your shit together. It’s been two days and I’m struggling. Ridiculous, I know, since I didn’t even see him. But the horrible thoughts still rattle my brain. What happened was a punishment. A punishment for my stupid immaturity. I deserved it. I was stupid and I put myself in that situation. I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin again. I know that these thoughts aren’t true but they feel true. In my body. They feel true and they feel real.

Healing is a non linear process. I know that life will not always be sunshine and rainbows. I know that it’s usually when I’m feeling on top of the world, life then taps me on the shoulder to remind me it’s there. I also know that I am strong, stronger than ever. I can and will move through this small stumbling block. We all have choices in life. We can either choose to be a victim of our circumstance or rise high above it. Before getting sober, I used alcohol to numb me, I was pessimistic and in general I felt that life sucked more often than not. Now, I have the mental clarity to see beyond this one bad experience and know I have the strength to move further. I will not let the bad experiences define who I am. I will not succumb to the darkness and I will fight every single day for the rest of my life if I have to. I choose the brighter path.

I know that despite these negative feelings I’m experiencing that not once have I thought about drinking. That is a gigantic accomplishment for me. The last time I encountered JJ, I drank myself stupid because it was too painful to deal with. Now? I’m facing that pain head on, staring it down, and ready to punch it in the throat. I refuse to let JJ take anymore control over my life than he already did in the past. The hell if he will be the reason I lose my sobriety. So, even though I am in pain and struggling with these fucking emotions, I am also sober.

There is an exercise that we work on during our first year at school. It is to create a promise of being with the help of your classmates. You collect words from your classmates about how they feel life shows up for them in your presence and from those words you create a promise of being. So, with extreme gratitude I offer to you my promise of being…

I, Brooke, promise for the sake of all beings that no matter what, wherever I am, in my presence, life will show as a beautifully fierce sparkling heart song.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault know that you are not alone. Reach out, get help, and don’t let the person who hurt you control you. I mention my sexual assault experience several times throughout this blog. Everytime I write about it, I gain more power from it. If writing is something you enjoy, try writing about it. Write about it, sing about it, talk about it, get those emotions out. Know that it is not your fault and know that I am here for you.

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