Some of this is PMS, I know. But it’s also wanting to drink really really bad. Yesterday I felt this way, too, so after spending most of the day in bed, avoiding the world, I got up and got dressed and went out into the city and went to a meeting.
Halfway through the first half of the meeting, a felt something on the lower half of my stomach, close to where my torso meets my leg (the crease that’s formed when you sit down). I looked and saw that it was the man next to me, fondling me there, trying to get lower. He seemed unaware of what he was doing, maybe drunk maybe asleep, but I took his hand and firmly put it back on his lap. He didn’t say a word. Later, he took a drink from his soda bottle that smelled suspiciously like alcohol.
At the break, I reported the man to the chair of the meeting and they had a man sit next to him. No one asked if I were okay. No one made sure I still felt comfortable. In fact, going outside during the break the only conversation was whether the break was too long and they should change the format of the meeting. “We got him a chaperone,” I was told, as though that solved the problem.
Now. I got sober around people who others might call “dirty old men.” I’ve been flirted and teased with and even privy to some raunchy old-man discussions. But I’ve never felt unsafe. I’ve never felt that someone could violate my personal space and not be taken to task by them. If what happened last night had happened at the halfway house where I got sober, that man would have been kicked out and banned from the house.
If I’d been a newcomer, would I have had the courage to say something? Probably not. Heck, I have almost five years and I was unsure about saying something because I’m new to this town. And, speaking of which, that experience last night really turned me off to the supposed fellowship that the particular meeting location is said to have.
It’s not something I talk about here or, really, anywhere but I’m a survivor of sexual assault. I also worked as a rape crisis advocate for several years, going into hospitals to help men and women who’d been sexually assaulted get through the initial stages of recovery. I know that what happened last night is very mild. I know that it could be easily brushed off as a minor thing. And yet: I’m pissed. I’m closer to a drink than I was when I showed up there last night. Worse, this morning I’m reluctant to leave my apartment to go anywhere, much less a meeting.
I’ve found a few nice people in sobriety here, a couple who are genuinely the real deal. But last night left me feeling that no one gives two shits about me. I went there looking for help and left feeling violated and unsupported. I’ll probably go to that meeting place again but I’m not sure when. Right now I’m trying to stop crying long enough to look halfway decent on the subway. I’m not doing a very good job. I broke down even more when I got a text from my son saying happy birthday and a voice mail from Uncle Eddie singing to me.
I know it’s just one meeting. I know that acceptance is out there somewhere. But I’m starting to understand what a friend of mine told me before I moved here: as someone “with time,” people in the new place sometimes assume you’ve got it figured out and don’t need as much help. Sometimes I feel that in order for people to see how much pain I’m in, I’ll need to relapse. (To be fair, I’m often quiet in meetings because I know that if I speak I’ll break down, and that’s embarrassing in a room full of relative strangers).
Not sure how long I’ll leave this up. I don’t know if I care. Today I wish I’d never left Chicago. I want my old support network. I want people who will defend me when someone hurts or scares me. I want to feel better. I want to feel strong enough to leave the house, to not cancel beach trips and not sit around crying. All of those things seem elusive today, or at least right now. And I’m not going to drink, but I sure fucking want to.