Spring Break, Shame and Recovery
Spring is coming!
I’ve always loved spring. My birthday is in March. So is my sister’s and her daughter’s, so it’s always been a fun thing to look forward to. And for some reason, spring was usually a harder semester for me than the fall.
Like most students, I couldn’t wait to have Spring Break.
I remember feeling pressure from other students and myself about making sure I had a super fun Spring Break—one that was worthy of bragging about. I had talked my best friend, Anna, to drive us down to Padre Island, in south Texas. My parents had forbidden me to go, but I just lied to them. Anna had not wanted to go because she was self conscious about her body in a bikini. But I begged and pleaded and so we drove the 8 hours it took to get there.
Blackouts and Closets
The first night we were there, out with friends, Anna had gotten into a fight with a guy at a club, and then later she and I got into a fist fight. Of course there was alcohol involved and somehow we managed to stumble our way home to sleep on the floor of a friend’s condo.
The next day we were both filled with remorse and shame, so in order to escape dealing with those feelings, we went to Mexico to “shop”. After a day of margaritas and Coronas, somehow we managed to get ourselves back over the border into the US.
This is where it gets a bit blurry for me. Suddenly I found myself at a party in a condo and none of my friends were around. I blacked out. I woke up in a closet with a guy on top of me.
“What’s happening? I can’t seem to move or talk. Where is Anna?”
I wake up.
Another guy is on top of me.
Why is this happening.
Where is everyone?
I wake up to another guy I don’t know.
I can’t seem to move.
I am helpless.
The next day, I woke up on the floor of my friend’s condo.
I reek of body odor but it’s not mine.
I am bruised.
I look over to see Anna with vomit next to her on the floor and mascara running all down her face.
Did she get…
Oh my god. This is my fault. She didn’t even want to come down here.
Somehow we cleaned ourselves up and drove back to Austin. I carried guilt, shame, remorse, and anger about what had happened for years.
I didn’t know about consent or that it was illegal to have sex with someone who was drunk.
I blamed myself for drinking too much and for being too much of a party girl.
It never occurred to me that what those guys did was against the law. Sure I never should have put myself in that situation, but if I’d had more knowledge, maybe I wouldn’t have hated myself so much for years and years.
The Road Past Shame to Recovery
I am so grateful to be in recovery now for 15 1/2 years. I have been doing transformational work for 19 years and there’s always another layer to peel off and to heal.
It wasn’t until I hear Brene Brown speak on shame that I realized I was still carrying around the shame from my Spring Break. Suddenly I realized why I’d still picked horrible boyfriends who didn’t treat me well, and even worse business partners. I still had shame.
I tell my story when I go to college campuses. I don’t “need” to keep telling my story. I’ve done tons of work on myself about it. But I choose to continue telling it because I don’t want anyone else to wake up in a closet like I did. I don’t want someone to have to spend 20 years hating themselves and spending a fortune on therapy and workshops.
Sexual assault messes people up. Sexual assault can lead to depression, low self esteem, inability to concentrate, fear of intimacy, suicide, and addiction. Sexual assault affects the whole family and community. It’s been happening for years, right under our noses, and now it’s finally being talked about on a national level.
There is still denial about it. “Oh that doesn’t happen here.”
Oh yes it does. Sexual assault happens in poor communities and in wealthy ones. It happens in churches and in schools.
There is still a stigma because it’s such a dark and heavy topic. But instead of running away from it, we need to lean into it. When we keep talking about it, we can shine light into the darkness. There is more work to do about bringing awareness and prevention to our communities.
Have a Safety Plan: Stay Out of the Closet!
If you or someone you know is gearing up for Spring Break, please consider your safety. Have a safe party plan. You are worth it. Your friends and fellow students are worth it.
I have safe party tips and more info at my web page:
Together we can stand up and speak out.
Stay out of the closet.