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A Cautionary Tale of Using Alcohol to Cope

With the “Me too” movement in full swing, I think it is time to share an extremely unpleasant part of my divorce story. Of all of the posts I’ve created, this one is the most difficult to write, yet I feel that this needs to be told in order to possibly prevent other women from going through similar experiences.

During my first divorce, I was a hot mess. To say I was devastated doesn’t even come close to accurately describing my emotions at that time in my life. I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, but while undergoing my first divorce, my depression hit an all-time low. It took every ounce of strength I had to get out of bed each day for work. I had many thoughts of ending my life because I truly believed that I would never be happy again. I had no idea how to cope with the immense pain I felt and made many mistakes in my search of something that would heal my heart and help me to move on.

Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash

Out of desperation and despair, I began to use alcohol to numb the pain. I started going out to bars and parties every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night to drink with friends, dance, and forget my problems. I drank so much that I would regularly blackout. Each time, I managed to wake up in my bed in the morning, having no idea how I had made it there. I didn’t even contemplate how dangerous this behavior was because it seemed to be helping me with the sadness I felt while sober. I never considered that I could be taken advantage of, raped, or killed because I felt safe with my friends and thought that they would watch my back.

Photo by David Monje on Unsplash

I can’t say for certain what the people around me thought of me during this period in my life, but I did lose friends while I struggled to figure things out. It makes sense, I was being selfish and stupid, and my erratic behavior was probably really hard to deal with. Female friendships have always been tough for me to maintain. I had been used to friends becoming catty, mean, or just leaving my life for unknown reasons since I was a child. So, while going through the worst time of my life, it didn’t surprise me that “friends” didn’t want to stick around. My family and friends who had been around a long time and knew me well were worried and voiced their concern at seeing me party my life away. Regardless of any concern my friends had, I continued using alcohol as a coping mechanism.

I was working as a daycare teacher and my co-teacher and I had grown really close, spending a lot of time together outside of work. I considered her to be one of my best friends and she and her boyfriend had even allowed me to stay on their couch for a couple of months, while I searched for an apartment and tried to piece my life back together. A new teacher in the classroom next to ours quickly became our friend as well. Not a weekend went by that I wasn’t out having fun with one of these ladies, if not both. One Friday night after work I met the two of them out for happy hour, along with their boyfriends, and some co-workers. Long Island Iced Tea was on special that night and I had never had one before, so I thought, why not? SEVEN later I was blacked out and didn’t come back into consciousness until it was too late.

Instead of waking up alone in my bed as I had always experienced before, I woke up in an unfamiliar home on my newest friend’s bed. My stomach turned as I felt someone’s fingers inside of me. I then realized my “friend” was having sex with her boyfriend, inches from my body and her boyfriend was violating me as I slept. I’m not sure if they realized I was coming back into consciousness, or if they had just finished doing what they were doing, but before I had time to react, he had removed his hand from inside my pants and they rushed off into the bathroom together.

I gradually started to piece things together. I wasn’t sure of everything that had been done to me or how I had even gotten to my friend’s apartment. Terrified, I screamed, “I want to go home, I want to go home!” She ran out of the bathroom and asked what happened and what was wrong. I didn’t answer her, instead I repeated that I wanted to go home until she agreed to take me.

Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash

I don’t remember the car ride or entering into my apartment, but a couple of hours later I was awoken to someone pounding on my sliding glass door. Still quite drunk, I stumbled to the door in confusion, to see who was knocking. It was the friend who had driven me home. She said she had been out there for hours and was trying to make sure I was alright. Again she asked what had happened to upset me. I told her that I woke up to her having sex with her boyfriend next to my body and that he had sexually assaulted me. She begged me not to call the police, said that she loved him, and apologized for what had happened. I was too drunk and confused to really do much, so I just said everything was fine and sent her on her way.

The next day when I had finally sobered up I had no idea what to do. The whole situation felt like a nightmare and I honestly hoped that I had dreamt it. Unfortunately, the friend from that incident had left multiple voicemails and texts on my phone to prove that it wasn’t just a nightmare. I called my co-teacher and explained the situation to her, in hopes of finding clarity in what had happened that night and what my next step should be. She explained that I was extremely drunk, so she was planning to take me home. She was confronted by our new friend and her boyfriend, who said that they lived closer to me, so they would make sure I got home. She expressed that the new friend was extremely persistent in wanting to help me, so although she thought it was odd, she let them take me home.

I revealed to her that I had woken up with them next to me and that I was sexually assulted, fully expecting her to share some wisdom or least sympathy for what I had experienced. I was met with disbelief and laughter. I was so stunned by her reaction that all I could do was hang up the phone and cry.

If one of my closest friends didn’t believe my story and found it funny, what would the police do about it? I didn’t know the guy’s name or where he lived. My “friend” obviously wasn’t going to support my case, because she had already begged me not to go to the police because she was in love with the guy. It felt like everyone faulted me because of how much I had been abusing alcohol for the last few months. I had never felt so alone in my life.

I never went to the police and to this day, I regret that. It concerns me that he may have violated other women after me because I hadn’t reported it. It sickens me to think that he was able to just move on with life as usual, without any consequences and having full support from his girlfriend.

After this experience, I didn’t know how to handle my relationship with the friend who had allowed this to happen to me. I had no idea if she knew what her boyfriend was doing to me that night, but I found it hard to believe that she didn’t know where his hands were as they were having sex. Her odd behavior after I woke up led me to think that she was aware and just didn’t care. Even more upsetting, there was a possibility that she had been participating in it. I didn’t trust her anymore, had zero respect for her, and quite frankly, didn’t like her.

Unfortunately, we worked together, so I was forced to see her every day. We shared mutual friends and coworkers, who knew nothing of what had happened. I struggled to keep a smile and pretend everything was fine each day I walked into work. I remained “friendly” with her but the secret we shared began to eat away at my soul. I eventually couldn’t pretend anymore and told our friends and a few coworkers about what had happened. It seemed like no one really understood the severity of the situation or cared about the pain I was carrying around.

Does the fact that I wasn’t raped make what happened insignificant? Does being a flirtatious drunk mean that I brought this upon myself? Does being irresponsible and drinking too much make it alright for someone to take advantage of a woman who is passed out and has no idea what is happening to her?

As gossip about that night spread through the daycare center, it caused a lot of tension at work and people began taking sides. My co-teacher, who I had been so close to, even ended up siding with the other girl and without any explanation, cut off communication with me. I was saddened and confused by her actions towards me when I had expected her support. Immediately after graduating college with my degree I left the daycare to pursue my career and escape the terrible memories and broken friendships.

Telling this story years later still brings me to tears. I never could have imagined that drinking to deal with my divorce would lead to a sexual assault and the loss of friends, who I truly believed I could trust. Of all of the stupid things I did to cope during that divorce, I regret the blacking out most of all. I do feel lucky that something worse didn’t transpire that night, but that doesn’t make it any less traumatic for me. Anyone who has experienced or is experiencing a divorce can attest to it being immensely agonizing, but nothing could prepare me for going through that and sexual assault simultaneously. I wouldn’t wish that experience upon anyone.

As much as it pains me to relive that night, I truly hope that hearing my story may inspire you to rethink your lifestyle if you are using alcohol to cope with divorce too. Yes, it does numb the pain and make you forget your problems for a night, but the consequences far outweigh the benefits. I’m not discouraging drinking altogether, I’m just encouraging you to be smart about it and not put yourself if dangerous situations.

Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

If you are having difficulty finding healthy ways to get through your divorce, read my post: You Will Be Happy Again: 10 Ways I Conquered Divorce to discover the things I did that actually did help me to heal. Feel free to ask questions, share your story, or leave a comment in the comment section! I would love to hear from you and offer my support as you navigate this trying time in your life.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.

Love Always, Alex Prince – Creator & Editor-In-Chief of Damsel Divorcée

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