Signed in as:
- She Speaks
- Season Pass
- Grant Ticket
- Lisa’s Story
Signed in as:
As I think back to 1986, I am again filled with dread and fear and I am reminded that I did what I did because I was only 16. I was barely 16. All my life I had been abused. From 4th grade on I experienced so much confusion and fear. This abuse and lack of safety at school created a mindset that no one was gonna protect me or teach me that I DID NOT DESERVE THE ABUSE.
But no teacher, no parent and no friends stepped up to help me. I didn’t realize I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t realize I could say no. I didn’t realize that I was learning a pattern that continued throughout my adult life. 4.
Remember this number. 4.
How insane is it that 4 is a number I will never forget.
4 abusive situations.
By the time I was 16 I was in a relationship with a man that was 6 years older than me. This relationship started when I was just 14 years old. He was 20. 20. 20. 20.
Too old for me, but he didn’t care. I didn’t care because I liked him. He was popular. He was well known. How could it possibly be wrong. 1984 was a different time. Or was it?
When I found myself pregnant and told my parents, their immediate response was anger? Fear? I don’t really know. I just remember being told that I was not going to keep it. I was taken to a clinic. When they called my name I looked at my mom. All she did that I remember was to point in direction of the nurse and tell me Go on. With a wave of her hand and a hard look. Go. No choice. I wasn’t talked to about what was happening. My parents probably believed they were saving my life from ruin.
When I returned home I cried. I don’t know who I cried for. Depression followed. But the relationship continued. No one told me to do otherwise. I believe it was just buried. Hidden. Not ever talked about again. As if that would help for the next time.
By the time I was 19 I was pregnant again. I ran away. So my parents couldn’t force another termination on me without my true consent. I gave birth to a beautiful healthy boy. Years later, still suffering from depression, true mental illness and involved with more abusive relationships I was pregnant again. This time, I had tried to end the relationship. But he wouldn’t let me go and forced sex on me without protection. I would cry during sex because I didn’t want to have sex. When I found myself pregnant I had another termination.
This time by choice. I couldn’t stay with this person. But then, it happened again. With the same person. Rape, abuse, mental abuse, confusion, hated myself, lost. Termination by choice.
How much more can a person take? Years later, I found myself pregnant again. This time, after all the years, I knew being BiPolar with suicidal ideation and 2 suicide attempts, I just could not do this. I couldn’t have this pregnancy continue. I sought a safe and legal procedure to save my life.
I had 4 terminations because I just could not have more children. I met a man that became my husband. This wonderful man, who is Catholic by the way, supported me on the last termination. He even helped me by paying for it and he even drove me to the clinic. This man, against his own religious beliefs supported This woman in her choice. Today that man is my husband and partner of 21 years. We even have a daughter together that was born in love and security.
My life has been hard. But I know my life has not been as hard as some other women. I am fierce in my beliefs to choose. To be supportive. To fight for any person that has a uterus, so that they can have the choice to terminate or not. Their choice. We no longer have septic abortion floors in our hospitals. But abortions will continue. I tell my story so that other women will not be afraid to terminate. I tell my story so that we continue to fight for safe and legal terminations. I sit here and think back to my past. My life before, so much turmoil and pain. I don’t want other women to not have the option to terminate when they know they cannot go through with unwanted pregnancies. I am a survivor. I am a woman. And I had 4 terminations. I don’t regret anything.
My journey with addiction started as a young adult and is inextricably intertwined with my largely closeted existence. Being raised in the Bible Belt meant I was taught very early that homosexuality was disgusting and a sin. Growing up in a suburb of New Orleans meant alcohol was culturally customary, but my strict Southern Baptist parents never drank when we were kids in the 80s and 90s.
The cocktail of geography and religion meant that as a teenager my parents restricted me at every turn. They enrolled me in ‘Passion for Purity,’ which pushed the notion of abstinence from sex, limited my ability to date, and somehow extended it to friendships and generally being out of the house. They also controlled my exposure to movies and music from the hedonistic ‘secular’ world.
As a result, my first foray into the world of women and wine was only available upon going off to college in a dry county in Arkansas. It was there that I discovered the ease of escaping reality through substance. In nearly synchronized step, I had my first and subsequent many delicious experiences with fellow females. I knew then that I was gay, but for two decades I tried to convince myself that I was bisexual.
In the early 2000s, I primarily dated women, one for a couple of years, and was “out” to my close friends. But I remained substantially closeted to my family and friends back in Louisiana.
My penchant for alcohol continued to increase when I moved to Texas in my twenties. I was in the party lifestyle, working part time as a shot girl and bartender; I even ran a nightclub for a short stint.
I used to point to the handful of studies about the occasional glass of wine perhaps providing some health benefit as my excuse to pour myself a third or thirteenth, convincing myself that I was relieving stress and that it wasn’t detrimental to my health.
Studies show unequivocally that multiple glasses of wine causehypertension, heart disease and liver/kidney problems; in short, binge drinking cancels out any potential fringe benefits.
Unfortunately, these facts never stopped me.
During my early thirties I got married to a man because I wanted children and I knew my parents would never accept me procreating with a woman. I willfully curbed my alcohol consumption to snag the tallest, darkest, and handsomest male specimen I could find with advanced degrees and a seemingly bright future. However, I couldn’t hide all of my proclivities. I would sometimes drink too much, black out, and throw myself at women. The next morning he would ask me if I remembered what I had done and said. It’s a wonder he married me; he literally asked me point blank one day if I was a lesbian. I drowned my desire for women in countless wine bottles.
When I became pregnant, I experienced my first bout of sobriety. After childbirth, post-partum depression was fierce and alcohol was my coping mechanism for being unfulfilled in my marriage to my now ex-husband. I proudly propped up my habit, using alcohol as a crutch to limp through life’s events. I drank to celebrate and commiserate, to soothe and to unwind, and alcohol conveniently harbored my truth.
I was addicted to alcohol and I was afraid of coming out of the closet. I was equally terrified of living any life, especially out, without the numbing comfort alcohol provided. But blackout Sara (my ex called her Ms. Hyde) was not afraid. She was very much a lesbian.
I tried to mentally counter being in the closet and playing the role of a straight wife and doting mother by repeating to myself that I had it good. Being physically and habitually dependent on a depressive substance such as alcohol, coupled with the fact that I was pretending to be someone else produced an emotional downward spiral. The psychological toll it took included more binge drinking and increased depression. When I passed a mirror, for a split second I regularly would say to myself, “I hate you.”
Feeling trapped in marriage, my drinking increased. My own problem was undeniable as I was personally tasked with keeping the house stocked with enough wine for my own daily consumption, that of my ex-husband, and any guests. I was sufficiently desensitized to reality, yet fully functional, in mild denial of my problem with alcohol, and complete denial of my sexuality. On several nights, after a glass or two, and before the Netflix binge, I had enough courage to timidly ask my then-husband to help me, admitting that I may need rehab. He never did. He never even brought it up again, despite several half-drunken appeals. Finally, my unhappiness with the situation peaked and I had to get out of the habitual trap I was mired in. My marriage was a sham. My body was suffering. My spirit was exhausted.
In early 2019, I filed for divorce. Once out of the house, I managed to string together a few days or weeks of sobriety by reading several books on sobriety, hoping rational statistics and personal anecdotes would stick with my logical brain when my emotions wanted to reach for the bottle. That summer, during one of my first attempts at sobriety, I came out to my parents. As expected, my parents rejected entirely the notion that I am gay. We didn’t speak for quite some time. My mother still quotes Bible verses to me regularly in an effort to ‘pray the gay away’.
The church where I grew up didn’t want people to drink, had issues with divorce, and decried gay people as pure evil. I find it interesting that many (especially evangelical) religious leaders, touting the alleged high road of morality, seem to paradoxically want people to suppress their own truth in favor of antiquated doctrine. But no religion or chemical dependence will mask the truth forever.
Alcohol is incredibly addictive. I was both addicted to the substance itself and its ability to aid in the suppression of the inner knowledge of my queerness.
The tasks of getting sober, getting a divorce, and getting honest with myself are not individually linear. I had hidden the seed of my own truth so far inside of me in a place where it would not grow.
Why did I find it acceptable to willfully hide from my truth? This is not something I can put on my parents, nor my upbringing. Simply, alcohol had me in its grips. I had to begin my journey of changing my relationship with alcohol in order to be able to live my truth as a lesbian. At first, the choice to seek joy over pleasure was one I had to make every day, every hour even, but it got a little bit easier every day. When I finally found a group of women in a local a meeting who spoke my proverbial language around living a life of principle, I knew I would never go back to Ms. Hyde’s shenanigans.
Being out of the closet and off the bottle is more splendid than I ever could have imagined. Opting for the daily pursuit of my highest and best self was difficult at first, and it is one that requires consciously choosing courage over fear, but the results are incredibly rewarding. Each day I look at myself in the mirror, proud of stepping fully into my authenticity, and joyously embodying the many benefits of living with integrity.
Now, over two years free from alcohol, sobriety is actually NOT about not drinking; it absolutely was at first. Today, it is being able to confront any perceived problems with a clear head. It is about celebrating life fully awake and alive. It is about speaking my truth with love for myself, compassion for where I have been, and gratitude for my continued journey of freedom.
NO LONGER KEEPING SECRETS
I was sexually abused from the age of five
Yes, the innocent and tender age of five
Not long was I alive on this Earth
When my mum met that six-foot sex offender in Jamaica
That’s when I learned to keep secrets
I was his little secret
At 7 I begged her not to marry him, but she did and years later
Had the cheek to blame me for ruining her marriage
When we returned to England, she sent for him soon after
She said I should have told her
I said, How could I? I was just a child
Leroy Channer is his name and today at 38 I am no longer ashamed.
To this day that woman still carries his last name
Knowing what that man did to me for 5 years
At 9 he tried to pass me to his friend whose name I think begins with M
Looking back, it makes me cringe to think I was almost part of a paedophile ring
She could never say she didn’t know because it was her who caught him in the act
He could not lie or deny because she saw me on top of him with her very own eyes
It was her who called the police
He was arrested, convicted and spent a short time inside
She accepted a wooden prison gift handcrafted by him
She saw him when he was released
She had him in her car within 3 miles of our street
His punishment far from fit the crime as it’s me who is doing the time
Throughout the years I have tried to forgive and forget
This I will never forget
Live and let live yes and maybe with time forgive
Years ago, Mum told me to forgive him and move on and that’s when I decided to keep quiet
I decided not to speak even when others confided in me what had happened to them
How can I ever forgive a man who almost ruined my life several times?
I’m not just talking about the times I tried to end my life
I’m talking about the times I could not be touched by the people I claimed to love
I’m talking about the times I slept around so much I was labelled a slut
I’m talking about the times I drank so much I got ridiculously drunk
I’m talking about never fully knowing who to trust
The time I’ve lost thinking about this I will never get back
I’m talking about watching my own daughter like a hawk and teaching her from birth to tell me if someone ever touched her here, here or here (pointing to private parts)
At times I relive the physical, psychological and emotional pain and I’m aware it will never fully go away
Some of my relationships have really suffered over the years
I will always be scarred, charred
It has been traumatic to say the least
To say I’ve been through a lot in my life is an understatement
I have been through heaps
Hours of lost sleep
Wide awake night after night counting sheep
Over time I have been able to see the wood for the trees
Statistics show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are affected by this
I am a woman
I am resilient
I am courageous
I have achieved amazing things
Despite my circumstances I remain strong
I now know full well what he did was wrong
I am not to blame
After telling mum I’m now speaking out
Her response is still to keep quiet and move on
He has 5 children she said
What are you after, revenge?
I know she’s only trying to safeguard herself
Don’t silence me – I will no longer be silent
The silence is broken, the worms have been released from the can
You failed to protect me, mum and now you’ve washed your hands
I am nobody’s little secret; I no longer keep these kinds of secrets
I will speak my truth
It’s my truth to speak no matter how much havoc it wreaks
I’m done protecting you, I need to look out for me
I can’t turn back time, but I can spend my time fighting for what’s right
To ensure others can speak of their plight as I continue to write.