Trauma, Intimacy, & Sobriety

My sobriety. It is where healing in more than one area of my life began. Because of it, I have found the courage to uncover dark, buried, forgotten, and unknown hurt that ultimately lead to my drug problem, and eventual addiction.

But if you were to pour over the 200+ posts of mine here, you wouldn’t be able to find one specifically dedicated to my experience with childhood sexual abuse, my impulsive decisions as a young person in relation to sex and intimacy, or my struggle as an adult woman to embrace healthy sex experiences.

Connection, sex, and the subject of intimacy have been major front-runners in my self-renovation process and life-recovery. These are areas that have been under construction since day one, and although I have made significant progress, renovations are yet to be complete ten years later. It has taken me years for me to gain an understanding of my own struggles regarding sober sex, vulnerability, developing friendships, and the importance of allowing myself to truly connect within interpersonal relationships.

I have asked and answered questions like these:
Why have I struggled so hard with intimacy? (Vulnerability has never been not my friend)
Why didn’t I ever allow myself to connect with anyone? (For my own self-protection)
How was that related to my drug addiction? (Substances were the one place I let my guard down)
Did my fear of intimacy dictate my impulsive choices? (I welcomed superficial connections only)
Why didn’t I set my standards higher? (I was unable to see or gauge my own value)

Childhood trauma ignites unique feelings & mechanisms within the minds and bodies of small people. We learn to self-protect in ways that work. It feels like living in continuous rush of adrenaline, a feeling of panic, and always with grandiose expectations of we are certain is lurking around the corner. We are always prepared in anticipation of what might be next and we might not be able to pinpoint what to expect, but we are ready nonetheless.

Just to be extra-safe, I created additional safe-guards that I placed outside of my heart and walls were built around my mind. Maintaining control became my focus. I correlated control with comfort, and developed an uncanny ability to compartmentalize and compress.

Put simply, all of my focus placed on preparation & assurance of protection meant that I was out of reach. I lived my life on autopilot. I walked around without the ability or desire to absorb anything real or meaningful. No such thing as living in the moment. No one was allowed to get close. No one really knew me. My relationships and friendships were superficial at their very best. No one saw me anything other than what I was willing to reveal. No one effected me or my feelings in the slightest. Better safe, than ever vulnerable.

But it never mattered how many walls I built, or how much distance I put between myself and others, or how many guards protected my heart, there it was:

A deep desire to feel connect and to be loved.
A desire to feel necessary and important and valued.
A desire to be seen and needed.

Because of my past experiences and the systems that I put into place and practiced,  I couldn’t connect with anyone on an intimate level.

And yet, I still felt a pressing desire to be needed and wanted.

Without having the capacity to get close to anyone on an emotional level, yet feeling a need to be seen, loved, and important, I ended up trading it all. All of me.

I traded being valued, for being desired.
Intimate devotion, for empty sex.
Meaningful relationships, for incoherent physical encounters.
Uninhabited interpersonal connection, for restrained, calculated closeness.
Commitment, for trivial, temporary, frail, companions. 

It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable enough to share this stuff with other people. I still battle immense shame that stems from all that I traded so many years ago. Shame tends to remind me that I am bruised or damaged. It can feel almost as relentless as temptation, popping up in the most unexpected places, reminding me of who I used to be. I also still struggle with believing that I am safe within the confines of friendship, or other areas of life that require my vulnerability.

Despite knowing that I still have some work to do, what’s most important is that I am certain of my value. Regardless of the fact that I walk around with so many inconsistencies and areas that need improvement, I know & believe wholeheartedly that I am worth loving. I also know that my past choices and beliefs about who I was will not be given the power to define who I have grown into. And that is something that I am not willing to trade for anything.

 

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