TRIGGER WARNING: domestic abuse, substance abuse.
Empty bottle of vodka, mouthful of dirt.
I drunkenly knocked a can of beer onto the floor again, cursing myself, I bite my tongue while scrambling to find something to clean the spill before he notices; but he will notice, he always notices when I spill…and knowing what will come after the spill: fear, adrenaline, and anxiety knocking me nearly sober. He notices. I sit on the floor, waiting.
“I don’t care. Stop crying, your tears mean nothing. Do it.”
I don’t want to. I don’t want to do it again, but I know he will force me to if I don’t do it willingly. I know if I cry he will start to scream an endless tirade of words- slut, whore, fat bitch, white trash, stupid fucking moron- his face turned into a perpetual sneer/snarl. I breathe, try to breathe, wishing I hadn’t spilled my drink because I need my drink to do this. I have to have it, not just because I always have to have the booze coursing through me; but I need something to wash it…this…down with. I get on my hands and knees, searching for garbage on the floor, I make my hand into a tiny cup while the other picks bits and pieces of detritus off the carpet.
“It has to be more than that, a palmful. There’s a bunch of shit over here.”
I crawl; I drop the little bits and pieces into my cup-hand. I try not to think about what they could be.
“Come on, I told you if you did this again it would be that fucking rotted turkey carcass *name omitted* left in the kitchen instead.”
I panic, scramble to where he’s pointing and grab the…it’s garbage, it’s old food, it’s bits…of (drugs I hope, maybe there are bits of drugs) fish bones, dirt oh that’s actual dirt maybe it’s…okay no just do it grab it and do it.
I fill my hand up and look at him, he nods. I try my hardest not to hesitate if I hesitate I worry he’ll make me grab more…oh the rotten turkey not that not that. I sit up from my crawl tip my head back and shove the tablespoon’s worth of garbage into my mouth and I try to swallow. Some of it goes down. Some. Some of it sticks and catches in my teeth, in the back of my throat…oh god that’s hair that’s hair in the back of my throat, okay maybe it’s my own hair just swallow harder enough that he can tell I’ve swallowed all of the garbage. I rush to grab a beer out of the fridge and drink it in one go because I need it, and because I don’t want to set it on the table for fear I will spill again and this time it will be that turkey carcass he’ll force me to eat as punishment for being messy, for being stupid, for being fat and worthless; as punishment for being me, as punishment for loving him.
Empty bottle of vodka; mouthful of dirt.
I can’t remember how many years I stayed obliterated. It seems like it was my entire life; until I stopped, that is. I have 2075 days sober as of right now- roughly five years, 8 months, and 5 days. I remember all of that, everything after the period of numbing myself turned into obliterating myself ended. I spent so long obliterating any self-respect, dignity, I had. This isn’t about being sober. This isn’t about what my life was like while I was drunk and high all the time. This is about something different. This is about degradation. How I spent so long allowing myself to be degraded and having degradation forced on me by others. The story above isn’t a story. It’s a memory I have, one that was not unleashed from the formerly blessedly blocked memory vault of abuse in my brain until just a few short years ago. One that I have maybe offhandedly mentioned to no more than two people in my life since then. When I do speak of abuse that happened to me, I have been told, I say it casually while sometimes even laughing while talking or that I sound completely robotic when I speak of it. I still have safety precautions in my brain, they let me never fully process what’s happened to me in the past. They aren’t really safe; to be able to grow as a person I assume I need to fully remember and openly, honestly, and brutally speak of those things to at least one person.
“Why wouldn’t you just tell him ‘Absolutely not I am not eating garbage off the floor are you insane?” Why would I have said that? Why would I say that to someone I was both terrified of and terribly in love with.
“How could you love someone like that?” I don’t know, maybe because he picked me on purpose because he knew I was an easy target. Because he found me when I was young and groomed me. I am 34…he was 34 and I was 19 when we met. I don’t give a fuck about age differences, but I can’t imagine wanting to be with an obviously severely emotionally damaged teenager who has devastatingly low self-esteem. I would want to help them. I wouldn’t want to fuck them. Chronic abusers are drawn to that “type”. Damaged, malleable.
For every half-gallon, fifth, eighth, and pint of vodka I drank I ended up with a mouthful of dirt. In the story above, quite literally; metaphorically, too. I let others degrade me, I degraded myself, I was degraded by others without any knowledge at the time it was happening because I was too drunk or high (both, most of the time) to realize that’s what it was, and once someone degraded me while I was blacked out and unconscious. I have a physical scar from that, but I will carry the invisbile scars for the rest of my life- even though I still do not have more than a fleeting memory of what happened. Everyone has those invisbible scars. there is no way to measure or compare them, nor should there be.
Do I refuse to let others degrade me now? I hope i do. Do I refuse to let anyone abuse me now? I would hope so, but i know deep down that isn’t completely true. Do I still feel that I somehow deserve it? No, I don’t feel that way anymore.
We want to bloom, to grow, to not let the past define us. My past is riddled with stories worse than eating garbage as punishment. Stories I am afraid to ever let out. Is it possible to grow, to bloom, while still holding those stories in? Keeping them absolutely secret, never to be told because of the fear, the fear of how I will react once I let it out. How much space it will occupy in my brain after I tell someone. Will it occupy more or less?
Does letting people know the degradation we have suffered help us? Does telling anyone fix anything? Will the rest of my life be spent downing these mouthfuls of dirt to please someone else?
(I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.)