I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
“Sorry, Mom. Sorry, God.” –‘Invisible Monsters’ by Chuck Palahniuk
My hands shook in time with my racing heart.
“Before this goes any further,” I typed, “There’s something you should know. It might change your mind, and I want to be honest with you.”
We had only met two months after I moved back in with my parents to recover. My mom was worried.
“Are you sure you want to jump back into something? You know, you don’t need a man to be happy,” she would scold. “You’re right, I don’t need a man to be happy, Mom,” I argued back. “But when you’ve been through what I’ve been through, you need validation that not everything is a shit storm waiting to happen.”
The truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever stop recovering. How can I when the proof was up on the internet for anyone with Google access to read and judge me on?
In a situation where everything is up to interpretation, lies, and he-said she-said arguments, it’s almost a blessing that this was up on the internet. It’s proof that it happened. It’s all real. It’s something I can’t lie or rationalize my way out of.
There are three irrefutable facts to what happened to me. 1. My ex-boyfriend was a manipulative, thieving heroin addict. 2. I cheated on him multiple times with multiple people within a 6 month period. 3. One of the men I cheated with took it upon himself to put my story up on the internet in retaliation.
When does that seed of doubt, insecurity, and longing for someone to trust get planted?
Was it the summer we moved in together, and I caught him with his high school yearbook on his lap? He claimed he was masturbating to a picture of his high school girlfriend. I should have known he was using the book as a surface to snort off of.
Does it go back further, to when I lost my virginity my freshman year of college and learned I had a way of competing with the pretty girls?
Was it growing up afraid of being hit, smacked, or thrown down a flight of stairs for getting a bad grade, fighting with my brother and sister, or just for being there at the wrong moment?
What about grade school, when the other kids teased me for having red hair and crooked teeth, and the only people who talked to me were the other class weirdos or the random popular kid who felt sorry for me?
It was 23 years of being ignored, abused, and cast aside that drove me into this situation, and all of the therapy and anxiety medication in the world can’t fix that.
My ex and I had been dating for a little more than a year when we decided to move in together after our college graduation. I didn’t want to move back in with my parents, and I found a job in the town our college was in. It just made sense to stay. We found an apartment next to one of our friends, got a dog, worked, and did all the things recent college graduates do.
After only two months of living together, he came home from the bar late one night, his manager following behind him. He told me he confided in his manager (after much questioning and threatening, I imagine) to admit he was doing more than just smoking pot and drinking.
See, the reason why his particular friend with a shady history was always over late at night and why he was always going places around town without me was that he had started snorting heroin. Not only that, but he owed his dealer so much money that he had agreed to sell for him to work off his debt.
My delicately-balanced card tower of a world exploded.
You start to see things differently after learning you have been lied to. You question all of your current relationships. You wonder if these people whom you had trusted your deepest secrets to were who they claimed to be. So, you start making new friends. My new friends were all attractive men I had met at work.
Every book and movie will lead you to believe that every affair begins innocently. The truth is, if you find trouble, nine times out of ten, you were already looking for it. You know that flirtatious texts will be noticed. That nobody in that small town really goes out alone on a Tuesday night. That “just hanging out,” combined with an array of alcohol, will always lead to something. But I wanted trouble. I wanted to do something that would put me on the same level as what he had done. I wanted to get back at him for the lies, heartache, and empty bank accounts.
I became the world’s greatest actress during those six months. I had an alibi for everything to coming home from work late to who I was hanging out with to why I smelled of men’s cologne. I was two people living one life. With him, I was strong, stubborn, easily annoyed, and willful. With them, I was sweet and vulnerable, someone to save.
It takes a certain kind of man to be attracted to someone like me. Most are harmless, melancholy self-proclaimed nerds that are simply satisfied with a fact that someone with a vagina likes Star Wars and 80’s punk bands as much as they do. They want someone to save who will, in turn, save them from their loneliness.
The first two affairs came and fizzled quickly. All parties involved knew exactly what was going on, and the separation was mutual with very little hassle and only mild awkwardness when seeing each other at work.
Number three seemed like the typical nerdy guy I attracted. He was an indie game developer who worked at my job to pay the bills. He was damaged goods, but who isn’t? I assumed it would come and go just as quickly as the other two had, especially since he was involved with someone else, too.
But he lingered. He had a way of manipulating me into staying longer, making promises, and setting deadlines. My ex had his heroin, and I had my affair—both hopeless addicts to things that will only leave us broken shells of the people we once were.
Coming down off that high was incredibly difficult. I knew the affair had to end, as the guilt of what I was doing caught up with me. I started making excuses as to why I couldn’t talk or come over. Then, one day, I severed all communication completely.
I had started a new job during that affair, and it ended up not working out, and I came back to work with all of those men and their memories lay waiting. I tried to ignore them. I moved my desk to another room so I wouldn’t have to see them. I wanted to forget it all. I was too scared to deal with the consequences.
I became paranoid; hacking into my ex’s Facebook account every morning before he woke up to make sure nobody was sending him messages about what I had done. Then number three did, with a link to the website that was the nail in my coffin. My heart stopped, my head turned to static, my eyes blacked out. I immediately emailed our manager, howling sexual harassment, and he was fired a few days later. I figured out how to block the website from our home computers.
See, the website wasn’t just a detailed account of what I had done. It paints me as a heartlessly cruel villain, a destroyer of men, a selfish whore. And it uses names.
When my ex and I eventually broke up two years later after a stint in rehab, Narcotics Anonymous meetings and relocating, his mother showed him the website, having found it one day while Googling people at working during a bout of boredom. He showed up to my job at the video store, decrying me a slut and a whore in front of my customers, and drove off in a rage. I crumpled to the floor, half-relieved and half-shaken, and called my boss to cover for me so I could go home. I packed up my things and moved back in with my parents.
Although years have passed, I still feel like I’m on trial for my transgressions. I’ve had former friends and boyfriends barrage my Facebook page with rants about how I am the worst person on the planet. I’ve had to warn family, friends, and employers that this is out there. I had to change how I identify myself on paperwork out of fear that I will be Googled.
Someone once asked me if I could go back, what would I have done differently to avoid all of this pain.
I should have been honest with myself about what I was doing, and not sugar-coated it with self pity and a victim mentality. I should have recognized that the men I was associating myself with were not mentally stable by truly observing their behaviors instead of being wrapped up in my own. I should have listened to my gut instead of ignoring it for the next “fix” of feeling accepted and worthy.
After telling him this story, I assumed he wouldn’t speak to me anymore. Instead, he said “Listen, this is your past. These guys were obviously fucked up. But this isn’t who you are anymore. I can tell that you want to be a better person. But this is all in the past. It doesn’t matter anymore.”
Because at 23, you are too tainted by RomCom’s and pop music to know what love is. And at 28, I think I’m finally starting to understand that. And even though the website was recently taken down, it still serves as a reminder that, no matter how much you want to right a wrong, there are consequences to every action.