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Until recently my life was a sheltered one. I never attended a high school or college party, never smoked a cigarette, never experimented with drugs, and only began drinking socially when I was of legal age. Fresh out of high school I attended a small Bible School in England and from there worked in various ministries around the globe all within the comfortable safety of a Christian bubble. Chemical dependency was not on my radar. Addiction a foreign concept.

In retrospect, it is crystal clear Anthony was on something the night of the fair. He was larger than life. Unnervingly confident. Walking on air. Anthony liked to have a good time; he was the life of the party, this much I knew. But beyond that…I was clueless.

From the very beginning of our relationship, my life began to revolve around his. He was a seemingly successful chef at a classy Asian Fusion restaurant. He worked well into the wee hours of the night. No matter how late he would call I was sure to answer and he would find his way over to my place. We spent virtually every night together those first few months and not once did I suspect drug use. I’m sure there were signs, but I had no idea what to look for or that I should even be looking in the first place. I was so focused on keeping the fantasy alive, I was bending over backwards to accommodate him.

I found out much later that he really was trying to stay clean at first. Somewhere in the depths of his heart he longed for the fantasy as well. He wanted to be loved, he wanted a home, a family. Somehow despite everything he had done, he felt as though fate was granting him his wish. Through sheer force of will he was able to keep up the charade, but only for so long.

He came over one night, visibly distraught. It was late. He was shaking. He started talking. In a flood of emotions and words he poured out his confessions. He told me about his past. About his addiction. About arrests. About rehab. He kept saying how sorry he was. He told me that he wanted to be a better man. He needed to be. For me. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny baggie of white powder. His face was the picture of helplessness.

I encouraged him to flush it. He did so willingly and then collapsed on the floor. Here was this beast of a man: 6 foot 2 inches, 200 lbs of muscle, curled up in the fetal position, weeping like a small child. I wrapped myself around him and whispered my forgiveness, spoke of help and hope. We laid on the floor like that as the minutes turned to hours. Eventually we untangled ourselves and allowed the light of day to chase away the admissions of the night.

It was just one slip up, I told myself. Everyone makes mistakes. He owned it, confessed it and rectified it. This doesn’t have to be anything more.

Just let it go. He’s okay, you’re okay. This has to work.

Bad Reputation

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About a month into this life of fantasy, otherwise known as intense denial, I went on a preplanned out-of-state vacation. It just so happened that Levi, a mutual friend of ours, lived in the city I was visiting. He reached out and wanted to catch up. The three of us had been part of the environmental magnet program in high school and he and Anthony shared in the glory of the football teams’ numerous victories. The best of friends, Levi and Anthony were scarcely seen without the other. Upon graduation they even became roommates.

Anthony and I had yet to make our relationship public knowledge, so Levi was quite taken aback when I mentioned it in passing. His shock, turned to rage, turned to worry. I was thrown by his reaction considering the depth of their friendship in high school. After taking some time to sort through his varied emotions, Levi with the aide of another mutual friend, gently laid bare some rather ghastly insights regarding Anthony’s true character. From alcoholism, to drugs, to taking advantage of drunk women, their assessment left little room for debate and confirmed my deepest fears. They emphatically pleaded with me to “get out and get out now!” essentially transforming an innocent round of beers into an intervention. Little did they know, I had already fallen victim to his immorality in the worst way. I thanked them meekly and fled as soon as good manners would permit.

At this point some, if not most, people would begin to surface from the depths of denial and slowly begin the process of accepting reality. I boarded a flight bound for home with every intention of confronting Anthony, at the very least. And yet, by an act of manipulation so masterful I still don’t fully comprehend it’s success, Anthony convinced me that now was the time to publicly announce our relationship. With just a few clicks of a mouse, we were Facebook Official.

Down. Down. Down. Ever deeper down the rabbit hole I fell.

No Means No

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The night of the fair also happened to be the week of my 30th birthday. On a whim, I decided to extend an invite to my party to Anthony. He was a no show. But the very next day he reached out and I invited him over. We talked all night long and maybe even kissed a little. He seemed perfect; everything I imagined he would be. Maybe it was the weight of becoming “middle-aged” or simply a desire to feel less alone, but something about connecting with Anthony after all those years felt like fate.

The very next night, I had him over again. Sixteen years of “history,” created a false sense of intimacy and an exaggerated level of trust. The evening started out very much like the night before. Easy flowing conversation and insatiable sparks. The kissing began to escalate to a point that made me uncomfortable. I was raised in an extremely conservative Christian home and sex was strictly reserved for the marriage bed.

As things continued to progress, I raised my concerns and asked him to stop. Dr. Jekyll became Mr. Hyde. The asking turned to begging. The begging turned to pushing. But try as I might I was too small and he was too big. He took what I wasn’t willing to give, pinning me down with his full weight until it was finished.

I burst into tears and ran to the bathroom. Falling to the floor I just kept repeating to myself, “I think I was just raped. I think I was just raped.” Eventually I felt a strong arm pull me close and then Dr. Jekyll reappeared. He spoke of love and marriage and family and a future. I clung to that fantasy. I could not face what had happened. I began to doubt myself. Surely someone who could speak of such things was incapable of rape. After all, I was admittedly attracted to him. I even kissed him back at first. Maybe I wanted this to happen. Maybe I led him on. As the doubts filled my mind, the fantasy became my lifeline. We were going to be together. We had to be together.

From that moment on, I buried the truth. So deep it wouldn’t surface for two years. True to his word, Anthony stuck around and for the first few months we embodied the fantasy. After all, a real rapist wouldn’t have pursued me after. I must of misinterpreted that night. Besides, he loves me.

What would follow would be two years of complete and total hell. Mr. Hyde made regular appearances, punctuated by visits from Dr. Jekyll. My life became a twisted web of lies and depravity, but worst of all, a giant Anthony-shaped wedge formed between God and I.