“Did the sex abuse end up being a part of why this lifestyle ended up being the right one for me?” said Carol, now 62. “I can’t say it wasn’t.”
One night in the early 1990s, while at a Jesuit retreat, Carol awoke from a nightmare. The dream was unclear, but she remembers being on a bed, fighting to hold onto her sheets as someone tried to pull them away. She spent part of the next day praying outdoors when, suddenly, she was unable to breathe. The sensation was accompanied by a revelation. At last, after repeated denials in counseling, decades after it happened, Carol remembered the abuse.
“It just washed over me all at once,” Carol said. “I completely fell apart.”
Just days later, Jim called.
“This will sound crazy to you,” he told his sister, “but Dad abused me.”
His own path was a harrowing one. He had become acutely homophobic, he said. He wanted to prove that, despite the abuse, he wasn’t “a sissy boy.” He drank, fought and drank more.
“I had so many mental health problems, not even the U.S. Marine Corps could straighten me out,” Jim said. Three decades of failed attempts at recovery followed, including a second stint in the Marines and a period where Jim said he was both a workaholic and an alcoholic.
In 2001, he said he finally got sober for the last time. He now works for the Peace Corps in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The worst thing about the sexual abuse, mental health problems, alcoholism and all that ... are the losses,” said Jim, 58. “The loss of being able to maintain healthy relationships, intimacy, having children. These things that most people take for granted, I won’t have those.
“By the time I recovered, it was too late to do those things.”