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#MeToo: How the Pain and Shame of Sexual Abuse Can Lead to Substance Use
by Pat A., Master Addictions Counselor
I met Katie (not her real name) a few years ago when she came to see me to talk about her struggles with substance use. Katie is a beautiful 22-year-old woman with a warm smile and soft brown eyes that exude a kind of tenderness — tenderness that she rarely directs toward herself. She has dreams of being a healthy woman in a loving relationship, a house with a white picket fence and a job as a vet tech, but her substance use continues to ravage her happiness.
When Katie was 16-years-old, she was sexually assaulted in her workplace. At first she told no one because of her overwhelming sense of self-blame and shame. After a few months, she shared what happened with her mom, and while they tried to address it through the legal system, it ended up being a “he said, she said” situation. Since so much time had elapsed, her case was dismissed.
The case might have been over and done with from a legal standpoint, but trauma and shame became Katie’s constant companions. She began drinking, smoking marijuana and eventually using meth and heroin as she tried to exorcise the unwanted thoughts, images, touches, smells and tastes of her past.