So, I messed up this week. I messed up big time.
I didn’t drink—no, I’m still dry as a bone.
But, I messed up, and it’s sent me into such a mindfunk that I’ve had a hard time processing how I feel or what to do next.
How did I mess up? Well, there’s this coworker of mine. We’ll call him Jacob. He’s not sober, but we’ve started getting along fairly well, and just a few weeks ago (within days of me breaking up with my ex), he confided in me that he has a crush on me.
Jacob is in the midst of a long and messy breakup process with a woman who, from his stories, can only be described as toxic and manipulative. His relationship with her mirrors relationships of my own—the cycle of abuse, the self-doubt, the uncertainty, all of it—and it’s hard to watch from the sidelines as he keeps making the kinds of decisions all of his close friends keep telling him not to make.
Anyway, Jacob is flirty. Very flirty. I’ve had lingering feelings of attraction for him since he started working at my company over a year ago. As we’ve developed a friendship over the past month or so, and as he’s told me about his feelings for me, my attraction toward him has grown, as has my confusion about how to actually feel about it all.
On Halloween, Jacob invited me to join him and another one of our colleagues Sarah at a local dive bar. I arrived around 6 and sipped on a diet soda while he and Sarah took advantage of the two-for-one happy hour specials.
We stayed from 6 until 10:30. I didn’t keep track of how many drinks he had, but I knew it was quite a few. He got increasingly silly. At one point, he turned to me while Sarah was in the bathroom and told me that he really wanted to make out with me. I sat there, feeling flustered and kind of stunned, but happy too.
Eventually, the three of us made our way back to his house, where he was obviously drunk, but silly and happy and playful. He started dancing around the living room and knocking on his upstairs neighbors’ door to go “trick or treating”. Sarah and I managed to get him back downstairs and we sat and talked for a while in his living room.
After a while, Sarah went home, and Jacob became really insistent that I stay a while longer. He started talking about how he felt intimidated by me and about how he wanted to kiss me. We started to slow dance in his living room and eventually, there we were, kissing each other.
One thing led to another. We ended up sleeping together. I don’t think I need to go into too many details.
What I didn’t realize at the time that we were being intimate was that Jacob was, in fact, blackout drunk. It was only afterward, when I mentioned something to him that happened only an hour or so prior and he had no recollection of it, that I realized what was going on.
I, a person who was 100% sober at the time, had sex with someone who was in a blackout. Someone who gave no visual indication that he wasn’t there, whose speech wasn’t slurred, and whose thought process seemed intact. But he wasn’t.
I laid in bed next to him trying to sleep but I didn’t get even one second of rest the entire night. I laid awake next to him as he cuddled up to me in his drunken sleep and began rattling off all of the most horrible things I could think about myself in my head: I should have known better, I should have known he was so drunk, I should have stopped him, I was the responsible one here, I’m a horrible fucking person, everyone is going to find out.
I left his house early, at 6:15am, and went home to sleep until 9:30. I called in sick to my internship. I went to work later on feeling shaky and nauseated, and when I saw him walk in, he looked like he was still drunk.
We got lunch together. He asked me to fill him in, so I did. As I sat across from him and stuffed my mouth full of food, I watched the feelings of surprise, confusion, and disappointment spread across his face. He apologized to me, and I apologized to him. I told him I felt responsible, that I felt like I should have been more aware. I told him I felt like I had completely violated my own code of ethics in that moment and that I felt responsible for what happened. I said I wanted to feel like we could still be friends, and that I wasn’t out to complicate things for him or his breakup.
I still feel gross about it. Jacob returned to his regular flirty self the next day and we’ve been texting each other back and forth with some consistency. I think deep down I just want to know that he doesn’t see me as some slimy, opportunistic person.
But deeper than that is this insane intersection of my sober life and the kind of life I used to lead. In those moments that I became intimate with Jacob, I feel like part of me cast away the morals and values I’ve been building as a sober person and tossed them onto the floor next to my clothes. I should have stopped myself, but I didn’t. I should have stopped his hands from reaching all over me, stopped him from kissing me, stopped myself from kissing him back, but I didn’t. I should have told him I wanted to wait until he hadn’t been drinking, but I didn’t. I should have told him to stop pulling my leggings off when I told him I wanted to go home the first time.
I should have, I should have, I should have. But I didn’t.
I don’t think Jacob is malicious. I don’t think he’s intent on manipulating or deceiving me. I don’t think I’m an absolute shit person for what happened, despite how I felt on Wednesday morning. But I do think that this was a ridiculous and difficult test for me in my new sober life, one that I won’t soon forget. The fact that Jacob began joking about it while I kept feeling horribly wrong shows me how much my own values have changed over time, and how awful it feels when I don’t stick to them.
At nearly 1.5 years sober, I really messed up. Big time. But I’m here, still sober, still learning (even when it’s painful) and trying to make my amends as I go.
That’s gotta be worth something, right?