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Finally Clean


I had a two-day meltdown last month, which seems to happen every July. I don’t know what the trigger is exactly, other than that most of the abuse I can remember happened during the summer months. It used to bother me, not knowing why it was always July, and now I think that maybe it’s a mystery that doesn’t need to be solved. Or maybe it is solved and I just want to make it more complicated than it is.

This meltdown was relatively short. It was two days of memories (mental and physical), sobbing, anger and fear that I would feel this way forever. At first there was disbelief. There’s no way these memories can be attacking me again. It must be PMS. Or food poisoning. Yeah, that’s it. I’m coming down with something.

Then, there was resignation that it was happening again. “It” being the reality of the abuse coming at me full force so that it can’t be ignored, not that it is ever far from my mind in the first place. It is a part of me as much as my eye color, my left handedness, my stubby pinky toes.

The elephant in the room was back, except that it wasn’t an elephant. It was a little girl. And she was determined to be heard. So I listened. And what she told me was unbelievable, even though I know it’s true because I was there. It’s still incomprehensible to me that someone wanted to erase me, to bleach me out of existence and who took such pleasure in making me feel alone, superfluous and unwanted.

I listened to her. I cried with her. I reconciled her to me so that our tears became one. I reached out to a friend and poured out my questions and doubts and she held space for me. My friend helped me to see that there will always be mysteries that can’t be solved and that it’s ok to not remember everything. It’s ok if I never remember. The little girl repressed these things for a reason. What’s important is to tell her,

I believe you.

My 6-year-old daughter goes to bed each night listening to Taylor Swift. One night, she was having trouble falling asleep, her mind too filled and body too restless so I curled up next to her and ran my fingers through her hair. The last song was called “Clean” and I silently cried as Taylor sang,

Rain came pouring down when I was drowning.

That’s when I could finally breathe.

And by morning, gone was any trace of you.

I think I am finally clean.

Clean has so many meanings for me. Clean is not feeling dirty, sullied and damaged. It is not allowing the filthy shame to cling to me like spiderwebs. Clean, to me, is not sobriety. I haven’t been sober for over two years and they’ve been the most healing two years of my life in many ways. But if I hadn’t taken three years to defrost, to learn what it feels like to not numb, to be sober, I wouldn’t be able to say,

I am finally clean.

Clean is knowing that I will have bad days when the emotion of everything that happened to me overruns the logic that it’s all in the past but I can still look at myself in the mirror and say,

Sweet girl, you’re safe now.

Clean is knowing that I will always be afraid. Fear is not the problem. The problem is when I’m afraid of the fear and resist it. That is when fear controls me. And that is why I pray. I need to know that I am connected to a positive life force and that I matter to God. Yes, I’m afraid but,

No matter what happens, I am not alone.

Clean is being proud of the fact that I survived. Not ashamed of it, not confused by it, not wanting to hide it. I’ve tended to focus on the life I’ve built while still feeling queasy about what I had to do to get here, hyper focused on mistakes and missteps. No longer. It was sometimes ugly and painful but there were moments of astounding grace and my greatest accomplishment is that I survived. I can honestly say,

I am so proud of myself.


22 responses to “Finally Clean”

  1. I love that you have let us become a part of your life. I value our friendship, our childrens friendship, they are both priceless. I like to day dream about the future and all the joy it holds. I think about our baby’s growing up together in a safe and happy time and it is all I could ever ask for!!!


  2. this is so beautiful karen, and sad…
    thank you for being so willing to open up and speak your truth, and in doing so help others.
    it’s what all of us, in whatever type of recovery do, but your grace and the beauty of your words in healing from your abuse are very special.


  3. Beautiful one. Your words, while gut wrenching, pen beautifully as you write. You are amazing. That is all I shall say. Know how beautiful you are. And abuse, in any form, can never touch or harm your true magnificence. It is not possible that Love will not win in the end. I have loved watching you grow. ♥ Lisa


  4. Love this, Karen. Love the idea of fully being centered in one’s self and knowing that regardless of the swirling winds about, that we still have the Creator to lean on, that we’re not alone, that we’re not damaged goods, that we are true light. And you certainly are true light, my friend. Thank you for this – I love reading your words.



  5. Wow. You sound clean too. Your thoughts are clear. Everything is so nicely articulated. What a gift it is to be clean. I try to keep the fear of going back out close but not too close. I’d hate to loose the feeling you so wonderfully described, but I also don’t want to live in fear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fear is important when the threat is real but I spent a long time not knowing the difference between fear that serves a purpose and fear that is unnecessary. I’ve come a long way in discerning the difference but it’ll probably be a life long process. Thank you Mark!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t know where to begin. And I’m not sure anything I’d say could be adequate. I am glad you are loving yourself. I am glad you take back the days that could be given to your abuser and horrible memories. Keeping you in my good thoughts.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve recently turned fifty and I thought all the sexual abuse was in my past. Recently it started resurfacing it’s ugly reality and I Prayed…..”do I really have to remember everything to be healed.?” You helped me answer that question. No…..I don’t have to.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I used to think that remembering it all would somehow make it more valid and true but I do believe that we repress certain memories for a reason and that not every memory needs to be accessible for us to heal. I know in my heart what happened and I know enough to be able to work through the feelings. I’ve also found that as I heal, more will surface, which is frustrating but also a sign that I’m ready to go further in the process. Thank you so much for reading. It really means a lot to me! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  8. “Sweet girl, you’re safe now.”

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful and personal post. Do you have any idea how amazing you are?
    You told me something last year and I know I’ll butcher your words, but it was something to effect of how our children heal us every day. You laying in bed with Cadence listening to Taylor – the power and poignancy of that is earth-shattering.

    Your words and affirmations also remind me of the Brave Girl studies you directed me to a while back. In fact, I was just cutting out some of the journal prompts and truth cards this morning. Here are just a few that make me think of you

    “You will heal. You are healing right now.”
    “You get to start over today. If that is what you want. A clean slate, a fresh beginning.”
    “I believe in you, and so does everyone who truly knows you.”

    Yes, Love. I am so proud of you. Xoxoxox

    Liked by 4 people

    • I love these affirmations! Thank you.

      It’s so crazy how our children are our best teachers and mirrors. What’s really weird about that song is that she recently told me that it’s her very favorite. I asked her why she likes it so much and she said she couldn’t explain why. It just makes her think. She has no idea how I was affected by it but we are obviously connected to each other in deeper ways than we can ever truly understand.

      YOU are amazing. I’m so lucky to call you my friend. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh that song. That SONG. I hear you my brave friend. I have memories of listening to it over and over again while riding my bike inside. Sobbing. It’s so powerful. This post is powerful and I’m moved and feel touched by your courage and strength and love. I’ve been wrestling with that feeling lately: that I’ll always feel like this. Or that “this” will never end. Such a huge trigger for me. I’m inspired by your strength and the beautiful, loving care you gave yourself. So happy to be able to read this this morning. Thank you. Your posts are always a gift. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

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