My name is Penelope, and this is my story.
A Little Background
The first time I ever manipulated a boy, I was probably 8 years old. I was smart, and pretty. There were two boys at daycare who liked me. So I told them whoever brought me a rose first could have my hand in marriage. And it worked… for me anyway; I got the flowers.
When I was young, that behavior was so acceptable. It’s just the way the world worked. It’s how my parents, and their parents, and so many others behaved. Men had women for their beauty, and their bodies, and women had men for their ‘security’ and their ‘protection.’
As a Child
I was a great student. I had a complicated childhood because my sister needed a lot of attention. When I was young she was very severely autistic. I didn’t mind, I loved my sister and I could step back while my family attended to her needs. I became very self-sufficient, but I was lonely. In middle school I rediscovered boys. They could fill the need for attention that I didn’t get anywhere else. So I jumped from relationship to relationship, trying to find the ‘best’ person to fulfill my needs.
I finished high school, with a 4.0 my senior year. I had scholarships to college, a good part time job, and a shit-head boyfriend. This is where the story really starts.
For anonymity, we’ll call him James. I met James working at a football game as a model. I had just started doing promotional work in my spare time. It was fun; he was very charismatic. He played very hard to get and I liked the game. I wanted to prove that I was hott enough, good enough, fun enough to choose. He made sure that was hard for me to do. I wish I could have seen as an outsider how manipulative he was.
When I met James, I had never taken a drink before, because I lost my best friend when I was 13 to a drunk driver. But… I wanted to be fun, I wanted to fit in, I wanted him to want me. So one night at a party I started drinking with him. It was great. All the noise went away. All the loudness of the worry and the fear was gone. I could breathe.
The game continued. I never felt good enough, smart enough, sexy enough to keep him. I started dressing like the girls he talked about. I tried to act my way into being what he wanted. We’d go to his dad’s house. There was always cocaine, weed, drinking. I was so timid. I just tried to quietly fit in. This wasn’t my world.
My parents divorced. Mom moved away. Dad tried to kill himself. All I had was James. I was more lost than ever. I was driving home from college every other day to keep my brother and sister functioning. I played the part of the mom, the parent. School work. Dinner. Clean clothes. And still tried to juggle college and my new fondness for alcohol.
My dad got a new wife. I didn’t like her, but I was thankful to have less responsibility. I moved to a new college. It was bigger, easier to get lost in the busyness of the crowd. No one noticed me anymore.
I changed, adapted. I needed to be tougher, meaner, more aggressive…. And I didn’t know how to do that. So instead, I got really sexual. I needed James to take care of me, to keep his attention. I only knew how to do that with sex. In efforts to keep his attention we joined a BDSM club. As if I wasn’t already hypersexual, now there were people watching. It was dangerous, it was exciting. And it filled the empty space. That began the cycle of space-filling.
My hyper sexuality poured over into my ‘normal’ life. I was a ‘slut’ and everyone knew it. Through the BDSM it was easy to justify cheating on my boyfriend. It was a ‘group’ thing, so we pretended it was ok. That made it ok to cheat on him all the time. Not to mention how horrid he treated me. The game wasn’t fun anymore. I knew he didn’t care. I only stayed because I knew I didn’t have anyone else.
Somewhere in there, I had knee surgery. From a fall I had snow skiing in high school. The pain was finally too bad to ignore. Surgery did nothing for me… except introduce me to Lortab and Percocet. I had a perfect excuse to be fucked up all the time. And if I needed more they were just a phone call away.
I was too hung-over and depressed to go to class anymore. I conned my doctor into giving me a ‘get out of school free card.’ She wrote me a recommendation for a “Medical Leave” and then I had the freedom to drink and drug all the time.
The money from my student loans was gone, so I had to get a job. I balanced my alcoholism and drug addiction while working at a weekly stay hotel. And that was sustainable for a while. Progressively I needed more drugs, harder drugs, anything to keep the emptiness and all the pain at bay.
I had a flirty boss. One week he told me over and over about how easy it would be for our corporate office to eliminate my job, and that he was really standing up for me to keep me. That quickly turned into, “If you sleep with me, I’ll make sure you keep your job” and then “If you don’t sleep with me, I don’t see a reason to keep you around.”
I did. I slept with him. I had to do something. I had to keep going. I had to do it on my own. James wasn’t working. How would we survive?
That night I got online. I had browsed the personal adds a million times. I knew what was out there. Men. Willing to take care of a pretty girl like me. I posted an ad. And I quit my job. If I was going to have to do it, no one would be in charge of me.
I got a lot of responses. I replied to a few, picked one, and went out. I didn’t make much money the first time. I had men who had offered me a serious amount of money to spend time with them…. In my head I knew the more money the more commitment.. So I started small.
I was just going to do it a couple times. Just so we, so I, could survive. But the cycle took over quick. Money, alcohol, drugs, pain. And then I hurt so bad, I had to keep using. I had to get money to use, and I had to use over getting the money.
It took a while till James realized what I was doing. He told me to stop or he’d throw me out. What he didn’t know, what I didn’t know… is that I couldn’t stop. The cycle was too powerful. I was powerless.
So I kept selling myself, and he found out and threw me out. And it was rough because I didn’t know where I was going to go, but I was free of him.
Out of Control
Losing James gave me more freedom to do what I wanted. And what I wanted to do was get high. I had more time to manipulate and scheme. More drugs meant I needed more money. I moved from couch to couch. Got myself a ‘cover job’ teaching Ballroom Dancing. This way no one asked how I made money.
My family called. I ignored them. What would I say? I was too high to communicate with anyone. And even if I did… I didn’t think anyone would want anything to do with me. I was truly alone. How did I get here?
I had been hurt, abused, raped, threatened, blackmailed, and I couldn’t remember a time I wasn’t afraid. But I couldn’t quit. I didn’t know how to stop.
The last week of my addiction I spent every night contemplating suicide. I couldn’t keep up all the lies. I remember looking in the mirror and saying out loud, “You’ve sold all of your soul, and there’s nothing left of you anymore.”
But God Sent Someone
He was beautiful.
He looked at me like I was Christmas morning. Even though I was a mess.
He didn’t know what I was doing, he didn’t know my double life. He just saw my soul. He just listened to everything I said. He listened until I told him the truth.
It was August 18th, at 2:30 am and my phone lit up. He asked me who it was. It was a John. But I tried to lie. He looked at me and asked me to tell the truth.
And for the first time in an eternity of time spent lying, I was honest.
“I do bad things for money.”
I cried and cried and he held me and he didn’t leave. He just said, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you. You’re never going to do those things again.”
The next day I joined the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. That was over 5 years ago. Since then I have been to Narcotics Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous. The principles throughout recovery are all similar- The 12 steps. The 12 steps and the fellowship of AA saved my life.
If you get to a spiritual program within your recovery you will learn how vital honesty is to our new survival. I love my AA home. But I was missing something. I needed an appropriate place to share all my unique experience – for myself, and for the women still suffering from the cycle. When I could not find an existing group I decided to start one.
The Butterfly Group
I started the Butterfly Group so that women like myself, in any part of their journey, would have a safe place to come and share their experience, strength, and hope. And that they could do so without the need to filter or adjust their stories. It is important not to re-traumatize anyone in our group, and it is important to feel safe and heard and believed.
The Butterfly Group is a 12 step support group that uses the basis of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to recover. It is a peer group, there are no professionals that supervise. However, we do have many resources to refer women to outside help.
The world is changing. Women aren’t for beauty or their bodies, and men aren’t for protection or security. We’re all human beings who deserve to be chosen for who we are inside and not for what we can gain by a relationship, or manipulate by sex.
I made it to a very low bottom through my sexual manipulating. Our stories may be wildly different. But if you feel like you could benefit from our experience, strength, and hope then you are invited to join us.
You never have to be alone again.