Father Tony

A Wild Night, Secret Photos and the Real Problem

Filed By Father Tony | July 09, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living

Dear Father Tony,

Here's my story. I was on a business trip a year ago. The day is done and I go down to the hotel bar for a drink before going to bed. Alone. I am in a LTR of five years and we don't sleep around. I want to emphasize that I am not in gay neighborhood and not at a gay bar and not cruising. I am having a couple by myself and looking at the TV news. This guy sits next to me and strikes up a conversation. He's funny and interesting and good looking and also on business (not related to mine). A few drinks later, I am not thinking straight and I end up in his room really drunk. I think he put something in my drink because I can take a lot of alcohol and still find my way home without a problem but that night was different. I did wake up in my own room alone the next morning, but I know we fucked. That was one year ago. I never got the guy's name or number and I never told my partner. An isolated incident. Three months ago I had a dream about that night.. I lived the whole night again in the dream and that included something I had forgotten. He took nude pictures of me and of us together. In my dream I saw this as clear as if I was right in the moment. So now I think that there are some really bad nude photos of me out there somewhere. I never told my partner about that night but maybe I should because it would be worse if those pictures should ever get to him in the future. Should I tell or not tell? That's my problem.

I'm In A Pickle

Dear IAP,

As you know, I'm usually a fan of the telling rather than the not-telling, but I am also against unnecessary "surgery" in relationships, and if that night was truly an isolated incident and not indicative of a pattern of behavior on your part, you could probably remain silent about it without feeling that you are withholding something from your partner the disclosure of which will certainly cause some surgical pain.

About those photos, have you considered the possibility that your guilt about that night found a way of expressing itself in that vivid dream? It is possible that the photo session never actually took place but is only a fabrication of your mind in its attempt to process something troublesome.

Here's my advice. Schedule a specific time with your partner for a serious talk. Tell him you have decided to find a program that will help you learn to handle alcohol and/or drugs. Show him the print-outs you have assembled of possible programs. Tell him you want him to participate in this decision and in whatever will follow it for the good of the relationship. Then tell him about that night and how the memory of it has brought you to this point.

I think a professional assessment of your relationship to alcohol ought to be fused with some couple counseling. Reading between your lines, I was struck by your omission of any expression of regret about your drinking. That may be the problem rather than any real or imagined photos. You may not be just in a picklebut simply pickled.

Even if you don't buy my suspicion that you may have an alcohol problem, couching your revelation inside your willingness to explore that possibility will show your partner that you value him more than anything else. He'd be a fool not to react positively and with support, but do allow him to go through some temporary anger in the process. If he reacts by heading straight to the bottle, maybe you both have a problem.

I have too many friends both single and coupled whose lives are entirely run by alcohol and they would be the very last to see or admit it. Sometimes a crisis or a catastrophe can be a good wake-up call and can result in better living and a stronger relationship.

This seems to me like something that can be worked out. Best of luck!

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Wow...even though I am an advocate for the reduction of alcohol intake, I missed its part in this situation. Thanks for cutting to the root!

Alcohol is one of the most insidious problems in the "gay community," if you ask me. After all, while illegal drugs end relationships, jobs, and lives in dramatic and tragic ways, alcohol is packaged in bright colors and sexy bodies and marketed to us in our Pride events, magazines, and anywhere else queer people will be looking. Walk up Eighth Avenue in NYC and you can see advertisements condemning crystal meth and glorifying Absolut Vodka, on the same block! The damage alcohol is doing to the health of queer bodies and relationships is subsumed in images of how sexy and fun it is to consume the stuff.

It's rarely okay to be critical of anyone's alcohol intake--as long as they're not falling-down drunk on a regular basis, then they are adults with the right to make their own choices.

Don't get me wrong; I believe in personal choice. Heck, I believe I should be legally entitled to choose to smoke pot or take other drugs!

But I also think queer people should be much more aware of how the adult beverage industry is influencing us. Being casually sauced is an indulgence to be enjoyed in rare moderation; it should not be the basis of our social world, and it certainly shouldn't be glorified. The ease and delight with which queer people consume this drug to the point of impaired judgment is one of the biggest problems our community faces, and certainly the least acknowledged.

Straight to the chase answers like this is why Father Tony rocks.

Wait a sec. If we believe this guy's description (and there's no obvious reason not to--he's writing into an anonymous online advice column) what happened was sexual assault. He states he's pretty sure the guy slipped something into his drink then took him back to his hotel room. That's sexual assault.

Yes, it sounds like perhaps IAP should _also_ consider his alcohol consumption and perhaps getting some help with it, but _it's not his fault he was sexually assaulted_. Hopefully, IAP's partner would recognize that fact.

Dear LauraG,

This letter makes it difficult to know what actually took place. I was left wondering if the writer is not in denial about his behavior, and that this letter is really a first step toward taking ownership of his life. If I had remained on the surface of the letter, I'd have simply advised him to tell or not to tell. That kind of coin-tossed advice may be had on any street corner.
There are indeed many things which we hope IAP's partner will recognize.

Memories are unreliable, especially when they are dreams and when alcohol was involved.

The only facts that appear reliable are that he got drunk and had sex with a stranger. The critical issue would seem to be getting an HIV test, since he cannot be certain of what kind of exposure he might have had.

I don't think there is evidence to say that it was a sexual assault. What this man needs to do is to take responsibility for his own part in this rather than blame the other person. If drinking too much is a recurrent problem, then it obviously is the most important thing to address.

We have all acted irresponsibly at times and have done things we regret. I don't see any value in confessing this, especially since the details are so vague. His commitment should be to the future and that would include moderation in use of alcohol and getting himself tested.

Dear Loren A Olson MD,

I had considered mentioning the need for regular HIV testing given what might be a pattern of behavior that may be reckless and not clearly recalled. I set that aside in order to deal with the other issues in limited space. It is most certainly something IAP ought to do immediately, as should his partner.

If that night is gnawing at him and replaying itself in his dreams and growing to encompass what may be imaginary photos, I still think he ought to tell his partner about it in the context of tackling the bigger issues.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking about STD screening. I'm guessing he and his partner don't use condoms anymore, and he obviously doesn't remember if he used one with this guy.

About sexual assault, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it as a possibility. He knows his drinking and 4 drinks at a bar isn't really so much as to lose complete control. Plus, if the other guy was sober, I still think he took advantage of this guy if he did get shit-faced.

Whether or not is legally was sexually assault, we should consider the possibility that IAP is processing it as such. Dreams aren't reliable predictors/descriptors of reality, but the photo thing could be a symbol for how he felt violated after the incident. Considering that he thinks the other guy slipped him something but that he never told even his partner, he could still feel shame from this incident.

If that's the case, then there's really no reason for him to express "regret" about his drinking in that situation. Even if he wanted four drinks while at a bar, the dude who slipped him something and then fucked him is a total douchebag for whom I'd feel surprisingly little sympathy.

Of course, if he did drink himself into a stupor with someone else in a bar and then fucked the nearest boy, then he should look into a treatment program.

Alex, while I agree with most of what you say, I have found that when some men swear to have had only four drinks, they really mean eight.

I agree that sexual assault is a possibility. My concern is that sometimes people focus so much on their role as victim that they fail to address their own behaviors which led to being in that situation, and after all, that is all they can change.

Confession of indiscretion is a complicated issue. We all have a past, and I'm not sure that all relationships are benefited by sharing everything.

Worrying excessively can be a symptom of depression, too, and exaggerated guilt is a typical symptom of it. If that is the case, just confessing this to his partner is not going to resolve it for him.

I agree that sexual assault is a possibility. My concern is that sometimes people focus so much on their role as victim that they fail to address their own behaviors which led to being in that situation, and after all, that is all they can change.

Confession of indiscretion is a complicated issue. We all have a past, and I'm not sure that all relationships are benefited by sharing everything.

Worrying excessively can be a symptom of depression, too, and exaggerated guilt is a typical symptom of it. If that is the case, just confessing this to his partner is not going to resolve it for him.

I dislike how he thinks he can absolve himself of fault by implying the other guy drugged him.

Guys often downplay their drinking. The guy slept with someone else, and now he's guilty. Guilty because he fears getting found out, rather than because of some realization that he betrayed his partner's trust. I'm inclined to think that if it weren't for the threat of feeling found out, this guy would've shrugged off this event.

Either way, I'm not fond of people who seek to blame others for their ineptitude in staying monogamous. He had to emphasize the "Alone" part. As if that justified his behavior.

Some stranger doesn't just come and gets to drink with you while getting all cozied up in conversation for nothing. This guy was ailing for some carnal company, and he's now trying to find some way of saving face.

Advice? Don't be a selfish ass and tell him after this long time of silence. You already failed your guy. Assuming you actually have any remorse over what you did and not just some fear of confrontation, learn from this event.

tobyhannabill | July 10, 2009 1:24 AM

It's funny that he remembers being photographed by someone who may have drugged him. Does he remember using a condom with someone who is obviously a creap and gets off on something like that.
He's possibly been exposing his LTR to an assortment of diseases for at least a year. I could forgive the incident. I'm not sure if I could forgive the fact that he has done nothing to protect me for the 12 months after it.