The first time I got drunk, I had no idea what I was doing. I was 14, out with friends who were much older, and ready to rebel. As I had been having regular fights with my stepfather at home (who raged at me while I wasn’t allowed to even slightly raise my voice to him), and felt pressured to be “perfect” in school and in extracurricular activities, I was a ticking time-bomb.
At the party, there was a mixture popular at the time (and in my small town) called “oobie-doobie.” It makes me laugh now to read that, but there you are. We took it very seriously, and it was, in fact, quite serious business. It consisted of cheap grain alcohol (190 proof, which means 95% alcohol), various liquors, and kool-aid for imitation fruit flavor and bright red color, all mixed together in a big plastic tub. Everyone got a cup to dip in as many times as they liked, and I dipped without counting. Oobie tasted sweet and just slightly edgy, and made me feel loose and free… I had no tolerance, nor any idea of what my tolerance would even be if I had one. Before I knew it, the hallway I was walking down started to wobble and sway like a funhouse tunnel, and I asked to go home. Sliding down the muddy hill out in front of the house, I knew I was in for it when I got home.
“Have you been drinking?” was my mom’s first question.
“Maybe a little bit…” I slurred.
“Maybe a lot!” she answered.
I opened my mouth to reply, then quickly clamped it shut – running past and abruptly spewing bright pink vomit all over the bathroom. I was grounded for 2 weeks.
You’d think I would have learned, right? Wrong. I didn’t enjoy getting sick or getting punished, but I did remember that taste of freedom, of liberation from the carefully crafted and presented image of perfection I tried so hard to keep up all the time. I liked being wild, of having a place I could let loose all the “unacceptable” parts of me that I tried so hard to repress most of the time. Looking back now, I hardly remember all the parties, so many nights of craziness where I would make myself throw up just so I could keep drinking with my friends. I didn’t want it to end, to have to go back home and bottle it up, button it up again.
I was lucky in high school – I never had to face any severe, real-life consequences of my bingeing. I drove drunk and didn’t crash, though I did go around a curve on a winding back road so fast one time that my car literally bounced across it and up onto the hill on the other side, before sliding back down. Seriously, I must have had a squadron of angels looking after me. Several of my high-school friends weren’t so lucky, however, and died in alcohol-related crashes.
My drinking also affected my sexual risk-taking. At 14, I lost my virginity to a 22-year-old man I had just met that day, when I was quite drunk on “fuzzy navels” he had supplied. I don’t blame him, though – I was right in that pocket of rebellion I described earlier and being sexual was another one of those no-no’s that I so longed to explore. I was sick and tired of other people telling me what to do, and wanted to feel older, dammit, one way or another. By the time I left for college, I had slept with a few more guys under the influence, and had one long term boyfriend, with whom I got drunk or high often before sex.
How did this all affect my schooling? Not horribly – I graduated 3rd in my class. But the split in my personality had grown – lying to my parents on a regular basis, skipping school and forging notes, all the while keeping up appearances and being a class officer and president of several clubs, involved in dance, band and drama and winning several scholarships. It’s not just the “at-risk” kids you have to worry about, you know?
Having felt so restricted living at home, college was a free-for-all. I still kept up my grades – couldn’t drop the illusion – but went absolutely wild outside of classes. Alcohol, drugs, sex – yes, even rock and roll (I was a singer in a band) – was so alluring and I gave the lifestyle my all. However, I was not so lucky escaping consequences as I had been in high school. The odds were not in my favor, with the amount of chances I took, and just plain stupid things I did when I was intoxicated.
I made an ill-informed, alcohol-hazed decision to allow a guy I had just met to walk me home after kissing him at a party. My roommate said her sister knew him, she thought he was pretty “safe.” Nope. He said he needed us to stop by his place to pick something up on the way… Later, after the “date-rape,” he did walk me home, me questioning in my still-fuzzy brain what had just happened. That one took me years to process…
Being on the pill, I often took chances when I was drunk and didn’t use condoms. I don’t know why – I guess I felt high, horny and invincible in those moments of intense connection, and didn’t want to ruin “the moment.” Jeez. I was lucky enough to avoid unwanted pregnancy, but not disease. Two of them. One of the STD’s I contracted caused cellular changes on my cervix that turned pre-cancerous over time, and I had to get the end of my cervix cut off. Before they did the operation, they had to stick one of the longest needles I have ever seen straight into my sensitive internal tissues. I screamed as my body arched in pain, my hand gripping my boyfriend’s so hard that both of our knuckles turned white…
Honestly, that was nowhere near the pain that I felt 10 years later during the labor and childbirth of my first child, as each contraction had to break through the trauma of my scarred cervix, my scarred self-esteem, my scars I held from those many sexual woundings. Most of those experiences had been self-inflicted – my own chosen rebellion, my sad, alcohol-soaked and ill-guided quest for power, love and acceptance.
Do I see alcohol as the major factor, the major problem in all of this? Well, it certainly played its part – a huge part, in fact. I believe it went hand-in-hand, a versatile accessory, to my own and my family’s issues that I internalized. However, I don’t hold them responsible for my choices or the consequences, as much as I might credit my family and our dynamics with the raw material I used to craft my painful journey. The road to recovery was a long one, through extensive counseling and many healing experiences – coming to know, accept and integrate all aspects of my Self and my path. I look back on the younger me with love and understanding, but hell if I’d ever want to go back there again.