Four days ago, I made the decision to stop drinking. I wanted to share the story of how I came to this decision. In order to do that, I need to go back to the beginning.
Growing up, I was what most people would have referred to as a “good kid.”
A rule follower.
I was a great student. A solid athlete. A fairly respectful and responsible daughter.
I had one best friend and a handful of close friends.
They all smoked and drank, but I never joined them. I didn’t go out on the weekends with them.
I’d say things like, I’ll never smoke cigarettes and Drinking to get drunk is stupid.
Then my baby brother was diagnosed with cancer. He was eighteen months old at the time.
One morning my parents were taking him to the hospital for a routine procedure to have tubes put in his ears, and that night he came home with a diagnosis of leukemia.
Boom. Just like that, our whole world changed.
That day, and the months and years that followed, fucked me up pretty badly.
At a year-and-a-half old, my brother started chemo and radiation.
He would go into remission, only to relapse a few months later.
I don’t remember a whole lot of this time. From fourteen to nineteen years old, large chunks of time have completely vanished from my memory.
They say that’s pretty common for teenagers who experience a traumatic event.
Somewhere during this time he needed major surgery and had a whole bunch of his intestines removed. I think he almost died then. I don’t remember because those memories are very fuzzy and my family doesn’t talk about it very often. Or ever, really.
But the result was he needed a colostomy. That’s where they cut a hole in your stomach and attach the healthy part of your colon to the incision. Then you have a colostomy bag over that opening that collects your poop.
It was pretty brutal for my parents and for all of us.
I think it was after this that my brother relapsed again. Chemo was no longer working.
He needed a bone marrow transplant. That was the only thing that could save him.
Around this time was when I went from judging my friends for drinking and smoking to joining them.
I never felt pressured by my friends. I never felt I was missing out on anything.
But it’s pretty obvious now, thirty+ years later, that one of the reasons why I took that first drink was to escape the fucked up shit that was going on with my brother.
So eventually I broke down and went to one of the parties a fellow swim team member threw when her parents were out of town . My closest friends were there.
We played Thumper in the basement.
What’s the name of the game? THUMPER!!! Why do we play? TO GET FUCKED UP!!!
I sat in the circle of Thumper-playing high schoolers and took gulps of Budweiser out of a can.
It tasted disgusting, but I was going to keep drinking. I was going to get drunk, goddammit.
I didn’t know what getting drunk was supposed to feel like, but I wasn’t feeling all that differently.
It was a little disappointing.
So I left the basement and went upstairs.
I found a bottle of Jack Daniels.
And I went outside.
I knew the police determined how drunk you were by asking you to walk a straight line.
There was a line up the middle of the front walkway of the party house.
I took a swig straight out of the JD bottle, and then I walked the line.
I repeated that until I finally veered off of it.
That same night, I kissed a boy for the first time. This was a big deal for me, because I was the last of all my friends to “hook up” with anyone.
I had always been one of the boys. They never really looked at me in that way. And I had pretty big self-esteem issues because of it.
So after repeatedly chugging whiskey straight out of the bottle, I had my first kiss.
His name was Sam.
We made out on the ground in the leaves behind the stone wall of my friend’s house.
I think we may have actually been in her neighbor’s yard.
I have no idea how the fuck we ended up out there.
It wasn’t exactly how I envisioned my first kiss. But I didn’t really care, because at least it had finally happened.
Plus, for a few hours, I didn’t have one thought about any of the bullshit that was going on with my brother.
And that was the beginning of my unhealthy, dysfunctional, thirty year relationship with alcohol.