On July 2, 2017, 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 needed to go back to the beginning. If you missed those posts, you can catch up here:
My brother began chemo and radiation treatments shortly after he was diagnosed with leukemia.
He would go into remission only to relapse a short time later. This happened more than once.
Eventually he reached the point where the chemo wasn’t working at all, and there was one final option left.
A bone marrow transplant.
It was a Hail Mary.
If it worked, it would save his life.
If it didn’t, he would die.
At the time, I was a sophomore in high school. The bone marrow transplant would be done across the country in Seattle, Washington.
We lived in a really wealthy town in Fairfield County, Connecticut. The two acres my parents built our house on was a gift from my great grandparents. My great grandfather had a farm back in the day, and the property he gave my mom and dad was part of what had once been the apple orchard.
So for $30,000, my dad built our house from a kit with the help of my uncles in 1974. It was a small, three bedroom, 1 1/2 bath house.
My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad was a mechanic.
It was next to impossible to afford to live in the town I grew up in on my father’s salary.
But my parents were frugal and good with their money, and with the generous gift from my great grandparents, they managed to make it work.
But they did not have the money to go to Seattle for my brother’s bone marrow transplant.
He’d need to be there for about four months. My mom, understandably, did not want to go across the country alone with my brother. But there was no way my dad could afford to stop working for four months.
Nowadays, a GoFundMe campaign would have been started. But back in 1984, there was no GoFundMe.
There wasn’t even an internet yet.
That didn’t stop my parents’ friends and family. They rallied together and organized a fundraiser for my brother. It would be a night of fun. Dinner. Raffles. Auctions. They were gonna do everything they could to raise enough money for both of my parents to be able to make the trip to Seattle together.
It was kind of a big deal for my family. I was fifteen at the time. My younger brother was thirteen. I remember being so excited.
Until my parents told me they weren’t letting us go to the fundraiser.
My younger brother and I would stay home and babysit my baby brother.
Thirty-five years later, I am not knocking my parents. I know they had their reasons for not allowing me to go. And who knows what the fuck I would do if I were in their shoes. I can’t even imagine.
But I was crushed. I was sad.
And I was really fucking mad.
All of my relatives would be there. My cousin, who was one of my best friends and only two years older than I am would be there with her boyfriend.
I did not understand why I couldn’t be there. Why I couldn’t be a part of it? Why I wasn’t included?
My great grandmother, Nanny, lived right through the woods behind our house on part of what used to be the farm she and my great grandfather had. It was probably 100 yards from our back door to her front door.
A few months earlier, she had gone into a nursing home. Her house was up for sale, but nobody had made any offers yet.
And so, on the night of the fundraiser, as soon as my parents left the house, I did what any level-headed kid would do.
I had a party at my great grandmother’s house.
I’m not sure how I managed to make it happen, but my friends bought food and beer and we got drunk at my great grandmother’s empty house. We smoked on the front porch and riddled her yard with cigarette butts.
Being the 80’s this was way before cell phones. I don’t even think we had an answering machine yet, so I left my thirteen-year-old brother at home with my two-year-old brother with instructions to come up to Nanny’s if anything should happen.
At one point my baby brother woke up. His name was Christopher.
My younger brother, Eric, got a hold of me.
I ran home through the woods.
I got Christopher out of his crib, sat in the rocking chair with him, and rocked him until he fell back asleep.
I don’t remember most of the things that happened during this time in my life, but I remember those thirty minutes as clear as day.
Once I got Christopher back into bed, I hurried back to Nanny’s house. The rest of the night is fuzzy except for a couple moments.
I remember dancing to Rick James’s Superfreak on the flagstone floor in the breezeway.
And I remember ending up in the driveway in the back of a Jeep making out with Sam, the same guy who had given me my first completely unromantic kiss in the leaves behind a stone wall a few weeks earlier.
And while we were out there, out of nowhere, two people in fancy clothes banged on the window and scared the crap out of us.
Holy shit. My parents!
Sam and I bolted straight up and then he hesitantly opened the door of the Jeep.
It was late and dark out so we couldn’t really see much.
But boy were we relieved when we realized it was my cousin and her boyfriend standing there. They had left the fundraiser a little early.
And they were pretty impressed with my ballsiness.
I won’t lie.
Being the bad girl, the rebel, the hey-mom-and-dad-I’ll-teach-you-to-leave-me-stuck-at-home-kid was a major rush.
My dumbfounded but impressed cousin and her boyfriend helped me to get the party cleaned up as my parents were going to be home before too long.
We got everybody out and got the place cleaned up, and I was in my bed before my parents got home.
They never knew anything.
At least I thought they didn’t.
It would be a couple weeks later when I would retroactively get busted for throwing a rager at my great grandmother’s house.
But it didn’t really matter.
I had discovered alcohol, for the first time ever I officially had a boyfriend and I was no longer a good girl.
All this helped me forget what was going on with my brother, and it helped me give a big finger to my parents.
And I didn’t have plans to stop doing any of it any time soon.