I’m going to a good friend’s house for dinner tonight. She knows that I’m not drinking, but never suspected that I had a problem with alcohol. She and I are close, and have been friends for about 3 years now. I was testing the water when I told her about my plan to stop drinking. I mentioned the 100 Day Challenge and how I felt that I needed to take 1,000 steps back from alcohol because I was unhappy with how it was affecting my life.
She was supportive and kind, but specifically said, “I’ve never noticed that you have a problem or anything. It’s not like you’re an alcoholic.”
I inwardly cringed. I’m not quick to jump to that label either, but I know that my drinking was a problem. I also know I was very good at hiding it. I suspect that no one in my immediate circle thinks I have an issue with alcohol. Why do I feel like I need to prove it while simultaneously panicking at the very thought of proving it?
I didn’t drink in high school. I was too busy honing my skills of perfectionism. I was in the top choir, the top choir small ensemble, Key Club, French Club, Honor Society, and Senior Advocates. I was more interested in counting calories, losing weight and fitting into a crazy mold created by one million outside factors.
My big plan was to go to college in New York City. I wanted out of my small town. I wanted the hustle and bustle of the greatest City in America! However, because I’d gotten so good at counting calories, losing weight and being perfect, my parents gave me two options:
1. Go to school in state, and we’ll help you financially.
2. Go to school in NYC, but take out the necessary loans on your own.
The magnitude of the cost and subsequent debt was too much for me. Deep down I knew they were right, stay close to home, be near a support system.
So, off to college I went. It was 4 hours from my hometown, tiny student body, beautiful campus and in an even smaller town than I was from. This is where I learned to drink.
I fell into drinking like I had been born to do it. My parents and I drove to the college on a Friday. They helped me move into my room, we toured the campus and off they went to their hotel. We planned on breakfast the next morning. That night I went to a party. I drank a 75 mL bottle of gin with one other girl, took an abundance of sugary shots, probably had a beer or two and promptly passed out on a random dude’s bed. Alone, thankfully.
I woke up abruptly with a sudden urge to vomit. I stumbled to the bathroom (bedroom closet) and puked steadily for 2 minutes into the toilet (random dude’s football helmet).
Welcome to college. Welcome to alcohol.
That evening was a recipe for disaster. I look back on it and want to SHAKE that stupid, naive 18 year-old who put herself in such a dangerous position. I knew better, but I didn’t really know alcohol.
I snagged a ride home after puking and passed out in my dorm room. I dragged myself to breakfast the next morning looking like the bottom of Hell, I’m certain. My parents said nothing.
I wish I could say that my first encounter with alcohol taught me to stay the heck away from it, but I can’t. College was lonely, and hard. I continued to count calories, lose weight and self-harm. My tools for stress. The pressure was unbearable. I felt myself dimming.
Drinking was like a light-bulb. After my first semester I moved in with a girl who I am still close with today. I discovered that I didn’t have to count calories, lose weight or cut myself because I could just DRINK. I could drink and be social and fun and funny and loved. I could let go and “experience college”. I could be like everyone else. I could wear short sleeves in the summer and get ice cream at the dining hall. Alcohol made me feel normal.
My brain is like a labyrinth today! These 15 years worth of memories, thoughts, and stories are all running frantically through my head, trying to burst out for some sort of resolution. Instead, I’m rambling.
It’s difficult to look back, so for now I’ll look forward. I’ll look forward to today – Day 15, and to dinner tonight with my friend, and to taking it all in stride.