And now what you have all been waiting for!
You can read the beginning of this rambling series, here.
Whenever I have a bad day I start thinking about how much I either ignored or abused my fully functioning and awesome body in the past. I don't mean awesome body as in "Hollywood's Hottest Bikini Bodies" but an awesome body in the fact that it functions properly and it's mostly young and doing what it is supposed to do without me even thinking about it. What an awesome body I used to have.
And I treated it horribly.
For as long as I remember I have eaten terrible food. My daily snack from 8th-12th grade was a Coke and two Reese's Cups. Nary a vegetable touched my lips. I drank 1-2 Slim Fasts for breakfast because they were portable (or a chicken biscuit from Chick-Fil-A). I snacked on Light N'Lively yogurt or Fruit by the Foot. My only saving grace in high school was that I played soccer. I was a terrible soccer player but at least it got me running.
And then I started drinking.
All roads of my health life lead me to think about my drinking. Probably because it was a big part of my life for a very long time.
I remember the exact first time I drank a beer. I was 15. I was at an outdoor concert and a guy who was two years older than me offered me a can out of a secret stash of his backpack. I just drank the one beer. I actually don't think I finished it. He tried to put his arm around me and I thought, "Woah, something has just shifted in my life." I thought it must be because I got my braces off (finally!). Before this moment I was totally anonymous. A nerd who put Alicia Silverstone's outfits in Clueless to shame and spent far too much time thinking about zit cream. I took piano, voice, and ballet lessons. I was a girl, at this very beer drinking moment, who still played with their American Girl doll and got Happy Meals because I liked the toys. I wish I could go back and give this girl a hug.
From there on it was more of the same. I started getting invited to parties with older kids and someone would hand me a can out of a backpack. And I drank it. Usually just one or two. Enough to introduce me to the pleasant, oh so pleasant world of anxiety release, and the approval of older kids I desperately wanted to hang out with.
Then came kegs, then came mixed drinks, and thus began me on a never ending cycle of hangovers and losing myself over and over again.
I could always turn down any drug with no problem but something in a red Solo cup - pass it my way!
Hey, everyone drinks! Right?
While there were years off (my first year in college, the years I spent with the boyfriend who didn't drink) from that first beer in backpack moment for the next 15 years or so I was a drinker (am I drinker?) of the first order. I honed my skills in college, perfected them in grad school, and then took it over the edge of safety while living in New York.
College released me from the pesky need to hide drinking from my parents.
New York released me from the pesky need to drive home relatively sober.
What did/do I love about drinking?
Most everything but the next day.
For a very long time reliving my past night antics was always really funny. A good story. I felt like I was fun to be around, even like it was my real personality that came out - Thanks Jameson for bringing me into my own! I was never anxious around anyone, could talk or flirt my face off, felt like drinking gave me a command over life. Remember that time I jumped behind the bar and started bartending?! Remember that time I did the awesome karaoke?! I took pride in my tolerance levels and the fact that I could drink whiskey straight.
And then NYC. Unless I had a big school project the next day or I couldn't find anyone to hang out with I would say almost every morning (for two years) I woke up hungover. I went to work or school feeling like death (probably smelling like it too) and plodded through my daily existence in a cloud of nausea and headaches. To this day I will say I wasn't an alcoholic. I never "needed" a drink. My hands never shook from desire. I never drank screwdrivers alone in my room in the morning. But I was an alcohol abuser of the first order. Culminating in one horrific night where I got so drunk I wandered the New York subway system and several cabs alone at 3AM as near black-out as one can be and still make it home somehow unharmed. I threw up the whole next day. Had to make rounds and rounds of apologies.
Apologizing was now becoming a habit - I wasn't funny anymore. I wasn't "my true self". Drinking was making it's most visible attack on my life. My school projects weren't as good as they could have been, I was distancing myself from friends who didn't want to drink like me, I was making so many excuses so I could stay in bed all day I lost track. Again something had shifted in my life.
I would love to have some wonderful, writerly arch to this story - that one truly bad night in NYC changed my life. But it really didn't. I took a month off from drinking (during this period drinking friends would actually ridicule me for not drinking and try to pressure me into breaking my ban, more pressure than I ever got in high school) but then I went back to my normal pace. My gradual return to sobriety took a lot longer to get to than what makes a quick and tidy story.
Part 3 tomorrow....