I left Waco for the summer with one goal. I knew I was going back to rush and hopefully pledge a sorority. High goals, I know. I also had seen enough in year one to know that with those greek letters would come the opportunity to swim in adventurous ponds of new activities. My goal for the summer was to get ready. First on my list of things to achieve was the ability to enjoy alcohol. That was the responsible thing to do, right? Being the perfectionist planner that I am, I set off to master the skill. I planned the day, I planned the setting. I called the accomplices. I even sent the designated procurement agent off with a complete list of supplies.
Again, with the perfectionist nonsense, I studied alcohol volume and content and felt that starting slow would be beneficial. I still have a bit of twitch when I see B&J Strawberry Daiquiri wine coolers, but perhaps not for the reason you might think. After consuming a few, I realized that all of the horror stories about being drunk and the worries that had held the demon of alcohol at bay, did not seem to be affecting me. I just didn’t get the big deal. I was not woozy. I was not out of control. I actually just felt like I had a belly bloated with sugar.
In my attempt to reconcile this apparent discrepancy in storyline, I sought the council of a more experienced drinker. As I explained that there appeared to be no ill effects, it was suggested that I try something with a bit more punch. The mason jar was prepared and the Wild Turkey was poured. Erroneously assuming that the drink was completed, I took the jar and drank it down in one fast swallow. Apparently, I was supposed to wait for Diet Coke. But with my limited experience, mixers were not in my knowledge base. The brown stuff was in the jar and I thought it was my turn to drink. What happened next was a fork in the road of my story. Where most 19 year old novice drinkers would have spit out the bourbon based on smell alone, the moment the burn hit my throat, it was as if the universe announced, “GAME ON!” In that backyard experience, I felt like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. For the first time in my life, I did not have to be in charge. In that moment, my very ordered, precise, black and white world came alive with a burn and a bad aftertaste.
I found myself with a lightness that I had never known. My words were freer. My cares were diminished. My fears of not being loved fled the scene like a The Ghost of Adolescence Past. I stood in that moment with a new world order that grew with each intake of ethanol. In a matter of minutes, I transformed from a thought obsessed, insecure girl to a careless, brave, bold grown-up. I was immediately drunk on being drunk. I knew that this feeling would solve many of the terrible ills that plagued my psyche. Much to the dismay of those who were around me, the morning also brought few ill effects. There was no vomiting. There was no light sensitivity. Rather, I woke with a keen awareness that I had a new best friend and his name was alcohol.
This was hardly a one time encounter. My desire to make up for lost time meant that I had work to do. With some additional experiences, I knew no moderation. Where I had seen adults have a drink at dinner or sip a glass of wine, that was never a desire for me. In contrast, my goal from day one was to pack as much power as I could behind each sip. I’m sure that I would have been much more enjoyable had I not required regular babysitting. What my friends discovered, even in those early days, was that given a dose of alcohol courage, my opinions were louder and my hostility more pronounced. I have never lacked for believing I was right, or that 90% of the general population was wrong. But with the non-filter of a drunk, I was not only willing to share my wisdom but to proclaim your stupidity.
When people talk about enjoying “a beer” that never crossed my mind. Like everything else about my personality and wiring, I carried a few life goals into my new world of alcohol:
- go big or go home
- if its worth doing, do it all the way
- if a little is good, then more is even better
And so began a love affair that was in the driver’s seat of my life for much of the next 12 years. Why, you may be asking, is this a story in the celebration of Christmas and considered a gift? Like so many things in life, the chase for the high that I experienced for the fist time at 19 became a focal point. And while the outcome and end result would play out in some very dark ways, in the birth of my love for the drink, it was a glorious thing. I felt happier. I felt freer. I felt more alive than I had ever been. That all changed when I came to realization that feelings are not facts. But for now, bottoms up because we were having a party of epic proportions.