I was 13 when I had my first drink. At least one that led to a total blackout. Maybe I’d had a taste before when I was younger but not like this. This time I was dead weight in my fathers arms on a gorgeous September evening. Now being a parent myself I can only imagine how horrified and scared he must have been. And sad. I bet he was so sad.
I remember being around 10 and filling little shot glasses of Worcester sauce with my friend. It was just us kids playing around (although I do love that Worcester to this day.) We were mirroring what we saw on tv or in the movies. Playing dress up. Playing adults. That shot glass was just part of being grown up, sophisticated. We sipped them with triangle cut mustard sandwiches for that special touch.
When I was older I found out that my dad quit drinking about the same time I was throwing back the Worcester. His drinking wasn’t something I had noticed or thought about and to this day, knowing his struggle, there is still nothing that stands out about it. Except for one night when my mom threw peanut butter cookies. It was so against the norm. I simply can never associate her with cookies or cooking…not to mention she hated peanut butter. I can only assume that my father had started them but they burned in the oven. But it was my moms classic no bullshit temper. She had hit a point and I kind of love that she threw the cookies. We lived in the upstairs of a big old house and moved with a year or two into a full house of our own where I spent the rest of my childhood. And from there dad went quietly through his battle and he won. It never ceases to amaze me. I thank God every day that he’s my father.
So back to the beginning of my 8th grade year. I had just gotten my first kiss from a high school boy. A real kiss, under the street light across the street from my house. I don’t even know how I met him as we went to different schools. After years of being alternately picked on, and then “chosen” to be part of the popular group, my self confidence with boys was not exactly strong. I was more than willing to go along with whatever would keep this stroke of romantic luck alive.
I honestly don’t remember who’s idea it was. I’m going to lay that blame on the boys we were with but we were more than willing to go along. They were a little older and had come from more “adventurous” backgrounds. I had a friend who could access alcohol easily and so the plan must have been hatched among us. We got the bottle. It was way too easy for us to get. Way too easy. We met up on that Saturday night on the golf course. I remember it was a beautiful day and I was so excited to be with this boy. Given my love of day dreaming, I probably had us walking down the aisle already. I had no idea what an ass he was. What an ass some boys could be. I’m sure I was a little nervous but I honestly don’t recall thinking it would be a big deal. We’d watched plenty of people drinking in real life and in movies and everyone always seemed to be laughing and enjoying themselves, but still in control. I’m sure I imagined it would be fun and fancy feeling and the boy and I would fall in love like in the movies. Wasn’t it always like it was in the movies?
I will never forget that first slug. I fuzzily recall it burning as it went down. Then I think someone gave me more. I can see someone laughing at my gagging and urging me on. Yes, I could do it…so I did. Thirty five years and I can vividly remember stumbling around outside looking for my friend and the boy with his friend. And I can see the moment we found them. Rolling around and making out in the grass. I was confused but coherent enough to know my dreams were completely shattered. Maybe I went for more alcohol to make myself feel better… maybe I thought pouring it down would turn life into the fairy tale version of what I thought it should be. That it would stop that stinging loss of self confidence and make everything ok again. I guess I thought that for the next 26 years.
I don’t remember anything until the next morning. Apparently I was sick and crying and everything you can imagine a first timer downing scotch would be. I do remember going to church the next morning and feeling horrible. For some reason my dry lips and lack of lipstuff that morning comes to me whenever that memory sneaks into my head. I must have lost my lipgloss in the grass. I felt terrible and ugly. That’s what I remember feeling. Ugly. Inside and out. But unfortunately that wasn’t enough to deter me in the future.
Almost a year later I did the same thing but this time I was “sophisticated” enough to hold my liquor. I don’t know if I’d been drinking since that first time. I truly don’t remember but I must have. I know my friend and I drank occasionally but was it that year? That I don’t know. I just know that we got caught again because someone we were with had been taking medication. At the time we just wanted to get her to bed without anyone seeing.
Thankfully someone did because she ended up having her stomach pumped. The next few hours and days were spent trying to coordinate our lies so we wouldn’t get in too much trouble. It was not easy making up a long story about how we got the booze when really just admitting we took it would have saved hours of Watergate level lies. The worry, the guilt and the shame of that whole ordeal has never left me. But the momentary feeling of beauty, sophistication and charm that the alcohol first gave me was stronger then. And would only go on to be the fuel of my self confidence for years to come.
Now, it wasn’t 26 years of hard times. I’ve had a wonderful life. I loved high school and I was happy and had a sweet boyfriend and some real friends who supported me and made me laugh. I felt strong and pretty for two years. Then I went away to France. I was alone and fear crept in. I worried about losing my boyfriend. I worried that I wasn’t pretty enough, that I wasn’t rich enough. That I wasn’t good or smart enough. I wish I had talked more about it then. Everyone seemed to think I had it all together and I know I had my moments. There were so many adventures that were wonderful, going to concerts, laying on the grass with sun on my face, doing well on a paper. I loved school. I was smart. It’s something I could do. I loved drama. I could be someone else entirely and I did it well. I wasn’t an athlete – it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. And I wished I was. I wished I was everything I wasn’t more than I ever let on. I desperately wanted to feel cool.
So, the years went on through college where I had a crappy year, an ok year, a really fun year and then a fun but what and I going to do with my life year. And I worked, and I worried, and I drank through them all.
I can’t blame life on any particular turning point. I won’t because I know that it’s just been in me from the beginning and will stay with me until the end. It’s how I was wired. How my brain processes and spits things out. I will forever need to lift myself up. Forever need to grab control from my thoughts and forever need to trek through mountains of doubt before finding that blue sky…clinging to that peaceful joy at recognizing my self worth. Content, happy and in control. Reminding myself that I have a most blessed life with amazing people in it. And they think I’m amazing. That’s powerful stuff.
And I’ve had some really fun times around alcohol. I need to remember that I’ve laughed a lot, felt beautiful and special a lot and done some amazingly strong and independent things. I’ve lived a full life already and I have another to go. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m having a midlife moment which is why I”m writing all this down. That’s exactly it. Maybe it’s time to reset my brain a little and put this to rest. So I’ll keep trying to get it all out.
After college I travelled. I’m realizing looking back that there are certain people in my life who have completely taken over and make me feel weak, less-than, ugly. It didn’t help that I was constantly in situations with people who lived lives I read about in books and wanted for myself. I wanted to be the “it” girl in the movies. Pretty, blonde (I had that in my wheelhouse) and the one who got the guy. There was no question that that would make my life better. I do regret I can’t go back and realize how truly awesome my family, friends and living conditions were. Instead trying always to go against it and change myself into the world I thought I wanted. Hindsight is a real bitch.
I got older and got a real job. I was safe and secure back home. How about that? I spent my childhood wishing I was anywhere else. I went away to Boston. I passed through almost every state. I spent a year near home making money, having a boyfriend that was probably not the best for me, and then escaping and heading to my dear friend in Seattle. My dreams of finding rock star love keeping me there for 2 months. We did temp work. It was humbling to not get a job easily. I assumed that I would have no trouble in my fantasy world and money was not flowing in as I had hoped. But we got by and I got a job offer and then another came from home. A safer job near my family and in a world I was familiar in. I had raged in a city for 4 years in college. It was time to go home.
I grew up during that job. I was 24 and making a salary. It wasn’t huge but for me it was. I had a great roommate, lots of friends and a fun life. We partied but not too crazy. At that point I had it all under control. It wasn’t like the college days in excess. I don’t remember blacking out ever. I did twice in college (one of which I continued to party through and I am pretty sure those party favors were laced with a little something extra) but otherwise hadn’t since 13 year old me on the golf course. Life was good. Life was fun. Life was carefree.
It didn’t stay that way always. Drama, loneliness and wine crept in for a winter but then the sun came out and shone upon me once again. This time I met a boy. A good boy with a good job. A boy who’s voice I heard over the phone and knew right away he was supposed to be mine. When we met it was like we’d known each other forever. I couldn’t believe he liked me back. Life was full of take out food, movies, being outside and making out. A few beers, few drinks, it was fun. Not too much though and I was full of confidence and love. 20 years later and that boy still loves me. And sometimes I still can’t believe it. But God, I know I am blessed by it. I live a beautiful life with that boy and 2 of our own. Why can’t I just enjoy it? Oh yeah. My brain just isn’t wired that way.
Eight years ago (nine in September) I blacked out after a back yard gathering. I remember crying to the blessed man I married. I was saying it had to end. I was done. No more booze. I couldn’t do it anymore. It had came to a breaking point. My brain was done, I guess. I wasn’t physically addicted to alcohol. I didn’t start drinking in the morning or lose my job or get a DUI. I never drunkenly turned on a child or did evil things. Well, except to myself. Inside my head I would beat myself up over and over as I struggled to built up confidence in wine world. Somehow thinking that it would make everything better in my brain. That I would be who I wanted to be. But who was that anyway? Finally when I stopped looking I realized how amazing it is actually being me. And I again regret that I didn’t recognize that long ago.
As I write this I can’t help recognize those who helped lead me down the path of self doubt. I regret to say they are mostly women. Women who somehow recognized my internal need for acceptance and used that to make themselves feel more important. Always the kind friend, I wanted to be there for them and in the process let them swallow me into their lives, losing my own. It’s funny because I know so many people who saw so much confidence in me throughout my life. And I really was strong and confident and happy so many times. I accomplished so much, I was so good at so many things…yet always focused on my shortfalls. Which were never apparent to anyone else. How does the mind do that? I read a few days ago that your mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy. I’d say that isn’t news to me.
I’m sitting in my cabin on the lake writing this. I guess I’ve hit a midlife moment where the 16 year old in my head is realizing it’s over 30 years later in real life. And 30 years is too many to keep these thoughts inside. I think by typing them up I can put them away for a little while. But I know better. They’ll be back. But so will my typing. So will my putting these memories into the world to help ease the pressure of them on my brain. Maybe I’m afraid I won’t remember them all. Yet, they’re mostly the very memories that I want most to forget.
I want to remind myself of the fun ones, the successes, the magic moments. Giving Robert Parish his gloves he left a the restaurant on the streets of Boston, running that Legal Seafoods podium like a boss in college. Being on stage and killing it in high school. Traveling to Telluride for an important career for 7 years and being part of the backbone of a place that brings music and fun to thousands of people. All while growing into a most comfortable life with a strong and successful husband, 2 wonderful littles, a beautiful home I love and more puppy love than one could hope for. And this cabin on the lake. This is where my brain needs to be. My focus looking ahead. Into what I’m determined to make the happiest days of my life. Those are the new memories to make. Starting now. Or at least thinking about now…I’ll try to start in the morning.
- Note * It’s worth sharing that I just read this almost 2 years after I wrote it. I miss my writing…my hope every night I go to bed, and every morning that I rise that I will grab it back. Give myself that incredible feeling of satisfaction that only writing seems to bring me. I’m trying…it’s all we can ask of ourselves but damn…sometimes we gotta try harder. I’m doing that every fucking day. xo