Friday, December 18, 2009


One would have thought I did have a hole in the roof of my mouth, or a hollow leg, or some unique, bovine stomach antechamber…the way I was able to put away alcohol at one point in my life.

How I loathe a drunk; how I love the same person when they’re sober. We’ve all seen a bad drunk; to be true, can there be a good one? I dunno. All I know for certain is that from the first time, to the last time, and so many, many times in between, I have been one lousy drunk.

I consider myself to be a very shy person, believe it or not. Up through high school, I tended to hide my introversion behind a book; once I turned 18, however, it was whole ‘nother story; I was funny, fearless and ferocious – so long as I had a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I worked for the weekend, and come Friday, loved nothing more than to dance the night away. Somehow, I’d make it home and sleep it off; and despite memory loss and crazy behavior, I’d do it all over again the following week.

I remember watching Animal House a zillion times before I ever even thought about college; I suppose I reached the conclusion that drinking was expected, and getting wasted was a requirement if you ever had hopes of fitting in, or being cool, or having fun. So, I fell for this lie – hook, line and sinker. Looking back, I have to wonder why we, as a society, have been and continue to be so forgiving and tolerant of alcohol.

If the signs of problem drinking in me were pronounced before I left for college, things went from bad to worse once I actually arrived. I knew no one at CSU – least of all, myself – and students were institutionally encouraged to drink. In spite of my intention to major in journalism and minor in classical voice, my focus quickly became the club scene – where I’d sing or dance or flirt…or at least think that I was…

Drinking got me into a lot of trouble.

There was a club in Fort Collins called Fort Ram, and as long as you showed your student i.d., you could drink gigantic long island iced teas for a buck apiece – which I did. Since I couldn’t remember the details my own damn self, I’d have a hard time believing people the next day when they related to me the things I’d done the night before…I figured they had to be exaggerating. But they weren’t – and if I’d understood that then, I’d likely be in a much different place now.

To this day, I don’t know which was worse – what I could remember, or what I couldn’t. The morning after would find me too hung over to even move; or with a twisted ankle; or with broken windows; or in jail. One Christmas Eve – which is when my family usually opens presents – I was thoroughly blitzed, though I still remember the frowns of familial disapproval as I accidentally opened everyone else’s gifts and excitedly exclaimed things like “How did you know I wanted an Epilady?!” I laughed like hell at each blunder…but it was hardly funny.

Not knowing what more she could do, my mother started saving the drunken messages I’d leave on her answering machine and later play them for me when I was sober. It was effectively torture to hear my own voice piercing through the pitch darkness of my blackout binge drinking, exposing the truth of my inner firewater monster.

(here’s a YouTube link of a stranger: it is chilling to hear her channel the same voice of the same drunk demonic hag who once inhabited me)

A screaming, angry, ranting and raving drunk…filled with hatred for and violence toward everyone and everything…and not until the room was spinning and I’d completely exhausted myself would I finally pass out. Upon waking to see whatever damage I’d done, I would become so sad – sad isn’t nearly an accurate enough word to describe how abject my desolation – and the same crazy drunk, hung over from the night before, would become positively suicidal.

I returned home from CSU in disgrace, and with considerably more baggage than with which I’d left.

After one particularly bad night – during which I cussed out my mother and hurled every one of my many belongings down the stairs and into the front room before passing out in a heap – I awoke with head throbbing, and the realization of what I’d done, and of what a total loser and utter failure I’d become. Combined with my complete absence of faith, it suddenly all became too much for me to bear; and at the tender age of 22, I downed about 90 of my mother’s amitryptiline tablets.

For a moment in time, I was flat-lined. They had to jump-start my heart, put me on a rescusitator, pump my stomach…I’ll never forget the many mouthfuls of black charcoal I spat out for several days afterward. It was a miracle when again my eyes opened and I rejoined the living. The first face I saw was my mother’s…my high school sweetheart/future husband standing behind her – both of them crying tears of sorrowful gladness and telling me how much they loved me.

I will always remember that dark moment 20 years ago…a lifetime ago; for that which we fail to remember, we are doomed to repeat.

Today, I’m able to take an occasional drink; but for the most part, God simply took the taste for alcohol right out of my mouth: for that, and so much more, I thank and praise Him. Hopefully, I won’t ever falter again, but I’ve also learned never to say never: several Thanksgivings ago, I found myself barefoot and bleeding at night on a snowy sidewalk, lost and unsure of which direction to take in order to find my way back home – this, after having gone a decade without the temptation for even so much as a sip of alcohol.

I’ve been very plain with my children about how alcohol can and has affected their mother; and warned them that they’re genetically predisposed to experiencing similar problems with alcohol, should they ever take it up. So far, they’ve shown no inclination for either drinking or smoking, which is a relief – but I am ever watchful.

Making whoopie with a stranger and dancing around with a lampshade on your head might be thrilling at that moment, but what comes next?  A moment is all that’s needed to make an irreversible misstep that could bring regret, heartbreak and pain to your family, your friends, and yourself for years and years to come.

Never underestimate how swift and deadly alcohol can be; it is the reason we still refer to it as spirits. Further, alcohol has a whole gang of lowlife friends in tow – anger, doubt, fear, low self-esteem, depression, aggression, hopelessness, et. al., – and together, they pick us apart, seeking out our human flaws and frailties for maximum exploit. What Satan has done and would do to destroy me – to destroy us all – if only we give him the chance!

By chance did I stand up my date with death; by choice have I come to accept and appreciate the loving grace of God.

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