After my first drink, I was determined not to be an alcoholic. I was 8 and did not know what an alcoholic WAS, but I had my own concept about what drinking was and how it would never effect me.
My first addiction was anorexia. At age 13 I was 198 lbs. and did not look like an anorexic, but that balmy spring evening where I cried to my mother hysterically that I didn’t want to be fat, I was instantly an anorexic. An internal fire mobilized me to action. I was done eating. I was compelled to exercise frantically. Pounds melted off week by week with rapid-fire succession. Goading me, people told me how great I looked. A neighbor used the word “glamorous.” It was on.
By the end of the summer, I had lost 80 lbs. I was fainting. I had a couple of seizures. I was now taking Phenobarbytol for seizures as well as Dilantin. The doctor gave me Valium for the fainting. It was, after all, from “anxiety attacks” and “hyperventilating.” Most prescriptions instruct the patient to take it every 4-6 hours or whatever. Mine simply said, “As Needed.” You probably see where this is going…..
And this abuse of prescription meds was OK because I wasn’t drinking. It was okay when it progressed to street drugs because I wasn’t drinking. It was okay when it morphed into pot-smoking and coke-sniffing. I wasn’t drinking.
At age 17, I got a job in a restaurant. The 20-somethings always came in hungover, giggling about the goings-on the night before: who went home with who, who danced, who got kicked out, who played pool, who was quiet, who was rowdy …. and I wanted IN.
They got me in. I was their mascot. I was cute and funny – and cuter and funnier with booze. I thought I was a social drinker. I went out and drank and socialized. I didn’t drink alone. I didn’t drink in the morning. I didn’t drink and drive. It was okay.
My “sure thing” was a restaurant first, a bar second. They had waitresses with ties and cummerbunds. Flickering candles glowed goldenly in their glass hurricanes. The menu prices were a smidgen pricey. But there was a full bar and they had open mic night with a coworker of mine. I’ll call him Larry. He was short and squat with an endless black beard. He wore a black ponytail that traveled the length of his back, a bandanna tied taut to the top of his head. Larry played some classic rock acoustic numbers and we cheered him on. I drank and drank. I joked with the waitresses and bartender so they would remember me – and they did. I never was asked for ID there.
A drink in my hand and a joke on my lips. I was sure this was social drinking. Anyways, I was young. We all were.
Thinking back to those days, I could forget the barf. I could forget that my social filter instantly dissolved and sometimes I offended people. I could forget the fear the following morning when I woke up and didn’t know how I got home. I could forget inspecting my car for …. pings. I could forget the purple freckles on my face, the broken capillaries that took years to heal. I could forget waking up in strange places with people I drank to forget.
In those days I didn’t look like an alcoholic. Much like the 198 lb. anorexic that no one had yet detected, I was a 17 year old alcoholic. I might not have looked like one, but I would one day.
This was 1989. It was only the beginning.