I got drunk for the first time my freshman year of college, which I now believe to be the ideal time to begin ingesting needless chemicals solely for the purpose of fun enhancement.
Note the leering ghost portrait observing me.
Moderation lasted for a few years, until I spent a semester in Italy, where a bottle of wine at dinner is not encouraged but demanded, loudly, with a lot of hand gestures. I also drank beer like water like the truest of Czechs in Prague, shot fruit liquour in Budapest’s derelict-turned-disco ruin pubs, and stirred up pitchers of sangria in Barcelona. (Forgive me for these not-so-humblebrags.) After six months, I had gained a slightly higher alcohol tolerance and also twenty pounds.
Cheers to wine in mugs!
When I returned stateside, my vacation libation habits didn’t stop. Weekends with drama school classmates–feel free to eye-roll here–allowed for bacchanalian excesses at themed parties like Dirty Disney, where I dressed as a particularly busty Peter Pan.
Then my boyfriend of two years dumped me on Skype, and I entered the phase that a friend termed “Obviously Coping.” I knowingly tried to rinse out heartbreak with sundry liquors concealed in drive-through Sonic cups. I acquired a taste for the Champagne of Beers preferred by Ultimate Frisbee players in aggressive rounds of Flip Cup. To ease myself to sleep, I sipped gin, water, and Crystal Light. I bottomed out either:
A) when I not-so-covertly chugged wine out of a sports bottle while watching the finale of Breaking Bad in my teenage sister’s bedroom
B) when I got publicly snubbed by one of the aforementioned Ultimate players at a party and chose to walk 45 minutes home, carrying a half-full bottle of Flip Flop red, in an ice storm, and woke up the next morning cradling a framed photo of the recent ex that I had excavated from my closet in a sobbing stupor.
I didn’t quit full-out after these episodes, but I did pull myself together until the following summer, when working full-time as a cocktail waitress in Oklahoma, in the summer, after all of my class had graduated, turned me into an alcoholic vampire. My then-psychiatrist recommended I stop laying down all my tip cash for post-shift tequila shots with my coworkers, so I did. For three weeks. Then I got dumped (different dude, but still via technology) and had my bike stolen within three days, and turned back to white wine for solace.
Flash-forward to this January, when I tried a sober stint in Chicago and again caved at three weeks in a blaze of glory that began with whiskey gingers at Duke of Perth, moved to Jack & Cokes at Scarlet, progressed to lots of water and laser-dancing at Hydrate, and culminated at me waking up the next morning in an entirely unfamiliar apartment with only the vaguest memory of a friend insisting that I put my pants back on–no seriously, Brynne, put your pants on. We collectively refer to this adventure as the Boystown Meltdown.
For me, alcohol abuse seems hard to pin down in America because we view it as a rite-of-passage, a weekend adventure, a catalyst for young adult life’s plot points.
I’ve listed plenty of the stupidest, most pitiful moments of my bond with alcohol, but here are some of the best memories it made possible:
Feeling like a badass while chugging vodka from a water bottle and dancing to Gin & Juice in a dorm room
Befriending a woman who would become one of my favorite people by gossiping on the couch in a club bathroom (747! Holla!)
Making eyes at someone who I thought was completely out of my league, who would turn out to be my First Love, while attending a Prom Redo party hosted by Pizza Hut
Breathing flames from my Bacardi-filled mouth lit by a band of Scottish men on a stag trip to Budapest
Kissing a man on my roof the very night before I graduated college
These things are mostly possible without liquor, yes, but alcohol to me is the “milk of human kindness”. It [temporarily] wipes out my cynicism, self-doubt, and worries about whether or not I’m muffin-topping. It tunes out my usual nagging internal commentary, allowing me to arm-dance with abandon and make friends with every girl in line for the bathroom.
But alcohol is also my crutch and is, of course, a depressant (thanks D.A.R.E.!) that counters the antidepressants I ingest daily. After years of subtle hints from healthcare professionals, my recent psychiatric experience (you’ll get a whole post on that later, Dear Reader) involved just about eight healthcare professionals telling me, with some regret, that although I am 24 and supposed to be Young Wild and Free, I should not drink at all. No really. Like, maybe one drink occasionally with dessert–does that sound doable? No? Then none.
So I haven’t had a drink since September 22 (except in a panicked dream). I conquered that ominous three-week hurdle. I’ve ignored the siren song of the margarita mix still chillin’ in my fridge. I’ve even been to a bar, with a man who I like, which is a situation that usually requires whiskey, but instead ordered up a Shirley Temple from a nice bartender who laughed at me but didn’t make me pay.
It’s hard. I miss wine most of all. I smell it from others’ glasses and my mouth waters. I still get strong urges to buy a Merlot from CVS on the way home from work and down half of it while watching Saw II by myself. But I forgo this epicurean pleasure in the hopes that actually taking my medication as prescribed will do for me what alcohol used to, and may also save me a lot of money and beer weight. I’m a month sober, which is a lot but very little compared to a life. So.