The first time I ever drank was when I was around 15-years-old. I remember it being late and possibly summer. My friends and I found an outdoor area, someone’s older sibling bought us booze, and we drank. It was such a novelty that night. We pretended that we couldn’t walk in a straight line, that the night sky and the somewhat shady area we found to indulge would protect us from any consequences. I remember cigarettes. Laughter. Confessing to a friend who hadn’t been there the next day. We did this thing. And now we can’t undo it. Most importantly, we don’t want to.
An alcoholics first drink is a memorable one. Though mine seems pretty harmless and normal, looking back at it now with adult-eyes, my first drink feels like the beginning of the end. I already felt like I was being inducted into a secret society. I felt less like me and more like them—the cool kids. Was it that easy? Is it ever?
I chose to write about my first drink, though it feels un-memorable, for exactly that reason. There was no indication that my drinking story would unfold like it did, yet it feels inevitable to me. There’s a big part of me who wants to travel back, clutch the hand of that vulnerable 15-year-old me and whisper, “I love you.”
Drinking became less of a novelty as I did more of it. There was a big binge one evening in Montauk. Sneaking into bars, ending up in a stranger’s home, luckily finding my voice to say, “no,” no I won’t sleep with you. I yelled it in fact. He picked me up and put me on the couch. I woke up wrapped in a blanket, threw up in his back yard.
I have never been attracted to the “bad boy,” but I’ve definitely been attracted to the bad girl. The friends I chose in high school were always older than me, mature in more way than one. I ended up in questionable situations because I chose to be there, but also because I sympathized with the wild card. I can listen all night long to you. I will be honest and loving. I’ll hold your hair back while you puke even if I’m just as sick to my stomach. I’ll never leave you at the bar or let you make that questionable decision. I’ll mother you. Like I wasn’t. Like I wanted to be.
Maybe, that’s why I ended up becoming friends with the older girls even in college. Girls who had sex, who got drunk regularly on cheap vodka mixed with whatever soda they had in their fridge. Frat parties for a Friday night given and Sunday’s were reserved for hangovers.
Maybe, I’m making this too simple. Maybe, those experiences were normal to everyone else but me: a girl who knew way too much about the consequences of drinking years before it was legal for me to do so. But what does it say, that I did?
I don’t remember what my first drink tasted like, but I do remember how I felt. Giggly. Self-assured. Confident. Like I belonged. I would seek that feeling of belonging for years.
When I finally confronted my sexuality in my sophomore year of college, I continued drinking. Hoping that with each passing beverage I might understand myself a little bit better. The stakes felt higher than ever before. If I gave up drinking, I was giving up my life.
I just reread that sentence and felt funny. Am I lying? Is it possible that I never knew these things about my relationship to alcohol until I started to write them out here? Until I challenged myself to come clean and to stop giving a shit about what everybody else thought and just wrote? Well, here I am. I gave up drinking, and I’m living. Daily it feels like surviving, but tonight, the air is blasting, the lights are dim, and there’s a night’s sleep to be had. I am reminded of my favorite lines from my favorite poem by Marie Howe called What The Living Do, “I am living. I remember you.”