This post was originally published on March 23, 2015.
In middle and high school, I was the kid that proudly proclaimed that I would not touch alcohol until the day I turned 21 and I would never ever do drugs. My classmates wouldn’t even bother to peer pressure me, because they already knew the answer was a resounding no. The kids who drank in high school were just conformists who wanted to seem cool and rebellious, and the kids who did drugs were fuck-ups who weren’t going anywhere with their lives. At least those were my views on drinking and drug use when I was growing up. It’s not that I was a goody goody or anything; in fact my refusal to touch drugs and alcohol was not in tandem with my risk-taking and outgoing personality. Most people when they met me were surprised to find out I was against alcohol and drugs because I did love to let loose, and I indulged practically every other desire or impulse I had. I was certainly curious about alcohol and drugs, but my refusal to do them had nothing to do with resisting urges or wanting to follow the rules; it had to do with my father.
When I was nine, I finally found out the real reason why my parents got divorced when I was two. I remember my older sister and I would ask our mom what had happened between her and our dad, and she would always respond that our father would tell us when he was ready. Well that day came. Our dad was dropping us back off at our mom’s house after our weekly Sunday lunch when he suddenly pulled over and told us that he was an alcoholic and had recently fallen off the wagon after being sober since the divorce. I knew I was supposed to be shocked, and I was, but I didn’t fully understand what alcoholism was at that age.
When we told our mom what had happened, we had a long talk about the whole thing. She explained to us that alcoholism and addiction is a disease and it can cause a person to do things they normally wouldn’t; it can even change a person completely. The disease certainly changed my father. He was not physically abusive at all, he is a very loving and open-minded person to this day, but his disease certainly took parts of him. I can see glimpses sometimes of what he must have been like when he and my mom first met; passionate, intelligent, worldly; the life of the party. But those glimpses are fleeting; now he is just the husk of that person he once was. I see it now and I could see it when I was eight years old. When I finally got all my answers, I made a vow to never drink or do drugs not only because the disease is hereditary, but also, and most importantly, because I didn’t want to become a husk like my father. I’m sure he must have thought something similar about his alcoholic father before him, but vows like these, I know now, don’t always stick.
I made it to my freshman year of college before I started drinking, and to the end of my sophomore year before I started doing drugs. It’s not that I forgot about my dad and what substance abuse did to him, I just figured it wouldn’t happen to me because I would never let it get that out of control. I wish I could say there was a particular and defining moment that triggered the onset of my drinking or drug use; but there wasn’t. Nothing tragic or devastating happened to me that made me want to start. It would certainly be easier that way; at least I’d have something to blame it on (spoken like a true addict, never wanting to take responsibility for my own decisions and actions).
I’m honestly not sure what caused my attitude to change from one of fierce determination to avoid alcohol and drugs to just shrugging my shoulders and saying, “What the hell, why not?” Maybe I was tired of fighting it, maybe I just wanted the experiences, maybe I was mad at my dad and wanted to say screw you; who knows exactly? There were probably several contributing factors. Whatever the reason, I tumbled pretty far down. You know how when someone has been malnourished for a while you’re supposed to only give him or her small amounts of food to ease them back to normal or else they’ll get sick? Well, I had never done drugs or had alcohol before, and let’s just say this; I did not ease myself into it. I was like a malnourished person dropped off at a 24-hour buffet. I went a little crazy with how much I did. Alcohol was never really the problem though I’d had my fair share of crazy drunken nights of regret, but it was never out of control. For me, it was drugs.
Molly, acid, pills; I loved them all. But cocaine, cocaine was my soul mate. I did the others for bigger events, parties and clubs, but coke I could do any time, anywhere, and for whatever occasion; a little key bump in the morning to get my day started or fat lines on a Friday night before going out. We went together perfectly. Blow just made me feel invincible and confident, like all the problems that usually come with risk-taking and impulsivity just didn’t exist for me. I was the life of the party, I got bartenders to dance on tables with me, I gave and got champagne baths, I did lines off all sorts of body parts, I got invited to every after party I wanted and then some.
Unfortunately for me, all the problems associated with my reckless behavior did exist for me, I just thought they didn’t whenever I did coke. And somehow I always managed to forget about all the shit that would come back; all I ever seemed to remember was the wild and fun times I had with coke. But my grades were slipping, I got no sleep, I was severely underweight, I was alienating my friends and family, I woke up in strange places with strange people. To put it lightly, my life was a hot mess. But it didn’t truly hit me until my mom asked me to go for a walk and said she knew I was addicted to coke. She said she knew all the signs because a druggie knows a druggie.
Apparently my mom and dad met doing lines together. It’s not exactly how you hope your parents meet, but I was glad to get the whole story. I knew my mom was a partier when she was younger, but I never understood the full extent of it or that she did coke with her brothers and sisters (my aunt and uncle). I learned a lot about my family that day. I also learned that it wasn’t just my father’s alcoholism that broke my parents and our family up; it was his addiction to coke as well. They had done it together for a while, but my mom was never truly an addict; she liked to party, but she was able to stop, and she did. She thought my father had too, especially after my sister and I were born. But he didn’t, he hid it very well for some time. But my mom knew the signs and after he’d had several unsuccessful stints of rehab, Mom took us away because she didn’t want that life for us. It was us leaving that finally got my father sober. He had that one relapse when told us he was an alcoholic, but that was it.
It was hearing this story that made me want to get sober. My mom has provided for me and has been my best friend my whole life; she has also sacrificed so much so that my sister and I wouldn’t be exposed to drugs and all the unhappiness they bring. I started off wanting to be sober because of my dad but now I am getting sober because of my mom and because of myself. I don’t want to turn into my father, that’s still true, but I would be lucky to be like my mother. Someone who is strong enough to know when to stop and who fights for her family with everything she has. I want to be that person; hopefully that is something I also inherited.