Fast Times at My High School Reunion
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Fast Times at My High School Reunion


This post was originally published on July 17, 2015.

When my 10-year high school reunion came around in July 2008, I was in the throes of a relapse cycle. I’d entered AA for the first time just a year earlier and, after stacking up 11 months of sobriety, I “slipped” on a few sips of beer, then went on a full-on bender 80 days later. Nine days after that was the reunion, and my sponsor advised me not to go.

“You can’t handle a high school reunion with nine days of sobriety,” she said. “You shouldn’t go. It’s too easy to drink.”

But I’d already paid the $75 for the dinner at a Brazilian barbecue joint in Studio City, and I knew most of the kids from high school were pretty straight-edged anyway. How could I possibly drink?

So I ignored my sponsor, got all dolled up in a smoking hot sundress and headed out the door, eager to impress everyone with my figure since I was a good 20 pounds heavier in high school, when I suffered from binge-eating disorder.

Unfortunately, on the way to the reunion, I had a massive blowout with my best friend Doug on the phone. During the relapse, I’d said some cruel and disturbing things to him and wrote a fucked-up email. He called me on my bullshit, which really threw me off.

Though I had no intention of drinking when entering the restaurant, after I slapped on that stupid name tag, I found myself walking straight to the bar, almost in a trance. And I ordered not just any glass of Pinot Noir, but a really expensive one (at least for my budget), something like $20. I was already blowing it—might as well enjoy it.

I wanted to appear sophisticated. I wanted to prove that I was cool, show my classmates that I’d outgrown the Christian fundamentalism that was pretty prevalent in my Baptist high school. My mother sent me there not for the religion but because she thought it would keep me away from “bad influences.”

When we sat down to eat the Brazilian barbecue, I just wasn’t hungry. Adrenaline surged through my body from the conversation with Doug and from the excitement of drinking booze. After a while, I got another glass of Pinot Noir, then stepped outside to call my best friend Angela from AA to confess my sins.

“I’m drinking,” I told her. “But I’ve only had a couple glasses of wine and I’m okay and safe and I’m not going to drink anymore.”

She actually bought this line of bullshit. Hell, I bought it too. Surely I wouldn’t drink more. I didn’t want to make an ass out of myself in front of those old classmates and, for whatever reason, no one in that group was getting good and drunk. In fact, no one was even smoking, which at first was fine since I’d quit cigarettes four months earlier.

But just like any good alcoholic, I had to have more wine. Just 10 minutes after I called Angela, I ordered yet another Pinot. By that time, one of the teachers was giving a dedication speech to all the students. And feeling perfectly buzzed and anesthetized, I used that speech as an opportunity to walk to the nearest gas station and buy a pack of Benson & Hedges.

I then proceeded to sit on the patio, right outside the private room where all my classmates were, and chain smoke, asking myself how on earth I could be the naughtiest girl in the group when I was one of the biggest goody two-shoes at high school.

“What is wrong with everyone?” I thought. “Where are all the smokers? Why aren’t these guys doing blow? How come I’m the drunkest one here? They’re so lame!”

But I felt no shame about smoking and drinking. More than anything, I was baffled that the popular kids who were known party animals in school sat relatively sober and in control of their faculties, listening to the teacher drone on about how awesome the class of 1997 was.

Thankfully, a small group of people moved on to a bar just a few doors down, where I started pounding vodka. At this point, the whole night gets foggy in my memory. I vaguely recall getting into the gold Hummer of a guy named Andrew, this douchebag who made fun of me all throughout high school for having a big nose. He even called me ugly and, one time, I slammed my heavy science text book on his head.

Andrew drove me and a cheerleader named Kimberly, who I was never too keen on, to some luxury apartment on the Sunset Strip where Andrew’s friend lived. I recall smoking weed and drinking more liquor and then, at one point, being taken into a dark room with Kimberly. We just sat there and I really was hoping to get it on with some dude, any dude. Andrew finally entered the room accompanied by some guy named Billy, and all four of us proceeded to have what a friend later told me was a full-on orgy.

The cheerleader and I made out. Billy screwed me and Andrew screwed me—yep, I screwed the guy who made fun of me. Finally, I remember passing out on the couch and Kimberly threw a flimsy blanket over me and kissed my cheek.

“Good night!” she said.

When my eyes opened at 7 am, I found myself in what was, apparently, the home office of an attorney because a law degree hung on the wall and we’d all fucked on this expensive leather office couch. My head ached and I felt sick. I sneaked out through the living room, grabbed my purse and left, feeling utterly disgusted about the night before.

Another joy of heavy drinking is, of course, misplacing your vehicle. On top of everything, I had no idea how to get to my car, which was still in the Valley. Thankfully, I spotted a cab.

I can’t express enough how utterly repulsive I felt, both physically and mentally. The only thing I could think to do was hit the 9:30 am Sunday AA meeting, one of my home groups where my sponsor hung out. It was in Hollywood, right on the way home. So I went and laid on the couch in the lobby of the women’s club that hosted the meeting, moaning to myself, my eyes half shut. Then I puked in the bathroom, went back to the couch and moaned some more, until I finally felt someone staring down at me.

My sponsor Lisa. She just sighed.

“Are you okay? Do you need some water?”

“I’m okay,” I whispered.

“Let’s talk later,” she said.

So if there’s a moral to this story, it’s, listen to your sponsor. They’re not always right, but sometimes it’s better to not risk trying to prove them wrong.

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About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.