Look, I’m from Texas and we’re a hearty breed. It’s how we’re trained. You’ve seen the news. We have swagger. We give very few, if any, fucks. Everything is bigger in Texas, because we can take it.
Here’s a little something about Texas you might not know. In junior high, public schools teach a year of World History in sixth grade. In eighth grade, it’s a year of American History. And in seventh grade, the entire year of Social Studies is Texas History. I should know because I taught Texas History in Austin for three years.
To Texans, they’re all even: America, The World, and Texas. So, it’s not my fault I’m like this.
My sophomore year of high school, I didn’t drink at all. I was religious and my faith of choice was Southern Baptist. I was anti-sex and anti-booze. Super Christian. Which is also kinda Texan. I guess you could say I got high on Jesus. God was my drug. I went to Sunday School, church camp, lock-ins and mission trips. I memorized Bible verses just for fun.
Then my junior year of high school, I was a foreign exchange student and spent a year in Norway. Norwegians drank a lot and thought it was weird to be Christian. Inexplicably, I started drinking and being a little less Christian.
As a Southern Baptist, I’d decided to not have sex until I was married. Once I started drinking, I found some wiggle room in that declaration. I thought, “Well I won’t have sex until after high school.” By college I was like, “Somebody put something in me already, please!”
And there my drinking life took off! Booze and sex and shame just seemed like another college requirement, like PE or an easy science class.
So I drank a lot, and was able to drink a lot. I couldn’t help but notice that I often drank more than people around me. I didn’t think it was a problem. I saw it was an asset, “Look at me, able to drink all this. Because I’m hearty! I’m a GD Texan!”
My friends and I drank at parties and stuff, sure. But we liked to find other ways to drink, too. Because, well, we were Texan.
We didn’t just “go to a lake and drink.” We’d float for three hours down the Guadalupe River on inner tubes getting drunk on Shiner Bock. We didn’t need a fancy name for it—we just called it tubin’. It was easy to spot the first-timers, because they had to rent an extra tube for their cooler of beer. But we’d float ours behind us in a mesh net, letting the river keep them cool, because we knew what we were doing.
We drank Mexican martinis, which is mostly margarita but it comes in a martini shaker so you feel like you’re drinking five servings.
We’d eat nachos and drink at Baby Acapulco, a restaurant where you’re not allowed to have more than two margaritas, because they’re made with Everclear.
We’d road trip the eight hours to New Orleans to celebrate Bastille Day.
Drinking helped me. In college, drinking made me feel like I was one of those girls who guys love in the movies. The kind who can handle the hard liquor and match you shot for shot. In movies it’s always a hot chick, a Kate Hudson or a Cameron Diaz. She can down shots and beer with all the guys, still looks awesome at the end of the night and goes home with the cute guy.
When I drank I’d often go home with some guy, or throw up on myself. Or both!
To me, a drink in my hand said to the world, “Hey, I’m hearty! I’m fun! Anything goes!” Even if there was dried throw-up on my jacket or shoes.
A few years after college, I moved to LA.
This was a culture shock. No one in LA thinks it’s cool to be hearty. I had to change.
So I decided I’d be fancy. That’s very LA. I shifted to drinking Apple-this and melon-that and something-tinis. Drinks are brightly colored, served in fun glasses and cost $15 to $27 each. I evolved and got into wine because that’s what rich people do. Instead of doing any hard work required to get rich, I just tried to be able to talk about the grape juice they drank to fit in. And if I ever drank a ton of beer, I’d swear I was doing it ironically.
A few years ago, I took a trip to Oklahoma City to visit a friend. And one night there, I did it all. All the things I loved to overdo, I overdid all at once. My friend DJ’d a bar party and I had a night of drinking beer, snorting coke and guzzling Red Bull and vodka shots from an ice sculpture booze luge. I made out with one guy, then another—there were hillbilly germs everywhere. And I topped it off with 3 am Taco Bell, until I finally passed out.
In the morning, I realized: I’m going to stop doing this on my own. I wasn’t in college anymore. It wasn’t cute, or a phase. It was 20 years later.
I was no longer a fun girl or a fancy wannabe or even someone being ironic. I wasn’t hearty. I was a mess. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I just knew I had a problem.
Admitting that I was an alcoholic was mind-blowing. I had to change my whole identity.
The sign “Don’t Mess With Texas” hangs loud and proud on the way in to Texas. You are warned upon entering the state to not mess with it. That’s pretty defensive. So, as Texans, we are not only big and hearty but also defensive. Good luck making any of us admit that we are alcoholic. That’s throwing in the towel. In Texas, we’re more likely to keep the towel, soak it in whisky, then relax on an inner tube floating down the river and get drunk sucking on that booze towel.
The biggest struggle for me was wrapping my mind around the idea that I had an alcohol problem, or that there could even be a problem with alcohol other than running out of it.
Luckily I found a bunch of people who understood my alcohol problem, shared the same problem and made me laugh. I got to hang out with them and start not-drinking.
It’s changed everything.
I thought not-drinking would be a total drag and “no more fun times.” Which is hilarious in retrospect. Because what were the fun times I was going to miss, exactly? I mean, what am I giving up when I give up drinking?
Aw, man. Am I going to have to know people I make out with? So I’m just not going to spend half my nights in the bathroom throwing up? Whoa, whoa whoa, you’re telling me I have to live the rest of my life just knowing where I parked my car?!! I’ll gain respect of friends and family? Move forward in my career? Think more clearly? Make good decisions? What about hangovers? I hope I can still find a way to get them!
Ugh. Sounds like hell.
Being an alcoholic was a surprise to me. Best surprise of my life.
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