This post was originally published on April 10, 2015.
My name is Lucy and I am the alcoholic twin sister of a non-alcoholic girl named Cason. We are fraternal twins born one minute apart. I always assumed that minute difference must have given my sister an advantage over me before we came into the world. The doctor said I was supposed to come out first but that Cason sat directly on my head in utero to get the jump on things.
What a bitch.
We twins do not bode well under the spell of competition. We come in a set, we work better in a team. Cason and I even get the same SAT scores (1140, to be exact). Growing up, I didn’t understand what made me feel so vastly different from my sister and that did a number on my psyche. I spent my youth and early adolescence analyzing what exactly made Cason better than me, other than our height difference and disparity in weight (I was, of course, the taller and heavier twin by four inches and a cool 20 pounds). I drove myself crazy with the notion that if I lost enough weight and hyped up my femininity, our identities and respective hotness would materialize into completely different forms of independence. I made a point to compare every meal that I ate with how much more Cason was eating and how much bigger I was while eating less than she did. Right around the age of 14, I became obsessed with precisely how my sister could be my twin—so laid back, so happy and so skinny—when I had nothing to offer but a few well-formed thoughts and mental archives comparing myself to her, stemming all the way back to birth.
In true alcoholic fashion, I often blamed my sister for how I felt. I also used to scream at her about how her “revisionist history” of our lives was unacceptable. My worst outbursts came right before her wedding (and years before my sobriety) when she justifiably dethroned me as her Maid of Honor due to my crummy attitude. I hated that she always told people I bullied her when we were kids, knowing full well that I did. She was a great person to project my insecurities onto; she was me, just formatted to fit a smaller screen. I resented how open and willing she was to drink when we were in high school, especially since I’d decided to be abstinent and had made it crystal clear that this choice was to be admired and duplicated. I remember feeling frantic and angry that I was secretly tempted to drink when she and our two friends Gina and Jennifer happily guzzled airplane bottles of liquor. I literally white-knuckle-clutched my silver Virgin Mary pendant I wore as a reminder to be a pious God-fearing Catholic, though I was baptized Episcopalian, thus negating my need to feel guilt or shame in the first place. To put it plainly, I was a hypocrite from an early age. I would go as far to say that my brain found its obsessive niche to set me up for familial failure immediately, if not sooner.
As for my own revisionist history, I am reminded when I hear people share in AA that most of my thoughts as a young girl were refracted through the prism of alcoholism. I believe that I have been an addict since birth. When we played hide-and-seek, I would rush to the garage as my spot because it was an enclosed space that reeked of gasoline. I loved the alone time while I got my first taste of chemical freedom. I was a weird one, though I made sure to keep my weirdness locked and hidden someplace within that was out of reach to me until I turned 17 and began to drink regularly (read: alcoholically).
Cason was the first person I called when I got to college (I’d made a swift cut-and-run maneuver from Virginia to Vermont, as part of a rebellious need for independence from her). Cason opted to go to a university in Western New York. We hadn’t been away from each other for any extended period of time since the time we were 12 and she went away to sailing camp for a couple of weeks where she celebrated our 13th birthday with total strangers. While she was sailing away at camp, I felt saddened by our actual separateness, so I sent her a card that read the lyrics of a popular Backstreet Boys song at the time (she and I were both in the Backstreet Boys camp, f*ck N*Sync of yesteryear). I missed her. Despite my nagging insecurities around her, I felt desperate and alone without my lifelong best friend. College—unlike sleep-away camp—was scary and cold. I felt laughably underprepared and completely defenseless against the brutal winter and my own uncontrollable urge to drink and fool around with liberal arts stoner punks. It was at this time that I discovered a way to have Cason in my life: I instantly befriended a girl who would be my surrogate twin for the next two semesters. In a (purple) haze of promiscuity, 99 Apples and late night chats with my new BFF, I was able to complete that year with relative sanity.
The summer before our sophomore year, I missed Cason too much not to join her at college. I kid you not, the minute I met up with her at school, she met her now husband at a party. I felt replaced and dejected because I’d made the arduous journey from one cold place to another just to be stood up. She obviously did not appreciate my sacrifice. I took the subsequent college years, filled with our father’s death, brutal cold, depression and total jealousy of her blossoming relationship, as a time where I could become more myself without being in her shadow. I sought the help of a counselor at school to sort out why I was having a difficult time every time I drank while all of my other friends and my sister seemed to live consequence-free existences.
These days I have a tendency to drift off into the happier parts of my memory where Cason and I made a great team. I recall us leading a group of peers at daycare in our choreographed dance number for In Living Color (as Fly Girls of course). We organized a costume-making party and performed in our outfits, making us the envy of all of the less-chill kids. I have every confidence she remembers our 15 seconds of fame at daycare as the ambitious duo wearing overalls covered with glittery puffy paint.
I haven’t seen my sister in over a year. There is a big part of me that likes this sweet incubation period where I take emotional shelter in sobriety. I get to revel in my imperfections while discounting baseless comparisons to others. To be honest, however, there is a bigger part of me that wants her to see how fabulous I am, despite being her imperfect, recovering alcoholic twin. At least then she will see the better part of me.