Like a lot of humans, I started drinking in college. Before that, I'd had exactly one vodka and red Kool-Aid at this guy named George's house. It tasted gross, of course, but I figured that was because I was a alcoholic newbie and as high-schoolers none of us knew how to mix a proper cocktail. It had to get better, I reasoned. Otherwise why the hell was everyone so excited about this rank swill?
It took as long as the last day of orientation week for me to try beer for the first time. And by "try," I mean get totally shitfaced off a pitcher of whatever was on tap. After that I was hooked in a Thursday through Sunday kind of way. Nothing that wasn't normal for about 90 percent of the kids on campus.
The remaining outliers either got drunk everyday by noon with six packs stashed in the mini-fridge my mom couldn't afford, or were still virgins.
I thought I had a handle on things until the night I swore off Tequila.
We were having dinner with some older girls from the cheerleading squad I'd just joined. Going to restaurants was an almost surefire way to get drinks without getting carded. This particularly classy joint would turn off the lights around midnight so the owner could come around with a bottle of Patron and pour a tablespoon or five directly into patrons' opened mouths. It was amazing.
After a couple of rounds of this, plus some cheap red wine, something with rum in it and maybe a few beers, there but for the grace of God I made it back to my single in John Jay. What happened next is something I've never written in print. I woke up hours later sweating like I'd been bitten by a walker.
Soaking wet and scared, I turned my head to reach for a glass of water. Fresh vomit met my cheek. Horrified, I searched around in the dark for more evidence of how disgusting I was. And it got worse. Not only had I yaked all over my pillow in my sleep and somehow cheated a cliched college co-ed death, I had also pissed myself. Oh, it gets worse.
I'd also did that other thing that's not pee but should similarly only occur in a bathroom. Not a lot of people have heard this story, so consider yourself in my circle of trust now.
Needless to say, ever since then, I've been able to wave off Tequila with even the flimsiest of willpowers. Wine is a different story.
I don't know when it happens -- somewhere between your first job job and maybe your first career with a big "C" job -- but having wine in the house is like having Brita in the house. It's just what grown-ups do.
As such, I didn't realize I was an "almost alcoholic" until one of my sorority sisters died in 2008. In that pitch black time, I went from having a glass of wine with whatever was on my George Foreman to two bottles of Whole Foods brand red a night.
I was paranoid, depressed, lonely and most of all extremely angry. I also felt useless. Like anything I did with myself was pointless in the face of such sadness. Staying home and staying drunk seemed more productive than another hour-long phone call about why she'd died. So a stiff pour led to a "I'll just do half" to a "I'll just finish it off" to a "It's only 10 pm, why not have one more?"
That cycle repeated itself until the night I fainted from dehydration and exhaustion at my once-favorite pizza place. I was sorta scared straight. And no, I don't order from there anymore.
Since then, I'd been too busy to slip back into my wino ways. Too ready to get out from in front of my computer screen. Basically, I'd been too happy in general.
That is, until last week. When I had to send my good friend and xoJane contributor Bassey an email with the subject line "Erica." Now I find that familiar pull to the couch, to the glass and to the blissful numbness. Remember the Nothing of "The NeverEnding Story"?
"A hole would be something," the Rock Biter explains."Nah, it was nothing. And it got bigger and bigger."
How easy would it be to fill the nothing with something, anything?
Most days when I look in my fridge, all I've got is cold filtered h2O or a couple bottles of white wine from the liquor store around the corner. I never buy sugary juice or soda because, duh, that's like bad for you, according to Michelle Obama. Wine, on the other hand, is "proof God loves us," according to Benjamin Franklin.
Last week, I was planning to write a light post about what to drink besides water and wine, then something heavy happened and shit got real. A good friend of mine is dead. That's a sentence I've written once before in my lifetime and one I don't want to write again, but know I will.
What I can't repeat is how I handled the last loss, crawling into a tight space in my mind while clutching a bottle -- choking it really, because that's all I could do.
So this won't end with a question like I'd planned with that original hed, "I Need Something to Drink Besides Alcohol," because instead of seeking advice I just needed to announce. To say, "This thing must happen" and stick to it like the time I told everyone I knew that Tequila was off the table.
It wasn't up for discussion. I just needed to put it out there.