You know how it is at the end of the night (or the early morning in some cases), when you’re so tired you can barely hold your eyes open, but you know you have to somehow make it home, so you do. You don’t remember how you got home, but you woke up in the late morning hour with a hangover and a dreadfully hazy recollection of the night before. Perhaps you even have a text sitting on your phone from someone you don’t know, or at least not that you remember anyway, and their words hint at the two of you being best friends. You scratch your head and chalk it all up to the drinking, telling yourself you won’t get that drunk again.
But it’s a vicious cycle: the partying, the staying up until all hours, the random people you co-opt into being your “friends” for the night, and always the alcohol permeating everything else. I should know. I used to live that lifestyle. It was called my late teens. For some people it’s their entire twenties. For others it’s still going on now, and for those people I have a wealth of sympathy. It can be enticing, to get that buzz, to lose your inhibitions and do things you wouldn’t do sober, but it has its consequences. Believe me. Why do you think AA is so pervasive in our society? People want to stop, but it’s so difficult.
I’ll tell you a story. It was one night just like many others during that time period for me, when we had gone out drinking, then stumbled to somebody’s house (not sure who lived there, actually, even to this day), and the drinking picked up again. There was beer, and wine coolers, and hard liquor, and grain alcohol, and pretty much anything else you could think of. Sometime along the way I had gotten that pleasant, warm feeling that made me feel invincible. I called it my Superman buzz. It made me the life of the party. In fact, at one point I was outside in the dead of winter in my undershirt screaming nonsense into the wind with a cheering section behind me in the living room.
And everyone was hammered. I always likened those scenes to the sloppy drunk frat guys you see on those college movies, but even worse. It was like the 70s had come back to stay, with everyone hanging on everyone else, holding each other up under the guise of hugging, or dancing, or both. We loved everyone else there, and we wanted to show it. So we sang out of tune. We made a haphazard conga line. Some even paired up and retired up the stairs. I stayed downstairs, still drinking. The girls were all over me, too. Yeah, definitely the Superman buzz.
It was about four in the morning and people were finally starting to fade, coming down from that metaphorical alcoholic mountain. Walking through the house at that point was almost like the Walking Dead, with people slumped across whatever surface they could find, either out like a light or incoherent enough not to notice when I passed by. And while I was the drunkest, I still knew who I was and what I was doing. Relatively. That means I hadn’t resorted to peeing in the sink like some of the others.
That’s when I saw her, when I entered the kitchen, slumped over in the corner, her eyes wide open but staring at nothing. There was a pile of vomit on the floor next to her. It hadn’t been there long. I threw water into her face and she spit it all over the kitchen, shocked enough to show me that she was still alive. But it shook me to my core, what people will do to themselves, all in the name of being mindless, of trying to forget whatever plagues them. She looked at me then, her face soaked, and uttered a series of swear words I won’t repeat here. I realized I never wanted to be like her.
So I stopped drinking to excess. Just like that. It was closing time, and a new beginning was soon to emerge from that Exit door. I just didn’t know it then.