My Sober Life, Chapter 6

In which I discover I have an eidetic memory, how it sometimes is the worst, and that alcohol helps me forget

It is a blessing and a curse to remember a lot of things. Usually, it’s a blessing. You start a story with, “Remember that one time…” and you jog the memory of another person and you enjoy a nostalgic moment together. But there are those times when all you want to do is forget, and you just…can’t.

My earliest memory is shortly after my family moved back to Colorado when I was just one year old. I have fact-checked this memory against my parents and siblings for accuracy of surroundings, and they have validated it. Strangely enough, I can also see the memory from two angles.

The first is seeing it from my body. I am standing in a crib in the dark. A room-length window is to my left, and across from me is a four-poster bed with a canopy. I am crying and scared. I do not know where I am.

The second angle is as though I am in the opposite corner of the room near the ceiling, floating. I am looking down at this baby standing in the crib, screaming. The baby is doing that thing when you cry so hard, you can’t catch your breath. That half-hiccough, half-sob/moan, and the tears streaming catch the light of the moon outside. 

When I say, “I can see the memory,” I mean that literally. All I have to do is unfocus or close my eyes, and it’s in my head, or my mind palace, if you will. This is true for almost every memory I have. I just have to take a second to recall it, and then it’s like I’m watching a movie. Some of the outer edges are fuzzy, but overall, it’s as accurate as it can be.

Research shows that feelings and emotion play a significant role in memory. Because emotions serve a purpose and function, they can change and influence a memory. I take that into consideration when recalling. How I remember something may be completely different from the way another person remembers it. (Put this in your back pocket…it will come up in a future chapter…)

Anywho, all this is to talk about my first drink (or drinks, as it were). That’s what we’re all here for, right? Now, I had tasted alcohol before. My dad used to give me the dregs of his beers when I was little, and I was raised Catholic, so I’d been tasting wine, er, blood, er…since I was eight. Basically I was a vampire. 

But the first time I purposely drank with the intent of getting drunk, I was 15. May 19, 1995 (thank you, internet). Freshman year of high school had just ended or was about to end. It was my first concert at Red Rocks. First time seeing Big Head Todd and the Monsters. I had to BEG my parents to let me go. My friend’s older brother and his friends (juniors in high school) were going to take us, and they were not inclined to say yes. I’m still not sure how I managed it. 

Back then you could bring thermos’ into Red Rocks, and these boys brought bright red, fruit punch Kool-Aid. And they generously added in a bottle of everclear. We’re talking 150-proof, no-messing-around BOOZE. I was nervous. All that Catholic guilt is heavy on the shoulders. My two friends had already been down this road and looked at me like I was taking the whole thing way too seriously. Then one of the boys put his arm around my shoulder and gave me a little shake. 

“Let loose! We’re at f***ing Red Rocks, for Pete’s sake!” I decided he was right. I took the red Solo cup and lifted it to my nose, inhaling. I pulled a face but took a timid sip. I had never tasted anything like it. It tasted like acid and sweetness and rebellion. I took a longer gulp. It went down with a shiver. I weighed maybe a buck-twenty; the buzz and lightness went straight to my head. The boys smiled encouragingly and my friends laughed. “Finally!” And from there on, it’s just flashes of images.

Another first that night – my first blackout. Alcohol affects and alters short-term memory function, and for me, it’s like taking an eraser to the blackboard. Wiped clean. Huge chunks of time…poof. Gone.

But you guys, we had a freaking amazing time. Even though I’ve seen BHTM a couple dozen times since then, when I hear Bittersweet (easily one of my top five favorite songs of all time) or “I closed the door!“, I am instantly transported back to that night. 

The breath of summer playing on our skin…dancing and singing our hearts out…dropping inhibitions…picking up confidence…forgetting to care what other people might be thinking about me.

I will always remember the feeling evoked from that night. 

It feels like freedom.

Big Head Todd and the Monsters – Bittersweet – Red Rocks – 1995

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