My Sober Life, Chapter 11

In which being the life of the party wasn’t enough, but the party became life

Once I was introduced to alcohol and partying, it was like I found my calling. I found the thing that not only brought me into circles of other “partiers”, but also filled me with a sense of confidence and invincibility I had not yet known. I did things I would never have done; I hung out with people I would have avoided; I said things I never would have said, both positive and negative.

So, my friends and I gained a reputation for throwing parties, and good ones at that. Even though we weren’t welcome at all parties, all were welcome at ours. The first party I ever threw turned out to be my most infamous. A girl had to be taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning and have her stomach pumped (she was, thankfully, fine, and has a lovely, beautiful family and life; she reads this, so HI! to her); the police showed up and gave tickets to everyone left; it made the local paper. I was grounded for months. I was branded a bad influence to many students’ parents. But I could live with that. Infamy was better than invisibility.

Parties became a regular part of my life. Whether I was attending or throwing, almost every weekend was focused on where we would be drinking. They never seemed to look like high school parties you see in the movies; they tended to be lower key, a manageable amount of people, and a lot of fun. Some people took advantage of this, of course. Disrespectful boys who played “Hide-a-Beer” to ensure I got in trouble. Jerks starting fights in my backyard and throwing the plastic deck chairs up into the trees, some of which we did not discover until a decade later. Drunk idiot teenagers jumping into my next-door neighbor’s pool in the middle of the night. 
Because the school was relatively small (less than 1,000 students) and many people overlapped in different groups, information, by nature, spread fast, but it seemed to be even faster in this incubator. Sometimes parties would get out of hand because the virtual grapevine would reach far more many ears than initially intended. But over the course of the three high school years of party throwing, it was mostly all good times, incredibly funny stories, and lifetime-bound friendships.

Two times during high school, I thought things might be getting out of control. I thought I might have a problem, so for Lent, I gave up alcohol. I didn’t give up partying, just drinking.

One of these times of forced sobriety was prompted by a partying session at a friend’s. We tended to rotate between three standard locations, and her house had an amazing basement setting. A small group of us were there that night, and as I had adopted a drinking motto of, “Go hard or go home!”, I had cuddled myself up to a 101 proof bottle of Wild Turkey. I don’t recall how much I had to drink that night, but anything over two shots of that stuff is too much, and I can pretty much guarantee it was more than that.

I got sick. Really, really sick. Like sitting-on-the-toilet-while-vomiting-in-a-garbage-can sick. I locked myself in the bathroom and I do not know how long I was in there. I woke up on the floor of the basement the next morning, and as others were rousting, we started talking. I asked how I got out there. They said my friend’s mom had to break into the bathroom to get me.

I had passed out on the toilet, vomit-filled garbage can in my lap. My friend’s saint-of-a-mother cleaned me up, cleaned the mess I’d made, and dragged me to a cozy square of floor and laid a blanket on me. I remember feeling a twinge of embarrassment and a flood of gratitude for her. 

When my boys were babies and still in diapers, there are two situations that sort of fully initiate you into parenthood: 1) your child projectile vomits all over you and everything in a three-foot radius, and 2) your child has what is aptly called a “blowout”. This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like where your child defecates in such a way, it blows out and up and down of every gap in the diaper, soaking whatever outfit they are wearing. Both of these situations are absolutely horrifying and 100% unavoidable. You are guaranteed to experience both. Soon-to-be or first-time parents who haven’t experienced one yet, it is coming. Oh, yes, it is coming. 

At first, you are completely frozen wondering, where is my time machine? I need to go back to two minutes before this happens. Next, you think, where do I start? Every option just invites making more mess. It’s so repulsive and disgusting, but you suffer through and deal with it because apparently that is what parenting – and adulting in general – is all about. We take care of each other.

As an adult now, looking back, I put myself in my friend’s mom’s shoes that night. What must have gone through her head as she knocked and knocked with no answer. Taking in the scene when she finally got the door open. Trying to wake me with no success.  Assessing the situation. Figuring out where to start. Did she feel fear? Panic? Dread? Annoyance? Once she saw I was comfortably breathing, what did she do first? Did she consider calling my parents? 

She didn’t lecture me about the dangers of teenage binge drinking. She didn’t try to talk me out of it. She never mentioned that night to me, not then or in the 22 years since. I think she knew it wouldn’t stop me, so she just took care of me and sent the message she could be trusted. I wonder if a similar situation will happen to me when my boys are getting to that age. Will I stumble upon the last bits of a party where one friend took it too far? Will it be my own son? Will I have flashbacks to when he was baby and having to take care of him and his mess?

So I stopped drinking for awhile after that. Having your friend’s mother have to clean you up like an infant after a blowout will make you reconsider your life choices. Even if it’s only for 40 days.

Cheers (with peppermint mocha coffee).

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