My Sober Life, Chapter 13

In which college doesn’t happen to me, I happen to college

When I went to college (for all the wrong reasons), my three years of partying experience emboldened me. I bragged about drinking since I was 15, and when my parents left after moving me in, I lovingly lined up my shot glasses and displayed my bottle cap collection. I’m subtle like that.


My identity became intertwined with drinking. I wasn’t drinking every day, but much like high school, I was always looking for the next party, the next opportunity. It started out OK. I went to class the first couple of weeks, and I played volleyball with the club team. But when they wanted money for uniforms and tournaments, my parents said no, and my motivation or caring for anything, let alone myself, went right out the window.

I slept. A lot. The public internet was really new back then (age check), and we cruised chat rooms and looked up bands we liked. I lost my school ID within the first couple months of school, so I couldn’t get into the dining hall. My roommate was constantly going in there and getting take out boxes so I could eat. By the time Wednesdays rolled around, the talk turned to parties. Where is my next escape?

Without any real structure or schedule, I quickly got my nights and days twisted around and would stay up all night while sleeping half the day away. At times, my roommate could barely veil her annoyance when she’d throw open the curtains and loudly ask, “Are you going to class?”

The short answer is no. I was not going to class. I went to a large public university about two hours away from home, and I was not ready for it. I had spent all of my life in small, private schools, and walking into a lecture hall with 300 other people gave me a bitter taste of anxiety, although I didn’t know what it was at that time. I took the tests for one class that first semester and passed with a C. I failed all my other classes both semesters. My cumulative GPA for my freshman year was 0.013.

Some other highlights from freshman year are:

  • Getting drunk at a Halloween party in a neighboring college town, meeting some guy and ditching my roommate so we could hook up in his dorm room, while she banged on the door
  • Going to a frat weekend getaway with a friend, drinking so much I slipped on the dance floor, landing on my face resulting in an Oklahoma-shaped bruise under my eye, and hooking up with some guy with whom I was vaguely acquainted
  • Getting drunk at a friend’s sister’s wedding and crying all night because I decided I was in love with her brother
  • Getting drunk and wandering into the Subway restaurant at two in the morning, demanding my friend who worked there give me free food, and him putting me in the back room so I would stop making a scene and just eat the damn sandwich (some version of this happened more than once)
  • Getting drunk and fighting with my roommate in a parking lot, storming off, wandering into a frat house looking for some guys who went to my high school, and throwing myself at one of them
  • Going camping with a group of friends and smoking so much weed, I was asleep in the front seat of the car by 9:00 p.m. and could not be woken up
  • Getting drunk and sleeping with the guy my friend had a crush on
  • Getting drunk and receiving a phone call that I was being kicked out of the dorms on the last day of school because we didn’t clean out our room in time, losing my shit on the RA, and having the bike cops watch with amusement as I took every last thing out of the room and tossed into the back of the car

A couple of strong themes here.

For those with disapproving creases in between their eyes, shaking their heads and internally calling me some colorful version of the word “slut”, you do you. I don’t have any regrets for owning that part of my humanity. I do wish, though, I had not done it from a place of such deep insecurity. I did it to prove to myself I was attractive to men. Not because I wanted partners with whom to explore my sexuality.

With two decades of hindsight, it’s fairly easy to Psych 101 my behavior: Escapism, severe FOMO (fear of missing out), desperate need for external validation, delusions of grandeur, lack of motivation, lack of self-love. Pretty textbook stuff. I would wager many a person reading this is thinking either, “Yep! Me, too”, or “This is every college movie I’ve ever watched.” It’s expected for freshman to go a little freedom crazy. 

And it’s so easy. Everything is so readily available: booze, drugs, boys…right at your fingertips if you know who to ask. And after spending 18 years under the watchful eye of my parents, teachers, priests, and God, the freedom was about as intoxicating as the alcohol.

After failing freshman year so spectacularly, I had a nice letter politely asking me not to return to the university and the feeling that I did not want to go back thankyouverymuch. My parents own two apartments in the college town, and I made plans to move forward kicking out the residents and acquiring roommates so I could live there. I would not go to school, but get a job, and it would all just work out. My parents were, how do you say, not thrilled. But to their credit, they let me do it.


Little did I know that summer in between would hold some life-defining events.

Cheers (with Qdoba queso [so good, I’d like to drink it]).

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