For a long time, my friends and I vowed that we weren’t going to drink until we were 21. We watched people around us go to high school parties and sneak alcohol into dances and footballs games, but we simply rolled our eyes and scoffed. We thought we were so much better than that, so much more mature. But we slowly grew tired of waiting. We itched to know what the fun was all about.
I had my first “real” drink when I was 19. I remember it being blue and tasting awful. How could anyone bear to drink something that tasted so terrible? After that night, I swore to myself I’d never drink again.
Later that year, I moved out and into my own apartment. It was in a seedy don’t-walk-outside-at-night part of town. I was going through one of the darkest times of my life. I made friends with a girl a half a block away from me. She was older, and she had the means to buy me alcohol.
Those were the nights where a corkscrew became my weapon of choice. I spent so many nights gripping that corkscrew, stumbling home as I hoped and prayed no one would look me in the eye. Little did I know that corkscrew wasn’t only defending me in a physical sense; it would end up defending me in a mental sense as well.
The corkscrew, the bottle opener, the twist cap all became a shield. Alcohol began to create a diversion from my depression. I drank to convince others that I was doing just fine. I drank to convince myself I was doing just fine. While others drank for fun, I drank to shut down. If I didn’t have to think, I didn’t have to feel.
I truly believed I had everyone convinced.
But my friends grew concerned. They cried in their cars after having to leave me drunk in my own home. They talked in hushed tones about me blacking out, about me yelling, about me hitting, and about me causing a scene. For a long time I think they were scared. Scared to confront me, scared of what I might say, scared of what I might do.
I was scared too — scared my secret would be spilled. Turns out, they already knew.
After my friends voiced their concern, the initial denial set in. I couldn’t have a drinking problem. I was only 20. At the time I couldn’t admit to myself that I was drinking for the wrong reasons. I would wake up after a night of drinking and think to myself, “I’m not hungover enough. Last night wasn’t worth it because I didn’t drink enough.” You could count the number of drunken nights by the glasses of water on my bedside table.
Learning to accept that I abused alcohol wasn’t easy. Denial and shame made it harder. But eventually I came to the realization that I deserved better — no matter how many times I tried to convince myself otherwise. Acceptance came from pouring the problem down the drain once and for all.
There may always be times when my mouth waters for one more drink, there may always be that voice saying that it’s OK to have it. But there will always be another voice saying, “Your future may not be crystal clear, but it is not at the bottom of this bottle.”
I’m in a better place now. I’m in a place where I can turn down a drink, a place where I can see my limits more clearly than before. There are still times doubt comes crawling back, but I now know I can’t let my depression make decisions for me.
There’s so much to see and experience without a cloud of alcohol and depression looming over me. It’s easy to give in and give up on yourself when you believe that you’re unfixable, when you believe that you are the problem. But please know that you will never be the problem.
You never were.