Past: Liquid Cures and Invisible Bravery
August 25, 2004 was the first day I felt like one of the “cool kids”. It was the day I finally was given a chance, a chance to be myself, a chance that I was not judged. This was the day, I found out girls thought I was attractive and boys considered me “cool.” Why is this day significant? Because that day was the first day that I drank alcohol.
I was on a cruise ship with my grandparents, and cousins for 12 days in the Caribbean. I met two kids who were into rock music, one kid had gauges and the other was very lanky. We asked a woman in her early 20s to get us three bottles of liquor for us to have a party. Later that day, we met with another group of people to initiate an evening get together.
I told them all that I never had drank before, but I wanted to see what it was like. I thought it was important to tell them, because I thought it would be my chance that people would not judge me in the same way that I was judged back in high school. This was my chance to bend the square that I was, it was the beginning of my rebirth. These strangers who I eventually called friends were excited to hear this and little did I know that this was because I was a sober person who would wake into a new state of mind.
I met up with eight other kids who were pregaming like an episode of MTV’s real world. I was not exactly used to this sort of social interaction, but it felt welcoming, like something I was longing for. I was the center of everyone’s attention given the fact I never drank before. I took six shots of vodka in less than an hour. I felt empowered, I felt invincible, every thought that I had came out of my mouth. For the first time in my life, I was no longer the butt of anyone’s joke, people actually like me for who I was.
I made more friends than I ever have in my short fifteen years of life, and I made people laugh, I wasn’t the one being laughed at, instead I was the life of the party. For once in my life I had found a place to call home and people who accepted me. I found my only way of finding verification from others, and that was through drinking.
After that vacation, I returned to my high school with new confidence. I thought I would be able to prove to high school kids that I was no longer the loser that I believed myself to be. During the week before homecoming, that I had drank and that we should get drunk before we go to the homecoming dance. He agreed to doing this and was able to score a 40 oz of beer. (Keep in mind, I had not drank since I went on that family vacation in August, and the homecoming was in mid-October. Additionally, I never had a 40).
A few hours after drinking, I found myself becoming the life of the party once again, except this time I almost got in a fight with someone over a girl. I learned that alcohol was not only bringing out the best in me, but it brought the worst out of me. Did this stop me? Of course it didn’t. I realized I was able to climb to a new level of social acceptance in school, and to my 15 year old ego, that means everything.
Using alcohol as a means to feel verified continued for ten years of my life. I grew dependent of it to make friends, connections, and romantic partners. I found that it was the social lubricant of the masses. It was the only thing that kept people from judging me or seeing my insecurities. During those ten years, I was still hurting on the inside, and unsure of how to find verification within my own self.
This form of running away is not unique to depressed people, it happens to us all. We all have our own reasons for drinking, some people do it to reduce the anxiety that comes along with facing new situations. Others may do it to fit in, some do it because they are hurting inside and have no idea what to do with that pain. I was one of those people. Drinking was not a lubricant to my growth as a human, but instead it was a release and escape from the pain that was inside.
Over the years, I became a person who would wake up each day wanting to kill myself. I had no sense of meaning or purpose in my life. The same bullying that caused me to question myself worth, was done to myself. I became my own worst enemy, and I didn’t know how I could run away from it.
There were more nights where I would find myself alone in my bedroom crying hoping that the pain would end. I suffered from emotional come downs that lead me to feeling that life was meaningless and empty. The pain was inconclusive and never ending. It felt like having a wound that would never heal and every attempt you had to recover was pointless. I kept drinking because when I would get drunk, I became numb. I held on to that numbness because I was afraid of holding on to the truth. I didn’t have the ability to recognize that I was in pain, alcohol became a ritual to run away from being able to recover. I was experiencing a pain that I could not run away from, and unfortunately I thought alcohol was helping me escape. Instead, alcohol kept me at further odds with myself.
Alcohol was not a cure to my need for verification, it was an excuse. Every drink was an escape from recognizing that I did not know how to find value in myself. Each shot was a way I told myself that it’s okay that I feel like shit, so I would drink to avoid recognizing it. Not only was this an excuse, it lead me to becoming blind to seeing the value that I did have. I felt that I created an alcoholic subconscious that told me to feel certain ways about myself that were unreal and destroyed my perceptions of reality.
Am I blaming alcohol for my depression? No, I am recognizing that my experience with alcohol was a suppressant and a catalyst. I suppressed my feelings of pain, insecurity and self-worth with the things that came with alcohol. While suppressing those feelings, I also took my depression to new lows whenever I experienced bad situations, or found myself alone and unsure of where I would find a new group of friends.
Along with alcohol, I found new relationships that made me question my sense of self and safety. I wasn’t exactly who to trust, or what friends really were my friends. I didn’t believe anyone cared about me, and I didn’t know how to really care about myself either. Along with escape, came confusion and paranoia, and that did not just come from substance abuse, it came from fear.