Tag Archives: alcohol

X Factor

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I’d just found out the man who kissed me on Lundi Gras was married. Now I understood why he never game me his home number, why he never called me, why he hadn’t asked me out on a date. I was sad…sad to still be without a boyfriend, sad to still be unloved and alone. I didn’t want to feel sad so I tried to drown my sadness with alcohol.

It started with a box of wine. Some of the guys who lived in my dorm, Iberville Suites, played on an intermural softball team. They had a game that Friday afternoon, and they were we going to prepare for the game by drinking boxed wine. I chipped in a couple of bucks, so the alcohol belonged to me too. The box and two cans of spray paint were taken outside. First the entire box was painted silver, then a black x was painted on each side. The wine was no longer simply wine; it was X Factor.

I drank my fair share of the X Factor and was pretty well drunk when I walked over to the softball field. I’m not exactly sure what happened next, but I have a vague memory of heckling a member of the opposing team by insinuating he was gay. I was relying on the guy’s own homophobia to make him uncomfortable, but I should have really kept my big mouth shut.

One of the guys from the dorm was pretty drunk too, and he was also heckling the opposing team. He got kicked out of the whole area for his efforts; the umpire said he couldn’t even sit in the stands and watch the game.

The next thing I remember was thinking it was a good idea to call my mother and share my woes. Yes, that’s right, I was drunk and thought it was reasonable to call my mother and discuss my newfound knowledge of the marital status of the man I’d thought was into me. For some ill-conceived reason, I called her from the pay phone in the lobby of my dorm and proceeded to broadcast my business in front of God and everybody. It was as if I wanted the whole world to know what a loser I was.

I don’t think I told my mother I’d been drinking. Maybe she pretended she didn’t know what was going on. (My mother has always been very good with denial.) In any case, I told her all about the guy with his smooth DJ voice and his fake DJ name and his wife.

At your age, my mother said, you don’t need this.

She was right, I realized, although I think it’s more accurate that no woman needs to be involved with a married man at any age. Although I knew my mom was right, my heart was still broken, so I kept drinking.

My friends decided we needed more alcohol, so we got into a car and went to the grocery store. I remember standing in a brightly lit aisle, picking out bottles of Boone’s Farm soda pop-sweet wine. In those days a bottle could be had for $1.75, a good price even on a college student’s budget.

While we were out and about, I convinced my friends to take me to Tower Records so I could buy a cassette tape featuring the Ugly Kid Joe song “I Hate Everything About You.” I was feeling a lot of negative emotion and longed for music that would allow me to wallow.

I had a bit of a crisis at the cash register when I found out Tower accepted Visa and MasterCard but not Discover, which was the only form of payment I had on me. Luckily one of my friends agreed to pay for the tape when I said I could pay him back after I went to the credit union on Monday. I’m sure he was willing to do anything in his power to avoid witnessing me meltdown in the middle of the record store.

Back at the dorm, we drank, and my friends tried to cheer me up, although I was really inconsolable. People sing about drinking to forget, but alcohol never helped me to forget. All alcohol did was help me remember my problems in vivid Technicolor detail.

Oh shit! In the middle of the drinking and the moaning, I remembered something important. I was scheduled to work the dorm’s front desk from 4am to 7am that very morning. I sloppily confided my problem to my friend who also worked the desk in the dorm. What was I going to do?

It was about 2am, too late to call anyone and ask him or her to cover my shift. I was going to have to work, drunk or not.

My coworker friend (who’d also been drinking but held her liquor better than I ever did) devised a plan. I would drink a big glass of water, go to my room, lie down in my bed, and try to nap for a couple of hours. She would stay awake but quit drinking. At 3:55, she’d come and get me, and we’d go down to the lobby and work the shift together. It seemed like the best I could do, so I went to my bed and lay down. A couple hours later, my friend and I were in the lobby. I sat behind the desk and tried to hold my head upright and stay awake, while my friend sat on a couch and dozed.

Sometime earlier in the night, I’d heard that the fellow who’d gotten kicked out of the softball game had ended up in the emergency room with alcohol poisoning. I’d been vaguely worried, but hadn’t thought much about it until he sauntered into the dorm around 4:45 in the morning.

Oh my god! I gushed. I heard you went to the hospital. Are you ok?

I’m fine, he shrugged. After they pumped my stomach, I went out drinking again.

I could not believe this fool. This chain of events was one of the dumbest things I’d ever heard.

I jumped to my feet, but didn’t stop there. I stood up on my chair and proclaimed, You are a stupid motherfucker! That’s the official Iberville Suites opinion of you!

He just laughed as he got on the elevator, while my friend talked me down from my perch.

The rest of the shift was uneventful. Time crawled by and I struggled to remain alert. My friend sat in the lobby with me the whole time. At 7am, she opened the curtains and unlocked the front door. We’d fulfilled our obligation, and I didn’t get myself fired. We went up to our rooms to pass out for a few hours until it was time to start our Saturday.

In Praise of a Pen

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My hands go numb when I write or type or make a hat or do macramé. Seems everything I do eventually causes a feeling of pins and needles in my hands, followed by pain, followed by numbness.

The problem started in the mid 1990s, and I blame it on alcohol, my friend The Computer Guy, and his friend Dan, on whom I had a crush. We were out drinking and The Computer Guy got an idea for a cool photo. The woman he was in love with was with us, and she was—conveniently—a photographer who, as always, had her camera.

Dig! The Computer Guy said with excitement in his voice. Dan can put Blaize on his shoulders and I’ll put Dan on my shoulders. We’ll stand under the Dragon’s Lair sign, and Gretchen can take our picture.

My beer addled brain thought it sounded like a fun idea. I certainly liked the prospect of having my legs around Dan’s head. The problem was—although I was at the thinnest of my entire life—I was still heavier than Dan. The photo Gretchen took shows The Computer Guy—strong as an ox—easily holding us both up while Dan seems to be crumpling under my weight.

Still, everything went fine until the photo was taken and we tried to disengage.

The Computer Guy lowered Dan to the ground gently, but Dan didn’t do so well with me. He must have bent over, as he tried to put me down, and I felt myself sprawling, falling. I put my arms out in front of me and caught myself with my hands.

My arms hurt for weeks. At the time I worked in a souvenir shop and the pain made even folding t-shirts impossible. When I told my dad how much I hurt, he asked if I’d seen a doctor. I just laughed. My minimum wage job didn’t offer insurance. I asked where I was going to get money to pay a doctor, hoping he might kick some down to me. He offered nothing.

The pain eventually subsided, but my hands have never been the same. There have been times when I couldn’t hold a pen long enough to sign my name. Whenever I bring my thumb and pointer finger together for more than the briefest period of time, my fingers tingle, then I feel pain, then they go numb until I can’t feel them at all, which means I can barely control them. Shaking my hands helps, as does stretching them and taking a break from the activity that’s causing the problem, but after 25 years, I think my hands will be this way for the rest of my life.

The situation has improved since riding a bicycle is no longer my main source of transportation and my job doesn’t require the use of power tools. I can hold a pen now, but I do better using a fat pen instead of a regular skinny pen if I’m going to handwrite more than a few sentences.

For months and years, I’ve been using whatever pens I’ve come across as free promotional items or paid for by the pound at a Goodwill Clearance Center. Of course, most of the free and cheap pens were skinny and numbed out my hand quickly. I was so happy when I found free fat pens, but they always ran out of ink too fast.

A few months ago, I’d had enough. I was tired of trying to write with pens that were too skinny for my comfort. I was tired of finding fat pens I liked only to have them run out of ink. I went into Wal-Mart determined to find a comfortable pen I could get refills for. I found just what I wanted in the Pilot Dr. Grip gel.

My Pilot Dr. Grip gel pen. Photo by me!

The pen cost around $6, and a two-pack of refills cost under two bucks.

If I don’t lose the pen, I’ll use it for years.

The pen fits nicely in my hand; its fatness minimizes the numbness my fingers experience. I really appreciate the rubber cushion on the area where my thumb and fingers rest while I’m writing.

The gel ink flows smoothly, which means I don’t have to hold the pen with a death grip and press into the paper so my words will show. As an added bonus, I was able to dismantle some of the darker color gel pens I bought from The Man when they no longer served his needs and use those cartridges as refills in my Dr. Grip.

I like the clip on the pen which lets me attach it to my notebook or my shirt. I also like being able to put the tip away by pushing the button on the top so I don’t have to worry about losing the cap.

I’m totally happy with my Dr. Grip, and I plan on using it for a long, long time.

 

The First Time I Quit Drinking

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I recently sorted through my old writing that somehow survived countless moves and a couple of great purges of my belongings. I realized quite a bit of the writing I’d been hauling around wasn’t worth keeping. I threw a bunch of old academic papers and cringe-worthy poetry into the recycling bin. Some of the writing, though, seemed worth saving.

I wrote the piece I’m sharing today early in the 21st century. I wrote it without a clear audience. I don’t remember it being intended for a particular publication, and I don’t remember ever sharing it with anyone. The pieced didn’t even have a title

My emotions were a bit overwrought, and the language I used leaned toward the revolutionary, but that’s the person I was at the turn of the millennium.

Without further ado, writing from my past…

I’m not writing this to tell you what you should do. Do whatever you want. I’m writing this to make sense of what I did, what I do, what I want to do. This piece is self-centered and certainly introspective. It might be a little whiny. Read it if you like, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“I often feel like I have to celebrate my self-destruction,” she said, and I knew exactly what she meant.

It hadn’t been enough to hate myself. I had to pretend that I was happy about it, that I was having a good time, by downing beer or hard cider or the occasional shot of tequila. I was partying, hanging out in bars, spending time with people I thought of as friends, looking for people who wanted to have sex with me, using my body as a commodity, giving my money to bar owners and beer companies. When I remember those days, I remember having so much free time, probably because all I had going on in my life was working for $$$ and hanging out, drinking, partying, having fun.

But it wasn’t fun. Not really. Where’d I get that idea? I never even liked the taste of beer. But oh, I liked the way it made me feel, silly and sexy and free. Just a little out of control. Like my head might float away from my body and leave me without a thought or a care in the world. I could dance and not worry that anyone thought I looked like a dork. I could kiss boys and not take responsibility or blame…I could always use the oh, I was drunk excuse. I got away with a lot.

I thought I was having deep and meaningful conversations with people. Maybe I was. I can’t remember most of it. chunks of my life are fuzzy. What’s the point of sharing the deepest parts of myself if I’m not even sure I did it? Maybe I just think I told people what was going on in my head. Maybe I just hoped people were sharing themselves wit me. When I think about the person I loved most during those days, I’m not sure if he really told me the stories I remember as his, or if if I just made them up. Most of our relationship was a lie. I’m not sure if even now we know who the other truly is. Unhealthy patterns started between us back then; even today I don’t know how to break them. I could only really talk to him when I was  drunk, but I’m still not sure what I said.

I guess I had revelations when I was drunk, but I didn’t remember them once I sobered up. E[mma] told me recently that sure, she had lots of revelations when she was drunk, some she even wrote in her journal, but what good did it do when she couldn’t read her own handwriting the next day? I think I’m not going to make enough progress if I can’t remember my own epiphanies.

I had no regard for my life, no regard for my self. It wasn’t easy to live while hating myself and feeling so much despair. I thought drinking was supposed to numb the pain, but it never worked that way for me.  Alcohol somehow made the pain sharper and more intense. Wasn’t being drunk supposed to make me forget? It only made me remember in Technicolor detail what was hurting me. Yep, I was often the crying girl at the party. How fun was that? Not much fun for me. I don’t know whether or not other people were enjoying it.

Now, I’m just not drinking at all. After I left [a notorious party city], I slowed down. People in [the new place where I lived] often thought I wasn’t a drinker until they aw a beer in my hand. Sometimes they were shocked. You just don’t even know, I would think, after explaining that no, I wasn’t a teetotaler or straight edge or a recovering alcoholic. Then I moved to [the Midwest] and slowed down even more. Oh sure, I still complain that this town is uncivilized because bars close at 2am and grocery stores don’t sell beer on Sunday, but I’m getting tired of my comments. What do I think defines civilization anyway?

It’s been five months since I’ve had any alcohol. I think that’s the longest I’ve gone without a drink in the last 10 years. Damn, I’m surprised it’s only been five months. It seems longer. It seems like it’s been years and years.

I worry that if I get started I won’t be able to stop. I worry that if I have a swallow beer I’ll end up getting shit-faced. I worry that getting drunk once will make getting drunk next time easier. I worry that getting drunk will lead me to turn to alcohol instead of working to solve my problems.

Sometimes it’s my body that wants the alcohol. Sometimes my body remembers what it’s like physically to be drunk. The other night, my mouth tasted like beer.

Mostly I want it in social situations. If I’m completely stressed out by another person, I really want to go to a bar and have a drink (or two or three) and try to numb my feelings. If I’m at a party and I feel self conscious, I want to drink enough not to care what anybody thinks. When four of the other five people at the table have big-ass beers to go with their garden burgers, I feel strange about having a glass of water. (Who’s that girl without the beer? I think, and then realize it’s me.)

Too shy to even talk to the boy I want to kiss, I know how easily it would be to get a little drunk and totally giddy and haul off and kiss him nonconsensually. Another crush boy’s girlfriend will probably be out of town on New Year’s Eve and I fantasize about him and me sharing a bottle of wine. Knowing my background and his, then we would kiss, and then we could fall into bed together and fuck. Although it would feel good at the time, we’d feel super guilty the next morning, but we could blame it on the booze, chalk it up to being drunk. We wouldn’t have to acknowledge any feelings between us or how our actions affect the whole community or what sort of brave new relationship we could forge as equals and comrades if we were able to keep the bottle out of the equation. But when I think about this scenario, something in me cries NO! and I am determined not to mess up like I’ve done so many times in the past.

I just want to be real and whole and true. I want to know who I really am and to let others know too. And maybe some people can live that way with a beer in their hand, but it’s never quite worked out for me. And the wildest part of this whole situation is that I bet no one I know would ever have thought I had a problem. I never lost a job because of alcohol, never got into trouble with the cops because of it, never got in a barroom fight. I didn’t even drink every night. But I think it arrested my development and kept me from being the person I want to be. I feel sad when I think maybe I wasted big parts of my life. Maybe I could have been smashing the state or writing my stories or building revolutionary relationships instead of getting drunk and walking home down the dark and scary sidewalks of [the big city] hoping someone with a gun would blow a hole in my head so I would be spared the trouble of having to figure out how to dispose of myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so depressed if I hadn’t been using a depressant in an attempt to numb my sadness.

Shit. This isn’t a happy story. And I don’t know how to end it because there’s not an ending. People at the…show tonight are going to have alcohol. I’m going to think about getting a beer, or just taking the bottle from someone’s hand and having a long, slow swig. But I know that if I have one swallow, I’ll have another and another and another. And I know that if I don’t take the swallow, I’ll have one more night to work on feeling real and whole and true.