I drank heartily, excessively, alcoholically, till just beyond my fortieth birthday. I suppose my drinking stories could go on for a very long time. I will start with this story, however, because it seems to be the first incident of troublesome behavior, the first of many red-flag-tales that fell under the category of “good times.”
In the mid-seventies, I lived in a sweet rental property, a tiny, two-story cottage in rural New Jersey. I shared the rental with a fun-loving girlfriend—fun-loving as in getting drunk and high on whatever substance was available, whenever we were able. I had a waitress job and could afford the rent, but I could no longer afford car payments, and lost the car I needed to get to work. My parents stepped in (as parents are known to do), and gave me my grandfather’s 1940 something Chrysler (the Chrysler was taken from my grandfather by my father and the police as the old guy would continually drive drunk–hmm). It was a joke, a hearse, a big, black, mob car, a bear to drive, requiring arms of steel to turn or park. At first, my roommate and I proudly and defiantly cruised the neighborhood as Bonnie and Bonnie, the dangerous and infamous duo, laughing and waving as if in a parade. But the car would become problematic, with my landlord eventually asking that it be removed as it was more of an eyesore than 4th of July worthy.
One evening my roommate and I took the Chrysler to the restaurant where I worked–with the intent of having a good time. This restaurant was huge, a Greek place, popular, the last outpost on hideous Route 22 before the barren ride to Pennsylvania. I loved the Greek owners and they loved me and they fed us liquor perhaps just to watch us carry on like fools–and fools we were, or at least I was–or so I am told. The evening was a total blackout, maybe not my first blackout, but a memorable one. Nothing. No recall of anything after my fourth or fifth round. Until I came to on the front steps of my parent’s friends home–in the middle of the night–with no car and no roommate. I blacked out again, but came to as I was crossing the bridge over the Raritan River to home, and blacked out again, but came to as I was kicking in the front door to the rental property. I broke two panes of glass and three panels of wood and climbed over the wreckage and went to bed. I woke the next morning with my dog who was not allowed on my bed, lying on my bed, wide eyed and staring.
I did retrieve the Chrysler and did pay for a new door, and I must add this aside: while it seems that we may not have been the best of tenants, my roommate and I put a lot of sweat equity into the cottage and the landlord was appreciative. But the demolished door was epic, one of those stories that you laugh long and hard about, that you continue to embellish and tweak for each new audience. I told the story to a mental health professional that I met several years later and he suggested I seek help immediately but I continued to drink for another twenty years. My drinking stories are not hard to tell, it was another woman, a lifetime ago–and yet they are difficult to put to paper, to document, as if the print makes the sadness more obvious and tragic. I’ve been sober for twenty some years and have no compulsion to drink, but will probably always want to celebrate with stimulants or alter an uncomfortable mood in some way. I wonder if that’s addiction or just humanness.
photo credit: wolf-tracks.blog.cz