What It’s Like To Be An Alcoholic At One Of The Top Party Schools In The Country

All italicized indented passages are sections of pieces I wrote while in active addiction. Everything is as it was when I wrote it, most of them if not all were written while under the influence of alcohol. I included these excerpts for two reasons: 1. so that other people who are having similar thoughts/feelings know that they are not alone and 2. so that people who do not and have never struggled with addiction have a better understanding of the disease and what it is like to be inside the mind of an addict.
image - Flickr / Brian Josefowicz
image – Flickr / Brian Josefowicz

To start, I’ve never been the person to share my experiences with anyone but those closest to me. I am sharing my experiences in hopes that I may somehow help someone, somewhere.

I’ve always liked being drunk a little bit more than I should. I’ve always been able to drink the guys under the table and it always took me far more than two shots of raspberry Smirnoff to get me buzzed. Guys would say, “Damn, it’s nice to hang out with a girl who drinks beer and can handle her alcohol.” Disgusting as it is, I used to take this as a compliment. I wasn’t the girl who ever really blacked out or got super sloppy when I drank. Most of the time, the people around me never even knew I was drunk. I go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the biggest party schools in the country, so I came to college thinking that drinking copious amounts of beer on a daily basis was a normal activity.

I drank in high school, but never to the point I reached in college. It started with drinking at parties, then pre­gaming the parties, then pre­gaming the pre­game, then to every afternoon/night drinking by myself and sometimes going out, until it eventually manifested into not going to class, sometimes drinking before work, and drinking the rest of the time. Alcohol made everything easier and much more enjoyable. I didn’t start drinking because of one specific reason nor do I understand how or why my social drinking turned into a full blown addiction, but as I learned, that’s how it works; addiction is funny that way. Addiction will take everything from you, throw it on the ground, stomp on it, and spit on it all when you least expect it. Addiction took everything from me. Everything of importance in my life was very much on the ground being continuously stomped and spat on with each drink I ingested. During this time, which was probably one of the darkest points of my life, I started to write a lot because I could barely comprehend let alone verbalize any of the garbage in my brain.

“She liked two things about snow; the calming sensation she felt when the snowflakes fell to her face in the midst of apparent chaos ­ people going home from the bars, plows rumbling past ­ and because she could draw smiley faces with her feet which substituted for the one she lacked on her face. The sad, tell­tale aspect of both was that they were temporary; they would fade away. The flakes would melt and the faces with smiles would be covered the next morning. The snow represented every part of her life; a simple, yet momentary moment of happiness that would soon be gone, again.”

I never read any of the stuff I wrote until after I got sober. I was scared to read what was actually going on inside of my head and terrified to see the physical manifestation of my disease typed in the notes app on my computer screen.

“I fear that I’ve forgotten how to feel. I’m in this constant state of not­giving­two­fucks­about­anything.”

It took a long time and a lot of nights of drunken self reflection to come to the realization that I had a problem. It took many more nights, hungover mornings, missed classes, and terrible grades to find the motivation to do something about it. Being drunk had become my normal. I consciously knew that my normal was not everyone else’s normal, but my subconscious demons were much more powerful decision makers. I never talked about what I was struggling with, I just wrote about it, so it was never real, merely a prisoner of my mind.

“February 16, 2014 ­ Lagunitas Pils, Czech Style Pilsner. It’s 2:18pm and I’ve started my dive into the bottle.”

It took a tear filled talk and verbalizing what I was going through with my mom to finally change something in me. It was probably her empathetically threatening to pull me out of school so that I could go to rehab, but that’s only a guess. After our talk, I promised to her, and to myself, partly because I didn’t want to drop out of school and partly because I wanted something in my life to change, that I would stop drinking. She nor I understood that that was something I couldn’t do on my own.

“I just got fired. I was working as a hostess while dealing with alcohol withdrawal ­ a very bad combination in case you were wondering. Alcohol withdrawal makes you feel irritable, shaky, nauseous, sweaty, and overall, just really shitty. Combine all of that with trying to politely tell customers their wait times in the midst of a dinner rush at one of Madison, Wisconsin’s most popular restaurants, and you’re bound for failure.”

As I wrote the above passage, I was sitting in a local bar at 4pm chugging my first of three double vodka sodas, which I most likely followed with a handful of high ABV craft brews that were featured on tap. I had just received a voicemail from my then boss saying that I was fired. I was fired because I was trying to do the work of a professional and grossly underestimated my ability to function while withdrawing from alcohol. I vividly remember being at work the night before I received the voicemail saying that I was fired, I was standing at the host stand, trying to stop the obsessive thoughts, trying to stop my shaking body, trying to drown out my racing heart, trying to calm my nausea, trying to hide my profuse sweating, desperately trying to focus my attention on something other then my barely functioning body. I knew what was happening to me, I was going through alcohol withdrawal and it was completely terrifying. Alcohol withdrawal is so unpredictable and that’s why it is so scary. You can have a delirium tremor which consists of auditory and/or visual hallucinations, or you could have a seizure, or you could even die. You don’t know, and there isn’t a doctor in the world who can accurately predict what you will or won’t experience before you start withdrawing. After being fired, I sought the professional help I so desperately needed that same week. I was admitted into inpatient detoxification so that I could be medically monitored while I withdrew from alcohol.

After I was discharged from inpatient detox, I continued with outpatient therapy for the remaining six weeks I was still at school. By some miracle, I was able to finish my spring semester with pretty damn good grades and almost 100% sobriety, minus one stupid relapse. The most difficult aspect of those last six weeks at school, like anyone in early recovery, was staying motivated to continue working the program and I did, for awhile.

When I went home to Ohio for the summer, I stayed sober for about a week. But old habits, triggers, and those mother fucking dormant demons got the best of me. I started drinking again and somehow, I hid it from everyone. It wasn’t until about half way through the summer that I said to myself, “Meghan, it’s now or never. You need to get your shit together. This isn’t something you decide to do one day and say fuck it the next. This is your life. Do you want to live, or do you want to die?”

I decided I wanted to live. I had another tear filled chat with my mom and she was extremely supportive, to the point in which she knew how to be. She asked me if I needed anything, and all I said was, “Please make sure I’m okay tonight. If I start having bad withdrawal, we need to go to the hospital.” Thankfully, I had very minor withdrawals and finished the rest of my summer at home sober. Now I’m back for the fall semester, I’m living in a sober apartment with three awesome roommates and I’m constantly working my program so that I can accomplish the things I am passionate about in life.

Before I go any further, I want to make something very clear ­ this isn’t meant to be some short memoir type shit that is all inspirational and what not. I wrote this because I still struggle, I still have triggers, and I know there are so many others just like me that don’t know how to begin to help themselves, especially people at college. It took me almost three months to ask for help, and that was after months of my inner psyches fighting with each other about whether I really had a problem or not. I still avoid going out at night time alone in fear that I may walk into a bar and get hammered. I am still breaking the habit of seeking out alcohol everyday at 4pm because it used to be like clockwork. I still have bad days and I know I always will; bad days are a normal part of everyone’s life.

“I want another beer but I need to keep writing. Addiction is a terrible thing that way. During the day, I have shit to get done. Im suddenly stopped by this craving, I need a cigarette, I need a beer. What the fuck? Am I the only one who has these things? Why do I feel alone? I don’t know.”

But the ironic beauty in all of this is that I’m not alone. I have discovered the most amazing community on my campus filled with young adults that are just like me and who are actively working their programs. I have found people that know what I’m going through, people who are there to listen to me when I need to talk, people who get it. These people get addiction. They get me and they will get you too. There are sober communities all over the country that are waiting to welcome anyone who needs help. They will take you in with open arms, be overwhelmingly friendly, hug you, give you their phone number, and help you every step of the way. You are not alone, I promise.

I hope that by sharing my story I could have opened someone’s eyes to their own demons, or inspired someone to seek the help they need. Maybe I’ve lessened someone’s fear that there is no one that gets what they’re going through. Or maybe, I have touched someone who isn’t an addict and offered them a better understanding of the disease. Whichever someone you are, thank you for reading my story. TC mark

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