There were always reasons to drink when I was a drinker. Events to celebrate. Sorrows to drown. It’s Friday. It’s not Friday. We won. We lost. I hate myself. Escape needed. College and cutting loose go together don’t they?
In May of 1985 I was wrapping up my sophomore year, softball season, and time at Waldorf College. It was a two-year school, and friends, teammates, and I were preparing to go in different directions. Now, that’s a very legitimate reason to party.
And party we did on May 3. At least I think we did. It wasn’t long into the evening before I lost track of my drinking and my memory. We started out with a “trash can party” and put together a concoction of various alcoholic beverages all mixed together. It wasn’t pleasing to the palate of some of my friends. I wasn’t picky though. I joked that my favorite drink was anything with alcohol in it. It wasn’t really a joke though. I wanted the effect produced by alcohol. It was merely a bonus if it tasted good.
With the early start we got, my blackout also came sooner than usual. I only had snippets of the last few hours of our “partying.” We moved from a park outside of town to a bar in town.
I vaguely recall my friends Deb and Zoe trying to talk to me, to express concern, and to slow down my consumption. Then, my next memory is waking up on the floor of my dorm room the next morning; fully clothed, fully hungover, and utterly alone.
Deb was my roommate, but clearly she’d had enough of me. I don’t blame her. I was not a pretty drunk in any way. Zoe’s room was across the hall. When I came to that morning, they came to talk to me, telling me they thought I had a drinking problem and needed help. I listened.
I knew they were right. I didn’t drink normally. I abused alcohol. I had a real problem with it and with myself. I got an appointment at the chemical dependency center in town and went in the next days, before we left for our last softball tournament.
The man I spoke with was kind and patient. He gave me a screening. The higher the score, the bigger the concern. I scored 40 out of 48. I also had taken the MAST (Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test). Any score of a 10 or higher indicated alcoholism. I was at 11 or 12.
This is a MAST I took the next time I gave serious effort to quitting drinking:
This counselor recommended treatment, but I thought I could handle it on my own. I did for a time, seeking very little outside help other than a peer counselor at the university I transferred to and my friends. I clearly did not understand the full extent of my problem, or the power of denial. I wasn’t talking with my family about the concerns I had about my problem drinking either.
I left the counselor’s office and went back to my dorm, sharing with Zoe and Deb that I was going to quit drinking and what the counselor had said. As the three of us talked, I didn’t recall the counselor ever saying I was an alcoholic. Like any good addict, I was looking for a loophole, a way out. So, shortly after I had met with him, I called him on the phone and asked him if I was an alcoholic. I needed to hear it said out loud. He said I definitely was. Damn! I had a long way to go before that fully sank in.
Looking back, it is no surprise that I drank 464 days later. I was counting the days, but still counting on myself and what I thought was my own strength and knowledge. I learned a lot during those months, I just didn’t realize it yet.
Zoe and Deb had the courage and persistence to share their concerns with me. I remain forever grateful to them for vocalizing their worries. The chemical dependency counselor-his name was Lynn-was blunt enough to wake me up. Although my sobriety didn’t last, it was a pivotal time in my drinking story.