I was a late bloomer when it came to flirting with alcoholism. Somehow, I managed to not have a drink until I was 21-- Blame it on the Baptist upbringing. A couple years after college, two guys friends who had moved off to another town and become Presbyterians-- and thus fans of the booze-- came for a visit.
I only had a few hours to spare because I had tickets to the midnight premier of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Blame that on the four-older-brothers upbringing. The guys showed up at my house with arms full of things you have to be 21 or older to purchase. It was like an all-you-can-drink buffet and a jackpot for a naive 23 year old who had a liquor pallet to explore.
I started out with the usual beer and wine, then moved on to a shot of tequila here, some whiskey there, before really getting ambitious and finding out what was so great about Southern Comfort and Rum and exploring whether there really was a difference between Jack Daniels and Crown.
After a rushed hour of imbibing, I was feeling pretty good. My roommate Shleisel eyed me suspiciously, wondering whether I would really make it to the movie with her. My oldest brother was driving and when he showed up in my Sister-in-Laws 1983 Camaro Convertible, Shleisel volunteered to drive. I remember climbing into the back of the convertible with the top down and the blur of a green light as we left the neighborhood. That is the last thing I recall.
Apparently alcohol can take a bit of time to fully produce it's effects-- who knew?! Because of this it is not recommended that you continuously pour bottles of it down your gullet.
My brother and Shleisel quickly realized that I was in no condition to wait in line outside of a movie so they opted for a tex-mex pitstop in hopes that a little caloric intake would counteract the gallons of alcohol I had just consumed.
I concentrated hard on dipping my tortillas into queso but failed to include an actual tortilla in the process as I repeatedly submerged my fist into melted cheese and got confused about where my tortilla had gone. I kept insisting that I was not, in fact, drunk.
Midnight was drawing closer so we made for the parking lot. Somewhere between opening the door and climbing into the backseat, I disappeared. An employee on a smoke break screamed "OH MY GOD!" as I fell straight back from the car and landed flat on my back on the pavement. The tex-mex worker ran over to dispense medical advice and describe the epic nature of my fall as I cackled and rolled about on the pavement waving away their worry by repeatedly shouting "Wolverine! Wolverine!"
We were the last to arrive at the movie and ended up on the front row. This was convenient because just as the previews ended I turned to Shleisel and in my best attempt at a whisper told her "I just threw up on myself." I have a vague memory of being rushed up the aisle and then standing over a trash can as I vomited with an audience of moviegoers watching. I like to believe that all my former high school friends and church camp crushes were there to witness this.
We ended up at my brother's house where his wife put me in the shower- with my clothes still on-- and shushed me so that I would not wake my nieces and nephews who were sleeping and did not need to find out that their favorite aunt was toying with the idea of becoming a raging alcoholic who vomits in public.
The clothed shower was very satisfying. Afterwards I lounged in the living room and repeatedly asserted that I was not drunk while referring to myself in the third person as my dog, Zola. "Zola is not drunk, Zola is just happy!"
They would later tell me that at this point I began talking about random people and sharing insights into their secrets-- though these were things I actually didn't know and had never thought about. I outed a girl we all knew from the gym and proclaimed that she was a lesbian. I accused someone of having an affair despite knowing any details about it, and made various other predictions about the future actions of our mutual acquaintances.
The next morning I woke up, went to work, and sat at my desk without any memory of the night before. 20 minutes in I became aware of a screaming headache and a faint scent of vomit that kept wafting into my nostrils. After an hour of suffering I finally went to my boss, told him I did not feel well, and went back home. When I walked in the door Shleisel was startled-- "Where have you been?" she asked, "I thought you were still passed out in your room." I told her I'd gone to work but wasn't feeling well. At this point she told me about my drunken exploits and brief stint as a soothsayer.
I figured that the pain I felt was due to a hangover. My very first ever.
I took a proper shower without clothing on and as I shampooed my hair I felt something foreign on my scalp. Shleisel dug through my matted mane and found a huge gash and welp on the back of my skull.
"You have to go to the hospital. Like now."
This was before I had ever binged on old Grey's Anatomy episodes, so I was no fan of hospitals. "It'll get fine on it's own. If I was going to die, that would have happened while I was asleep last night."
Over the next few weeks my roommates began pointing out some new habits I had picked up. Apparently I had become a big fan of telling them the same stories over and over or repeatedly asking the same questions and being surprised by the same answer.
"You have to go to the hospital," they'd say.
I eschewed their concerns and wrote it off as being the result of too much time on WebMD.
Later that month I flew to Turkey to travel with a friend who had gone to grad school on the East Coast. We hadn't seen each other in a year and I had not mentioned my post-queso parking lot fall. A few days into the trip she got serious and told me in her best "future doctor" voice that there was something wrong with me. Apparently I had been telling her the same stories over and over and asking the same questions with surprise at the same answer.The big tip off may have been when we passed a magazine stand and I lost my mind because I saw a picture of Brangelina's twins.
Who knew! Apparently the whole world knew, but this important moment in history had been knocked free from my brain.
I finally went to a doctor who scanned my brain and confirmed it had swelling consistent with that of a concussion. The prognosis was mild-- I would just have some memory issues for a few months, then I'd be alright. For the most part, this was true. My favorite part of having amnesia was that I would often find items in my car that I had purchased and forgotten about. It was like sending myself surprise gifts that I already knew I would love. Life held a whole new level of mystery when I would pull up my bank account and see that I'd spent $400 at Target and must now dig around my closets to figure out what I had spent that money on.
Eventually it all evened out and my memory returned to it's unforgivingly accurate state. The girl at the gym came out of the closet and got a girlfriend and the marriage of the cheating wife went through a year of hell when her infidelity was discovered. A series of other theories I had shared during my inebriation were also confirmed, though I had never thought anything about them when I was sober.
Apparently the combination of two boxes of liquor and a blow to the head renders one a temporary fortune teller. If this whole writing thing doesn't work out I at least know that I can corner the market on drunken clairvoyants.
Now that I am a mature adult woman I have learned how to get drunk safely, without the acquisition of head wounds or thousands of dollars in medical bills. I even came up with my own rhyme to help me remember my limitations.
Do you have any other sage advice for mixing alcohol without acquiring a traumatic brain injury? What are your worst drinking mishaps or war stories?
Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy.
Because some mistakes are too good not to share.
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