Part One: The Beginning or the End?

Take your time; don’t live too fast. Troubles will come and they will pass.

Simple Man – Lynard Skynyrd

Alcohol never crossed my mind as something to drink growing up. I was never envious of adults, and I never once wondered what alcohol tasted like. I didn’t go around at the end of a party stealing sips from almost empty glasses, and I never went into the liquor cabinet to take a swig.ย  Alcohol was completely nonexistent in my life.

Unlike most kids, my high school years were spent completely uninterested in alcohol. I didn’t understand the draw. I thought it made everyone look stupid at a party rather than enhance the experience. I had a perfectly good time filled with full belly laughs and cool summer nights. We had sleepovers that consisted of me and my friends blaring music in our rooms, singing into hairbrushes, and dancing around like goofballs. All without alcohol. I couldn’t imagine alcohol adding anything to the experience that I wasn’t already feeling. Cue the straight out of a movie high school party scene.

I’m 14. I’m starting a new school. It’s two days before the start of the school year and I only know one person who is going to be at this party. My mom and I pull into the driveway of my classmate Jake’s house. My mom stops me as I get out of the car. “Brooke, wait. Don’t feel like you have to drink at this party. You can say no if anyone of offers you alcohol. Don’t feel pressured to fit in.” my mom says. I turn to her with a reassuring smile on my face, “Mom. Don’t worry. No one is going to be drinking.” If my life was a narrated movie, this is the point where Morgan Freeman’s voice over says “Brooke, in fact, could not be more wrong”.

I walk into the party and immediately my classmate Trish comes over and give me a hug! “I’m so happy you are here! I want to introduce you to everyone!” The music is loud, and most everyone is in the pool – they all have red plastic cups in their hands. I get in the pool with Trish, and as she is introducing me to our other classmates, I feel a tap on my shoulder. “Do you want a beer?” a boy asks. His name is Mark and at first I think he might be someone’s little brother. He’s very short and sounds like Shaggy from Scoobie Doo. “Not thanks, I’ll just take a coke”.

After what feels like five hours, I am anxious to leave, and I just feel uncomfortable. I hear a lot of commotion coming from the pier behind the pool. A boy in my class is being carried out by three other people. They are taking him to the hospital to get his stomach pumped. Patty whispers, “he drank a fifth of Captain Morgan before the party, no wonder he’s wasted” I want to ask her who the hell is Captain Morgan and what a fifth is but at the risk of sounding stupid, I leave the thought alone.

The first thing I noticed about the boy despite his condition was how incredible he cute he was. Almost right away, it was obvious this kid was the most popular guy in school. He was good looking and a lot nicer than most of the other kids in my class. He was also an alcoholic by the age of 14. Something that I had a hard time comprehending. Here I am, upset that we don’t have recess in the 9th grade and this kid is already having issues with alcohol. He ended up getting expelled from school the following year for coming in drunk. The year after that he died in a non-alcohol related car accident near the Christmas holiday. Towards the end of his short life he had gotten the help he needed. His life was getting on track and within moments it was snatched away.

The same night of the party, three hours away, my friend’s brother and his two friends were in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Only the drunk driver and the driver of my friend’s car survived.ย  The woman who was driving had been so drunk she was unaware she was even in an accident. They were stopped at a red light of a busy intersection, waiting to turn into the Wendy’ drive through on the corner. She hit him them full force going 80 miles an hour.

My friend had called his mom minutes earlier and left her a message to tell her they were going out to get food.ย  She missed his call and to this day is filled with the grief of “if only”. If only she had picked up the phone. If only they would have eaten the food already in the house. Even if they still went out, the phone call would have stalled them, and they would have missed the drunk driver. If only.

At 14, I vowed that alcohol would never become a friend of mine. I vowed the night of the party to never get so drunk I couldn’t walk. I vowed the night after the party to never drink and drive or get in a car with someone under the influence. But alcohol is a manipulative asshole and 4 years later it would become my best friend.

Despite my lack of interest in alcohol, there are two moments that I clearly remember drinking before I reached the age of 18. I was 16 and to my surprise, the very first sip I ever had I immediately loved it – Cabernet Sauvignon. I felt like someone gave me the most wonderful drink ever created, the disasters two years earlier didn’t cross my mind.

My mom and I are out to dinner with Eli, a close family friend, at this cute little French style bistro; they order a bottle of wine. “Three glasses?” the waitress asks. All three of us look at one another. Eli finally says, “Yes, three glasses please.” I’m sorry, I think my ears are clogged. Did I hear that correctly? Mom! Did you hear him? Within a few minutes, the waitress has come back with a bottle of Cab and three glasses. And here I sit, drinking wine in a restaurant with my mom and Eli! How awesome is this!

“Only one glass” my mom says. Fine by me! I’m sophisticated and classy now! The waitress thinks I am mature to drink! We finish dinner and head home, I’m not tipsy and I don’t feel any effects of the alcohol. The experience just fades. It becomes a cute, funny story that we will continue to chuckle at to this day.

Fast-forward a few months, it’s Passover. I’ve been celebrating the Jewish holidays with Eli and his family as long as I can remember and then he celebrates Christmas and Easter with us. To my surprise, I am allowed to drink wine tonight instead of grape juice! I take a sip and again, pure love. I love the taste, I love the smell, I love everything about it. As the dinner goes on, I start to feel fuzzy headed – like I am floating.

Dinner ends and everyone is happily socializing with one another. I take this opportunity to call TJ, my best friend. In my tipsy state, I tell him that I was allowed to drink wine at dinner. Oh yes, it’s very classy. I get to drink with all of the adults. Won’t the zoo be so much tomorrow? You want to know a secret? I have a crush on someone. Who is it? Well, what if I said I was going with him to the zoo tomorrow! Wait, what did I just tell him!?! Haha! Just kidding! Forget it, it doesn’t matter! I’ll see you tomorrow! I hang up the phone, shut my eyes tightly together, and try to go back in time five minutes ago. It doesn’t work.

I’m standing in the front corridor of the house trying to think of how I am going to even look him in the eye tomorrow. All of the sudden, my head starts to hurt. “Mom, can we go now? I don’t feel well, my head is starting to hurt.” I say. “Wine will sop up all the fluids inside you like a sponge. That’s why you have a headache.” my mom says. Well, screw this. The tipsy feeling doesn’t even feel good anymore and isn’t worth the headache (literally). I wake up the next morning, I still have a dull achy head, I’m dying of thirst, and I’m still embarrassment about what I said to TJ last night. Thankfully, when we get to the zoo, he doesn’t mention it and acts perfectly normal as if nothing happened. Well, good! Because it is never happening again. No more wine for me. And with that, I pretty much forgot alcohol even existed. I remained uninterested for the next few years, and I wish things had stayed that way.

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