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 Southern Baptist upbringing. A couple years after college, two guys friends who had moved away and become Presbyterians– and thus fans of the booze– came for a visit.
I only had a few hours to spare because I’m a total nerd and had tickets to the midnight premier of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Our guy friends showed up at my house with dozens 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 I was in no condition to wait in line outside a movie theatre so they opted for a tex-mex pitstop in hopes that a little caloric intake would counteract the gallons of alcohol I’d just consumed.
Apparently I concentrated very hard on dipping my tortillas into queso but failed to actually hold a tortilla in my hand, which meant I was just repeatedly submerging my fist into melted cheese. In between asking where my tortilla had gone, I kept insisting that I was only just a teensy bit tipsy.
Midnight was closing in 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 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. Afterwards I lounged in the living room and told stories about myself in the third person while referring to myself as my dog, Zola.
“Zola is not drunk, Zola is just happy!”
They later told me that at this point I began making up all sorts of secrets about random people we knew. I said one of my friends from the cafe was a lesbian and accused someone else of having an affair, even though I had absolutely no reason to think either one of these things.
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 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.”
She filled me on my various drunken exploits and I decided to believe the pain I felt was from my very first hangover.
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’d 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’d picked up. Apparently I’d 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 them off like some overly dramatic WebMD article.
Later that month I flew to Turkey with a friend who’d gone to grad school on the East Coast. We hadn’t seen each other in over a year and I hadn’t 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’d been telling her the same stories over and over and asking the same questions every few minutes. The big tip off to my mental dysfunction 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’d 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’d 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’d purchased.
Eventually it all evened out and my memory returned to it’s unforgivingly accurate state. My friend came out of the closet and got a girlfriend and the marriage of the cheating woman went through a year of hell when her infidelity was discovered. A series of other theories I’d shared during my inebriation were also confirmed, though I’d never thought anything about them when I was sober.
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.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done while drunk? Do you have any sage advice for mixing alcohol without acquiring a traumatic brain injury? What are your worst drinking mishaps?
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