Back to my old stomping — and drinking — grounds.

06Mar09
Showing off my talents while drunk on my Senior Ski Trip.

Showing off my talents while drunk on my Senior Ski Trip.

This weekend, I’ll be traveling back in time to the era of Rick Springfield, Reaganomics and Princess Di.

I’m leaving this morning for Virginia to attend an impromptu high school reunion. My two BFFs from high school and I are making a girls’ weekend of it. We’ve kept in touch over the years, but it’s been 25 years since I’ve seen a lot of the classmates who’ll be attending. It’s gonna be interesting, to say the least.

I spent my middle and high school years in a beach town, which made for a lot of fun during the summer, as you might imagine. There’s something about the combination of surf, sand and sun that just screams “Party!” And in my experience, no self-respecting party was complete without booze.

While I had my first encounters with alcohol at a much younger age (more on that in a later post), I consider 10th grade to be the true start of my drinking career.

I remember how it all began: after a football game, a big group of us were heading to a little beach on the Chesapeake Bay to hang out — and drink. I can’t recall how I got there, but I remember with absolute clarity trudging up the sandy path to the water with the crowd, when one of the Popular Girls walking nearby snapped a cold can of beer from the plastic of her dangling six-pack and handed it to me.

The fact that I had received some of the coveted booty without even asking, and that it’d been bestowed upon me by such a person, thrilled me beyond belief.

I immediately popped open the can, while we were still about 50 yards from the water. I had finished it by the time we got to the water’s edge.

That sophomore year was a constant stream of post-football game partying on Friday nights. Pitchers of watery beer at the corner Pizza Hut were the drink of choice, usually purchased by a kindly older brother or sister. (Back then, the drinking age was 18.) Mogen David Grape Wine or Boone’s Farm Tickled Pink — names that make my stomach lurch — were also favorites, purchased from a convenience store with fake IDs.

My junior year brought even more drinking, as I graduated to the “hard stuff.” Bourbon mixed into a Coke Slurpee from 7-11 was a standard. I started sneaking a few ounces of vodka from my dad’s supply every now and then, carrying it to school in an empty pump-spray hairspray bottle. Even mixed with orange juice, it tasted kind of perfumey, but it did the job.

By this time, keg parties at the homes of kids with “cool” parents were all the rage. Now that I’m a parent myself (though my girls are still in elementary school), I am appalled at this. What were they thinking? Yet those kids lucky enough to have such seemingly enlightened parents saw their popularity soar among their peers.

My own parents were largely absent during all of this. During my sophomore year, my dad was usually passed out on the sofa when I got home, and my mom asleep or sequestered in her bedroom. They divorced by my junior year, so then I just had to run the gauntlet with my mom. She was easy enough to fool — I kept a toothbrush, toothpaste and a supply of Big Red cinnamon gum handy, so I could inevitably pass the breath test she’d administer upon my arrival home.

By my senior year, I was drinking most every weekend, and often during the week, and sometimes even during school. That old pump hairspray bottle stayed filled and in my locker for nips throughout the day. From football games to proms to beach parties to concerts to an afterschool MTV-watching session, no event was ever a sober experience for me. I was always buzzed, if not drunk.

That’s been my experience for the last 25 years: every event, big or small, called for a drink — until four months ago, when I decided to get sober and join Alcoholics Anonymous.

This Saturday night I’ll see many of the people that I partied with all those years ago. The organizer of the event, a surfer dude who seems never to have grown up, keeps sending out party updates on Facebook and via email:

LET’S GET THE BUZZ GOING!!!!!!!

AFTER HOURS PARTY BRING ALCOHOL!!!!

READY TO DRINK MY ASS OFF!!!!

I’d suspect these were written with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, if I didn’t know better. From the steady commentary posted on the party’s Evite and Facebook pages, many of these people still drink hard, and are planning to blow it out this weekend.

I’m not judging them at all – I could have counted myself among them (though I would have not broadcast my drinking intentions so publicly) mere months ago.

But come Sunday, I’ll be thankful that my morning will be blissfully hangover-free. I won’t be surprised if my stomach muscles hurt from laughing, though. Getting together with my BFFs means we’ll take many a trip down Memory Lane, recounting plenty of embarrassing stories and adventures from those days gone by when we were young and foolish.

I’ll also be counting my blessings, that I survived long enough to become old and foolish.

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8 Responses to “Back to my old stomping — and drinking — grounds.”

  1. 1 Chaz

    Ahhhh! Psych C!!!!

    I have a 25 year reunion this year too!

    A group of us are wondering if we want to go. Instead, we may just do a smaller get together fewer of us who knew each other better.

    At the time of my 20, I was going through agonizing divorce and wanting to kill myself. Also ramping up for my full-throttle alcoholism. Not the best time to go reconnect with your high school hommies.

    My closest friend knows I no longer drink and why. He is not an alchy but understands completely.

    I am ok with reconnecting with old friends but I am more about today. So not sure what I am going to do.

    Have fun with your old friends! Be wise. Think ahead.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

  2. 2 C

    Chaz,

    As always, thanks for your comments.

    I had a weird/amazing AA-related experience at the DFW airport en route yesterday, which I’ll share in a post.

    As expected, thus far my stomach muscles hurt from laughing last night, but I suffered no temptation to break into the wine, even though there was plenty flowing last night. Tonight is the big party – I anticipate no problems, but will have resources standing by, just in case.

    As for your situation – I’ll have to write you back after tonight – and share my experience connecting with old friends who weren’t that close. I expect it’ll be interesting and fun and something I’ll be glad I didn’t miss. But we shall see…

    Take care,

    C.

  3. 3 BeachBum

    At my tenth high school reunion I was about 15 months sober. I was voted “most changed” (doubtless due more to the suit and tie, and the haircut, than the seltzer water in my hand). I got to talk to the people who I considered boring back in the day. It was a very nice time. Hope you had a wonderful time too!

    BB

  4. 4 Chaz

    Now that I think of it, it was my -year reunion year that I started using coke and that my family finally did an intervention and packed my ass off to a treatment centre.

    That is quite a way to mark a 20-year milestone eh!?

    Life is a lot better today. Amazingly. In all areas.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

  5. 5 Lauren

    Why would you want to get drunk and be that way in front of people?? I dont get why people do it…I have tried alcohol but i have never gotten drunk or even close to it. Can you explain why people think it’s “cool”..

  6. 6 C

    Lauren,

    I can’t explain anyone’s actions but my own. I suffer from alcoholism, and in my case I can never just have one or two drinks. Moderation is not possible for me, so I have chosen to abstain completely.

    Early on, I found that mainstream society’s attitude toward drinking encouraged my indulgence – and often overindulgence — in alcohol, even when underage.

    I don’t begrudge those who can drink “normally” their enjoyment of alcohol. But I no longer think that drinking to excess is something to strive for or to be admired….

  7. 7 Chaz

    Lauren…. the asking of the questoin of why someone would do such a thing is a strong indicator that you are not an alcoholic.

    We alcoholics, while in active alcoholism, do not stop to think of such things as why we would or what others would think if we were drunk in front of them.

    We just get hammered with little thought to what is going on around us. Some of us only felt good around others whilst pissed.

    There is no need to drink to excess. Ifyou havent, you arent missing anthing that needs to be experienced.

    There are lots of other things to explore in lfie that are cheaper and safer than alcohol.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

  8. 8 Sharon

    I believe that the neurochemicals in my brain are different from people like Lauren. My husband is like Lauren. For me, there is a sensation of pleasure that is so desirable… it starts when the buzz from a glass of wine starts… it keeps me chasing it. When I described it at an AA meeting, everyone nodded in understanding.


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