When I was 14, I picked up a liter of Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey and never put it down. My fist was superglue, cementing my greatest crutch to my greatest fear: my own self. It would take 6 years to admit to this and to start destroying this barrier of isolation and false sense of security. Yes, I am an alcoholic and I’m not even of legal drinking age. And I can say that with a little help from my friends, I will hopefully never take a legal drink.
I am a proud person. Since my first day on this earth and subsequently every day that followed, I had multiple people tell me how smart I was, how special I was, how beautiful I was, how talented I was. Every person in my life had a “best case scenario” plan for me in their head. Half of them wanted to see me grow up and be a musician. Half of them wanted me to bury my nose in dusty old scholarly journals, figuring out the secret to the universe. And a few of them wanted me to do both “because you’re just so special, honey.” Praise is smothering.
I was never disciplined until I hit middle school, and by then it was too late. I already thought I knew everything, and I prided myself on being “mature for my age.” I was a terror. No one could tell me what to do. No one could tell me no. I got everything I asked for because if Mom didn’t give it to me, Dad would. And if Dad couldn’t do it, Grandma made sure I got it.
So when I took a casual swig of that bottle of Jack I’d been eyeing since I could remember, I felt like Queen Elizabeth: both man and woman in one body. Powerful, beautiful, smart, important, influential. And because I was proud, I took as many sips as it took to down the whole bottle. I wanted to stand up with my battle shield, my beautiful empty bottle and proclaim that I had won, that I was the coolest fourteen year old ever, because my Dad let me have his bottle of whiskey.
But I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t even see clearly. Every movement made was a struggle. And instead of standing up to claim victory, I collapsed into a bottomless pit of emotional turmoil. I don’t remember this night at all after this. In fact, I have one clear memory of sitting on a brick stoop wailing. And the rest of the night is dark, silent, haunting. I’m told I cried myself into a state of hysteria. I’m told I was obnoxious, hard to handle, unstoppable. Crazy, demented, out of control.
The next morning I got up, confused, ashamed, sad, but only for a few seconds. I convinced myself that, hey, I was only 14. I had time to get a handle on my liquor. I had time to “straighten out.” I was young, and there was no reason to get so bent out of shape over one night. It was No Big Deal. I wasn’t even that drunk. It was only a liter of Jack. It could have been two. And this mindset, this “It could always be worse” attitude, would be what propelled me into a 6 year spiral of denial and self-justification.
My first major sign that I could be in trouble, was when I realized my father was an alcoholic. If cement held me and liquor together, a steel shackle ten miles thick held my father to it. He drank by himself, with people, in the morning, at night, during the day, right after work, during any function. If I could count the times I’ve asked him to pick me up and his response was “Sorry. I’ve already had ten beers,” I would be counting till the day I died.
Until the night he raped me, I blocked the idea of alcoholism out of my head. I defended him to everyone. I covered for him if he drove home drunk. I carried him to bed if he passed out in the backyard. I enabled him by convincing my stepmother to buy him more whiskey, partly because I wanted a swig or ten to myself.
I would steal my stepmom’s vodka. I would lie to my family, even some of my friends about where I was, how much I was drinking, that I was sober enough to drive. I would drink when I was home alone and when I was with friends. I even carried vodka to school in a water bottle a few times. I drove other people’s cars drunk. My roommate’s, my dad’s, my grandma’s, my stepfather’s, my mom’s, and even my own car. I would drink whole bottles of wine at night to put myself to sleep, or rather cry myself to sleep. I would seize every opportunity to get drunk, and I never said no to alcohol. I still get angry and anxious if I know there is no alcohol in the house should I need it to calm down, feel better, deal with life, and any other excuse I could come up with to “need it.”
But then I was raped. By an alcoholic. By my best friend. By my father. After attempting suicide, surviving a mental ward, and re-adjusting to life without him, I hesitantly turned to alcohol again because I convinced myself that I needed it, “just for right now, just until life settled down.”
This passage from “Living Sober” sums up perfectly how I lived my life for the six months after my rape and even before, during the first two and half years of college:
“If [our drinking] bothered us too much, we would cut down, or try to limit ourselves to just one or two, or switch from hard liquor to beer or wine. At least, we tried to limit the amount, so we would not get too disastrously tight. Or we tried to hide how much we drank.
But all these measures got more and more difficult. Occasionally, we event went on the wagon, and did not drink at all for awhile.
Eventually, we would go back to drinking–just one drink. And since that apparently did no serious damage, we felt it was safe to have another. Maybe that was all we took on that occasion, and it was a great relief to find we could take just one or two, then stop. Some of us did that many times.
But the experience proved to be a snare. It persuaded us that we could drink safely. And then there would come the occasion (some special celebration, personal loss, or no particular event at all) when two or three made us feel fine, so we thought one or two more could not hurt. And with absolutely no intention of doing so, we found ourselves again drinking too much. And we’re right back to were we had been–overdrinking without really wanting to.”
When I’m drunk, I hurt people. I spew every emotional feeling I have onto them, and expect them to fix it. I give them my burdens and expect them to carry these heavy feelings because I don’t want to. And then, when I’m sober, I apologize and laugh it off, ignoring how it made them feel, how it affected them at all. That’s not fair to anyone. This realization, that I use people to fix me and listen to me when I’m drunk, and keep them at a distance when I’m sober, is what made me admit that I am an alcoholic. I may not hide liquor in my room, or drink every hour of every day, but I use alcohol to cope. And I am addicted to it. And knowing that alcoholism is progressive leads me to believe that if I don’t fix the problem now, I could end up drinking every hour of every day ten years from now.
On January 29th, 2014, I went to a friend’s house with every intention of having a fun night. I just wanted to dance, to let loose, and laugh. But I kept drinking and drinking and drinking. And I didn’t stop, nor did I want to. And when something, though I can’t remember what it was, triggered my PTSD, I broke down, unleashed the hellish fires of my darkest emotions, and called one of my best friends. I made him listen to me cry and complain and vent about everything that was wrong with my life. I had no concern for his thoughts, feelings, what he was doing, whether or not I was keeping him from something, anything. I didn’t thank him for listening, I didn’t apologize until the day after, I didn’t feel bad. Quite simply because I was too drunk.
And then the morning came and everything from the night before came back to me, I knew. I just knew that what I did was not right for me or for anyone else in my life. And I knew that I never wanted to call my best friend again that drunk. His time was worth more than too many beers and a four loko. His time is invaluable because I love him. Because he’s a wonderful friend and has always been there for me, even when he had every right not to be.
So I choose not to drink, so that I can do the same for him. And for all of my close friends because they deserve it.
And most important of all, I choose not to drink because I, Kaitlyn Marie Jones, am worth more than drunken nights of self-pity. I am worth having as a friend. I am worth more than isolation just because I’m afraid of people leaving me. I am worth so much.
I am good, I am kind, I am loving.
I am sober.