Add to Technorati Favorites

Saturday, October 2, 2010


For a short period of time during my late teens, I was a designated driver. My main group of friends were LDS, non-drinkers, straight-laced, short, I adored them because they were absolutely safe. But I had a subgroup of friends who were a bit different. In them I could find an outlet for some of the nastiness I carried with me even though I was a spectator, not a participant. I also found romance in that group, which allowed me to understand more about myself and what I wanted in my mate, and I probably won't say more about that.

The first group were my day friends. They all lived miles away from me and we spent weekend time during school trips, but rarely socialized outside school. The second group were my night friends. They made my parents nervous, so I often just didn't say where I was going or whom I was with, and let the parents believe I was enjoying the company of my first friend group. It was easier that way.

When with first friend group, I found myself watching every word I said, measuring possible responses, dressing carefully, being certain to say few things that might tell them about me. But they made me strive for excellence, challenged me, forced me to become more than I was. They recognized I was highly intelligent, they celebrated my talents, I felt supported and encouraged and included. Interestingly, my best friend was in that group, and I still stay in touch with more than one of those friends. 

When I was with second friend group, I felt at home. I was loved. They thought I was beautiful and sexy. I could say whatever I wished, wear what I felt comfortable in, and go places I would never enter on my own. We had conversations which challenged societal norms, dreamed of changing the world, and collectively hated our parents and God. They talked of things taboo in my structured, religious environment, and most were much older than I. They had graduated high school. Some were attending college. All were old enough to drink alcohol, and thus came about the happy arrangement that I was invited and included, romanced frequently, and asked to be the driver when they were all so hammered they couldn't even find their vehicle, which of course, was an old, beat up suburban.

This arrangement was fine with me, except for the fact that they all lost their minds when they were sloshed, and most of the guys in the group tried hitting on me or feeling me up while I was driving, and I had to make frequent puke stops. Occasionally, I would park the suburban a couple of miles from my house, leave the group in their comas, and walk home. Still, for me it was worth the pre-drunk time.

I was never interested in drinking with them, though they would have shared, regardless of my under-age status. Scent is something I register with intensity, and the smell of alcohol turned my stomach--especially the smell that emanated from the bodies of my friends after only one drink. I'm better about that now. I can smell a person who has been drinking without cringing, and if they've only had a couple of beers or some wine, the smell doesn't usually bother me. I can even sit close to them without feeling stress. 

Still, second group of friends continuously offered me beverages, seemingly unaware that they were illegally trying to get me drunk and in the process, potentially losing their chauffeur for the ride home. They never understood why I would gag when a glass was held to my face.

But there was a second, more pressing reason why I never drank. It was simple: I wanted to. I wanted to join them in their stupor. I wished to let the feelings that ate me alive be put to rest for one night. I was dying for sleep. I wanted to be just like them. And so--I didn't drink even once. I knew if I did I would be lost. I'd not be able to stop. I would want to be drunk all day, every day, to save me from the monstrous reality I lived. And I knew I would drink myself to death. I would lose all inhibitions, place myself in eminent danger, and ultimately seek for my own death. I knew this.

There was also a sane, rational part of me which knew I wouldn't find happiness there. Relief, certainly; acceptance, without doubt; but no happiness. That sane segment of my brain was also the part that told me I was flirting with danger when I hung out with a crowd of people in their 20s while I was still in high school, I shouldn't be dating or romantically involved with people that much older than I was, and technically, I shouldn't be in places where alcohol was being sold and consumed, as it was sort of illegal.

Eventually, a number of things happened which let me know that the people in second group of friends were not headed in the direction I was choosing. I had a long talk with someone with whom I was in love, which revealed some dependencies on both our parts which I deemed unhealthy and consuming. A classmate of mine in a similar social situation, died in an accident while driving home with drunk buddies. And finally, I took a long look at who I was, measured my potential, acknowledged my desire to become a street person drinking from a paper bag for the rest of my life--then I went to my mother who had been pressuring me to go to BYU when I graduated, and told her I would do that. I figured, at least in that place, I'd have a chance to "detox" from the friends I loved, I'd be far away from them, and I would learn to think without being influenced by my attachment to them. 

My high school counselor was unhappy with that decision. He had helped me get a full-ride four-year scholarship with side benefits to a more prestigious school, but he worked his magic and I ended up with a similar financial deal at BYU. He told me I was making a mistake. I looked him in the eye and told him that was the story of my life--and probably would continue to be. He said he was serious--I was throwing away the chance of a lifetime. I told him I wasn't sure what my lifetime would be, so taking chances with it, however wonderful they might be, was not currently an option. He said I would regret this decision for the rest of my life. I said it would have to stand in line, I was already regretting most of my life decisions and I wasn't even 20. He gave up.

When I left second group of friends, I actually sat down with them during pre-drinking time, and told them what I was planning. They were quiet. Then one of them, the one who always loved me most, said I was doing the right thing. I was different. I wouldn't be happy living as they did. I needed to find out what I wanted from life. Then they all said they were not thrilled with having to find a new designated driver, and that was pretty much the extent of the conversation. And then I left.

I'm thinking of this now because as I go through the necessary steps to become independent of the pain killers I love so much, I recognize that my life could have been different. About ten days ago, my father-in-law sat on my couch watching the evening news. A woman was being interviewed. She talked of spending $800 daily to buy prescription pain killers to feed her habit. She told about how that particular obsession became her entire life focus. She was grateful to be arrested and incarcerated so that she could finally be in a place where she could get help. 

My father-in-law shook his head. How could that be? he wondered. He just didn't understand, he said. It seemed odd to him that any person could become so involved with, and dependent upon a substance which would take away their reality. 

But I understand. I will, always. Sometimes I feel ashamed that I completely understand the motivation which drove this seemingly normal, mother of two, professional woman, to throw away her sane life in pursuit of forgetting and euphoria. I wish I didn't feel the fantasy and desire for escape. I wish I could figure out how to live my life--my beautiful life--untainted by after-effects of my past. I wish I was stronger.

Then I remember I'm still here. I'm going through withdrawal because I'm choosing not to live the life that would simultaneously release and ensnare me. I'm choosing this because I want to keep living. There has to be merit in that. Still...the shame persists...I don't know what to do with it.


  1. I know you probably won't want to hear this but you are very brave.Even though I don't pray much any more I will say a prayer for you. I hope you will be feeling better soon. -A.J.

  2. Thanks, A.J. I really appreciate it.