My head cradled between the porcelain arms of the toilet on the seventh floor women’s restroom, I emptied my entire being into the bowl. Between the circling ache that rattled my head, and bile that formed in my throat, I gurgled cries of pain and pleas for help. Though I had the trusty hand of my best friend holding my hair back, I had succumbed to the sickness induced by a college favorite: alcohol.
A proud “heavy-weight champ” in knocking back liquor , I often lost count of how many devilish drinks slid down my throat in times of celebration: Fourth of July? Beers by the pool. Getting a promotion? Wine with friends. It was so easy to slip into something more comfortable when faced with social anxiety, a “Natty Light” in hand, and I enjoyed the rush of relaxation and warmth that followed several sips. And while the taste of rum pouring into my body often sent shivers through my core, like a pianist playing along my spine, it never really tasted like “celebration”.
Instead, it echoed regret.
The regret that comes with a night of drinking in your dorm room feels like many things, including:
1.) The scrape of sharp nails as you force your fingers down your throat to tempt the demons resting in your stomach.
2.) The embarrassment of calling your boyfriend while sobbing about having too much to drink.
3.) The ripping of your heart as you watch your best friend cry.
4.) Waking up in a hospital bed with the knowledge that you aresole reason for being there.
5.) The quicksand pit that traps you in quilt and shame as you face the break of a new day in your identity as the,
“Kid Who Drank Herself Sick”.
In the wake of my intoxicated episode, I yearned for the ability to start over completely- A new name. A new face. A new identity. My eyes fell and faltered from the gossiping gaze of my peers and superiors as the “checked in” on me, my ability to speak dampened by damnation sewn from my loom. I had clocked out of the innocence I worked upon my entire life, ripping away my angelic uniform and replacing it with the leisurely clothes of bad decisions. In spite of it all, I was alive.
In spite of my wanting to crawl under a fifty pound boulder, I was alive. In spite of two crippling chronic illnesses worsened by consuming alcohol, I was alive. In spite of crying out to unfortunate and unlucky EMTs that, “I am going to die”, I was alive. I was alive. I was alive.
And I was lucky.
While I survived my night of drinking and throwing up (all over the floor, myself, in my trashcan…) and the midnight run to the emergency room nearest to my university, I am reminded of those who did not:
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly “1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.” At 18 years old, I fit into the college age criteria of the statistic and was almost an addition to the number. As simple as it is to state, it is harder to face.
Ahead of me will come many events and parties and “celebrations” and such, alcohol mixing around the room as slick as winter roads. I cannot avoid the smothering embrace of tequila on some random kids breath, nor the temptation that will tango upon my tongue when I witness friends engaging in seemingly ‘harmless’ fun, but I can run from the idea of drunk and disorderly. I can sprint across the finish line marked “health” both in physicality, and mentality. I can race to the phone and call home when I feel a need to relax, submersing myself in the calming words of my compassionate and considering parents.
I can choose to be responsible, and I can choose to be safe. For I may never be able to wipe “Alcohol Poisoning” from my record, I can wash it clean from my identity.