On Drugs: Part I

[read time: 5-8 minutes]

[trigger warning: alcohol and drug abuse]

I am six years sober this upcoming Saturday, the 26th of March. 

That’s six years of no alcohol – nope, not even one little drop. 

Six years of being hangover-free.

Six years of finally living life. 

I turned 18 in May of 2004 and left my parents house to begin university in September 2004. I had barely touched alcohol during high school. I think I got drunk a total of once. 

I was so excited for what the future held for me. I was admitted to my dream program; I was happy, full of life, and had big plans for my future. I knew I wanted to be a writer; maybe an editor on the side. After my schooling I would go on to become a novelist and then maybe a teacher. 

I was an excellent student in high school. In fact, I was Valedictorian. I had good enough grades to get me into my program of choice at UVic: Creative Writing. I would graduate with a BFA in 2008.

But – that never happened. 

Within a few short years, alcohol would take over my life, without even realizing that it occurred. I would then go on to drink and abuse drugs for the next ten years – and live in complete denial of it. 

I was shy. Not so shy that I would never talk to anyone, but shy enough that when I talked I blushed. Shy enough that I rarely raised my hand in class, not because I did not want to participate, but because I would inevitably turn red in the face. 

I knew I wanted to be a writer in Grade 6. That is when I first discovered writing could be a paid profession. (Keep in mind this was around 1997 and being a “writer” was likened to an “artist” and thus had the stigma of being underpaid etc. I was undeterred.) 

Grade 6 was the year I had major surgery. I was born with an arteriovenous malformation in my right leg. At age 11, I spent a week in the hospital after having major life-altering surgery. When the surgery was complete, my entire leg was encased in a cast, stick-straight, for months. After, I was never able to use my leg properly again, despite physiotherapy and other attempts. To this day, it only bends to about 90 degrees and no further. I am in constant pain. 

When I left for university, I felt good about myself. I limped all the time and was in pain, but I was smart, had a bit of confidence, and was so, so excited about my future. I was absolutely stoked to be attending the university and program of my dreams. 

I am unsure exactly when my addiction began. Sometimes I wonder if it was when I was young, seven, eight years old, and would follow my dad into the liquor store when he bought his beer. I loved the way it smelled in there; I can still conjure its fragrance today. It was sweet, inviting. 

Sometimes I wonder if it was the very first night I got drunk on campus. Indeed, it was one of the first times I got drunk – ever. I smoked cigarettes off and on at that time, and I asked a girl for a cigarette. As I tried to light it, the girl stopped me, took the cigarette out of my mouth, and turned it around. I was lighting it backwards. 

In my head, I thought: if I’m like this when I’m drunk, maybe I should stop. 

This one fleeting thought, had I held on to it, nurtured it, and believed in myself, I could have potentially not wasted the next ten years of my life drinking and snorting coke.

But if that were the case, we would not be here right now. 

Drinking made me sociable. Drinking made me friendly. Drinking made my pain go away. Drinking made my face go red. Drinking made me make bad decisions. Drinking made me hungover. Drinking made me hate myself. 

I survived the first year of university with excellent grades, despite living and partying on campus. I made no friends that year; I did not fit in with the other girls. I was the weird artsy one. All the dorm girls wanted to do was party all the time. I was desperate to fit in with them, so I upped my alcohol intake. They never hung out with me or asked me to hang out if we were sober. It was a confusing time.

I do not talk to any of those people today; nor have I, for many, many years. 

I was the loneliest I had ever been during my first year. To this day, when I think back on my first year of university, it was so different than what I imagined in my head. The little girl so full of confidence and hope was raped and shattered that year. Soon began my downward spiral. 

By now, I drank all the time. I turned the legal age in BC (19) before beginning my second year of classes. In other words, there was nothing that could stop my drinking now. 

I drank nearly every day. I would drink so much that I would often – and I mean often – wake up with puke in my bed. To this day I am surprised and grateful I never aspirated my vomit and died. That could have happened at any point. 

I was hungover all the time. 

I threw up everywhere. 

I was still lonely and in pain. 

By my third year of university, I was a full-on alcoholic but did not realize it. I needed alcohol to relax, pretty much every night. I got drunk every night. 

And then something else happened. 

[post continues tomorrow… stay tuned]

Published by Erica Black

Erica was born with a rare disease called an arteriovenous malformation in her right leg. She is now an advocate for those with disabilities. She left the corporate world in 2016 to pursue a career as a high school English teacher and began to blog along the way. She has a BA in English Lit and minor in Creative Writing. Her writing has been featured in The Martlet, The Globe and Mail, Heroica, and more. She enjoys cats, reading, and her daughter.

One thought on “On Drugs: Part I

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