The Love Story Series is my journal of the events that led to Eric and I falling in love. You can find all the Love Story chapters here.
I was very involved in community and professional theater in Hawaii. At 19 years old, a lot of my theater friends were in their twenties and thirties and loved to party. We would have regular cast parties at the theaters or in a cast member’s home and these parties always involved alcohol.
I had tried alcohol a few times in high school, and even once in elementary school when there was unguarded champagne at wedding our family attended. But my interest in alcohol really started when I was about 3.
I remember sitting with my Grandpa as he played John Wayne movies, watching in awe as the cowboys would down shot after shot from little tiny glasses (right before they ended up breaking a bottle over another cowboy’s head). The next morning I asked my mom about the magic elixir they were tossing down their throats.
“Oh it’s gross honey. It’s like drinking…vinegar…you wouldn’t like it.” I don’t think she realized at the time how much I actually liked vinegar or perhaps she would have chosen something else, like hot sauce or buttermilk.
I decided it was time to play cowboy so, while she and my grandmother talked in the living room, I grabbed a bottle of vinegar and my cowgirl hat then headed to the bathroom. I pulled out a stack of little Dixie cups from under the sink and lined six of them up on the counter. I carefully poured a couple teaspoons of vinegar into each cup, cocked my hat over one eye and drawled, “Howdy Pilgrim,” into the mirror.
Then I wrapped my little toddler fingers around one cup at a time, throwing the contents into my mouth and giving a satisfied grimace at the burning sensation as the vinegar ran down my throat. When I’d downed all six I began swaggering around the bathroom, proud of myself for doing something my mom didn’t think I could. My cowboy swagger turned into a frantic dash for the toilet as the acid of the vinegar proved to be more than my tiny stomach could bear. I decided that maybe my mom was right, or maybe I just had to wait until I was older. I didn’t really understand what alcohol was, but at that young age it already held a sort of grown up allure to me.
At various high school parties I’d have an occasional drink or sip of a drink, just wanting to try different tastes. But age 19 was when I first discovered that if I had enough alcohol, it would feel like my stress or problems were just kind of floating away.
I can clearly remember sitting on the steps outside the stage door, talking to one of my thirty year old “friends” about her dissolving marriage as we each worked on our third drink. I felt so grown up that she would trust me, a nineteen year old, with her marital woes. I offered sage advice like, “you’re better off without him,” and “don’t waste your life on regret,” mostly just parroting what the other women from the cast were saying.
I then announced, “I don’t ever want to get married.” and basked in the glow of the women around me saying how wise that was, that marriage was just an institution and that I didn’t need a man to make me happy. Then we all laughed and began skipping around the building singing songs from Mary Poppins.
While I tried to convince myself that I didn’t want a boyfriend and I certainly didn’t want to ever get married, the truth was that I didn’t want a bad husband, and I didn’t think that a quality guy would ever want to marry someone like me. I didn’t know why I felt that way about myself, but I did, and it hurt.
When I was out partying was the only time I could make myself believe I was happy and okay.
Unfortunately, I was pretty lousy at self control and the people pleaser in me had trouble saying no to anyone. I ended up at a lot of parties with people who weren’t really my friends and only pretended to care what happened to me. I don’t blame them, they were to busy trying to run away from troubles of their own to care about anyone else. But by age 21 I’d run so far into the world of partying and playing “grown up” that I didn’t even know who I was.
My running away didn’t actually help me at all, it just increased my problems and soon I’d sunk so low that I actually started to hate myself. Then I got a phone call from my father.
“How would you like to come out and visit for your sister’s high school graduation?”
It had been over a year since I’d seen my family and I thought that spending time with them might be a nice break from the craziness of my life. When I stepped onto the plane a week later, I had no idea that this trip would be the first step toward finally hitting bottom in the downward spiral my life had become.