The first drink I remember having was a “shitmix” from my parents’ liquor cabinet. I was with my two best friends, we were thirteen. One of my friends, or perhaps someone from school, instructed us beforehand as to exactly how it should be done. We filled the glass about 3/4 full with 40-proof liquors of all types, and topped it off with a bit of cola. We thought that was how you mixed a drink!
I’m not sure why it was at my place and not at my friends’ places, but possibly because my friends’ parents had already locked up their liquor cabinets (one of them had a four-years-older sibling, already paving the way in the smoking and drinking department; the other friend’s dad was a therapist/counsellor, with plenty of school-aged patients) and/or because their parents were home. It was the most disgusting thing I’d ever had tasted, yet we were determined to “get high” in this way. I don’t remember why. Maybe because all the kids at school were telling these kinds of stories, and I guess we wanted a story of our own to tell so we too could be “cool.” Maybe because we’d heard adults talking about all the fun times they’d “had a few too many.”
It was after school, my parents would not be home for a couple of hours. We drank it through a straw to avoid having to taste it too much and you can imagine that each of us having had about at least 125 mls of 40% alcohol to ourselves on our first time drinking, we were pretty drunk and sick. We stumbled around, laughed at each other, then somehow had to crawl into our beds to pass out, claiming stomach aches. I seriously cannot imagine how my parents could have missed the fact that we were drunk. Or perhaps they knew, and they didn’t know what to do about it, and so said nothing. I don’t remember.
What’s most interesting is how few details I remember of the exact circumstances. I only remember my two besties being there, I remember mixing the drinks on the counter (there was this pull-out breadboard that slid out from under counter just under the booze cabinet, making a perfect “bar” for us to stand around), I remember the disgusting taste and being proud of myself for having gotten it down — like I’d accomplished something! Just like so many idiotic acts are celebrated on YouTube these days — and I remember the loss of control, and mostly, liking that loss of control.
I wanted to shed my responsibility. I wanted a free pass to be wild, to do “bad girl” things. What’s laughable is I didn’t do anything really awful — I was a huge prude, at least compared to others I knew, for one thing. In other words, if I’d really wanted to do those daft things, I could have, should have done any of them sober. But I’d been so impressed upon in my childhood to always be a “good girl,” a “model child,” and that only when alcohol was involved was it okay for grown-ups to let lose (and hey, we were basically trying to be grown-ups) that I was dying to escape that confine. I wanted to be the rebel now, I wanted to be like the rockers in the eighties movies we watched, I wanted to ride around in the passenger seats of fast cars and pickup trucks, and I wanted to taste freedom. That’s what I wanted.
But more than anything, what I really wanted was to fit in — which is the antithesis of being a so-called rebel. I was always lying to myself about that.
The problem for teens is that just when they need parents the most, I’ll bet, is just when the parents themselves are going through “life stuff” (as in midlife crises, aging/dying parents of their own, hormonal changes, etc.) and are too tired, too stressed and thus too self-absorbed, to give them the real kinds of adventures they need, even if those are right in their own backyards/homes. Learning how to achieve truly amazing things (i.e. how to make stuff, or play an instrument), learning how to be “free” without having to drink or take drugs, these are the hard things to figure out how to teach our kids, as parents. Actually all we really needed was for a parent to *be* there. Like mentally, and emotionally, as well as physically.
I don’t at all blame my parents. For me, my parents were perfect. But what I hope is that I might take it a step further, for my own kids. Isn’t that what we all hope? To make things a bit better, for the folks we care about? I think my own parents did a great job of that. And my husband’s mom did, too.
[Edit/Note: this was written 5 days ago – it started as an overlong paragraph in the “On the beach” post, when I was reading Annie Gracie’s book This Naked Mind and had just finished the part about her own first drinking experience at age 12]