I was in the 8th grade, and at a friend’s house. There were about five of us all the same age. My friend, who’s house we were at, was raised by a single mom who was a nurse and had to work a night shift. Who knows why she would allow a few budding teenagers to rummage the house alone.
We decided to play truth, dare, double dare, a game only buddy teenagers would be interested in playing. Something about taking risks is a delicacy to the teenage mind. In any case, as the night wore on, the stakes started to climb higher. One double dare had us searching for my friends’ mom’s cigarettes she kept stashed in her bedside drawer. We took a drag and started coughing wildly. None of us liked it much, and we all felt a bit sick.
The following double dare was to take a swig of her mother’s vodka. One of my friends went first and said it tasted like shit, so she had the brilliant idea of mixing it with some juice. Pretty soon, we abandoned the game and decided to focus on the vodka.
When my turn came, I took a small sip. I could feel the alcohol burning down my throat, but next came the pleasant sensation of warmth spreading everywhere. I asked my friends if they felt the same, and they didn’t. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t feel what I felt. All I knew was that I wanted more.
Unfortunately, those with a genetic predisposition for alcoholism are known to have this kind of reaction to alcohol. I come from a long line of alcoholics who all had the same feeling when they had their first drink. First the burn, then the warmth, then the wanting more.
After this experience, I didn’t drink again until the ninth grade. But once I started, it became something I looked forward to. Every weekend, my friends and I would search for ways to get alcohol and find a place to drink it. We started going to the river each weekend. It had a sloping hill that we could hike down and a little rocky beach. We pulled some large logs to sit on. Down there, we felt invincible, and we were sure no police or parents could find us.
High school went on like that for years. Most weekends, I’d find a way to drink, and I looked forward to it. But when university started, that’s when the trouble began. Since it was legal for me to drink, I found myself doing it as often as possible. I’d go out with my friends on weekends and get shit-faced at bars, or we’d sit in my basement and drink while my parents were upstairs drinking as well.
In alcohol families, no one thinks to monitor the drinking behavior of their young ones, so it becomes just a regular thing that everyone does all the time. When I finished school and began working, my weekend drinking habit soon became a drink after work each day, turning to two and three drinks after work.
I don’t need to tell you how much this kind of habit spins out of control. I spent the better part of my life fighting alcoholism until I quit at 42 years old. I never dreamed that the first drink with its warmth that took over my body would turn into a decades-long habit that nearly destroyed my life. But that’s how easy it can happen. It’s not enough to tell kids they can’t drink. Instead, they need to be adequately educated, so they understand the long-term consequences of early actions.
Young people don’t realize the effect that alcohol has on their health because they’re young and don’t feel the effects as much. They need to know that the spreading warmth of alcohol is actually a sign of inflammation and that even though it feels good at first, it can wreak havoc on their health down the line. But over time, once the habit sticks, it slowly erodes the body. And the younger that the drinking starts, the worse it can be later on.
I would never have dreamed that that first drink could have turned into the nightmare it did. But I hope more people talk about this to prevent their kids from going through the same thing.