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That First Drink Would Be My Downfall

Liquid Courage started early

By Susan Eileen Published 3 months ago 6 min read
That First Drink Would Be My Downfall
Photo by Andrey Ilkevich on Unsplash

The Cellar in Northfield

The cellar in my childhood was dark and damp, but for some reason we were encouraged to hang out down there. While I was growing up my mother routinely sent us into the cellar when tornado warnings came on the television. The cellar was the safest place to be during a tornado, she said. I think most of the time, she just wanted us to get a break from her children and watch her soaps in peace.

We roller skated in that cellar, and drank beer In that cellar. My first drink was down there, from a keg party when I was twelve. It was my brother’s graduation party on a warm summer day at the end of June. The cellar also stayed cool in the summertime – it was the perfect place to keep the keg. It was also perfect in that no one could see me sneaking sips before I was even a teenager.

Larger than life, no longer shy and awkward. The liquid courage made me feel good about myself. I was born in Massachusetts and moved to Ohio when I was four. In fact, my very first memory was crossing the line into Massachusetts in the middle of the night with my older brother yelling there goes Massachusetts. My mother was never really honest why we fled our house at 2 a.m. with four kids in tow. We lived in a very nice colonial with a nanny. My father was a professor at the University of Massachusetts.

We arrived at my grandparents’ house in the early morning. Suddenly and without warning, all five of us were living in one bedroom. It was culture shock without leaving the country. Eventually were able to afford a salt box house about the time Nixon was resigning from the oval office. Walter Cronkite was the most famous man on the news, with the famine in Cambodia dominating the news. The Vietnam War had recently ended, and Kent State shooting had only happened days before.

Eventually my mother was able to afford a salt box house in the country. It was old and moldy, with plaster and lathe walls. The ceiling leaked and we had buckets catching water in our bedrooms. The wallpaper in the kitchen had tacky yellow, red and orange flowers everywhere. As fast as money was coming in, it was going out. My mother was working as an educational aide at the local elementary school, but her drinking low-grade vodka quickly became a problem. She was in and out of psych wards, rehabs, and emergency rooms.

One of earliest memories was my mother attempting suicide. She stumbled out of the bathroom in the middle of the night, falling flat on her face. I was only about four years old. I don’t even know who called the paramedics, but much too long later, she was hauled out in the gurney. We were back in our grandparents’ home, all four of now stuffed in one bedroom.

We were in and out of that bedroom for years. My childhood was in a constant state of chaos. We were sent to the store to get “five-finger” discounts, robbing the gas station for toilet paper and coffee. I was conditioned to be a common criminal by the age of eight. Jimmy Carter was now President – we were relying on food stamps and public assistance.

I was one of a twin, born premature and the runt of the litter. I was bullied at school, for being too skinny, unkempt, and too well read. By the age of twelve, I was escaping the only way I knew how. The quick hits of alcohol gave me relief before I even hit puberty.

My mother was a closet drinker, hiding Kamchatka Vodka in robe pockets, toilet backs, and dresser drawers. She wasn’t fooling anyone. She would sneak into her bedroom with a half a glass of lemonade and return to the kitchen with an overfilled glass. I’m not trying to judge her harshly. Years later I would be a single parent with all the same issues.

I was arrested at the age of twelve for stealing clothes from the local K-Mart. As I was escaping the K-Mart, I was chased by undercover security and taken to the police station. I had to call my mother to pick me up from the police station. By middle school, the entire school knew I was a common criminal. My embarrassment over anything and everything led to that first drink in the basement and I finally have release from my life and finally have relief from my problems. By high school I was drinking Little Kings for breakfast with a side of Percocet. My first stint in rehab was when I was fourteen.

I kept a diary with monastic devotion. This came back to haunt me in every possible way. My parents would read my diary and bring it up at dinner in casual conversation. I had no healthy role models. I felt disenfranchised in every possible way.

I self-isolated in every possible way to escape the chaos. I would complete hook-a rugs, paint by numbers, and write poetry. I was too smart for my own good, and my first manic episode occurred at the in fifth grade. I conjur up ways to build robots, think about space exploration and frequent the library.

In sixth grade I wrote this poem:

Dear, my dear,

we’re facing a problem

I thought I always

I wanted you to stay,

Now I can’t get you to go away

Mama tells me

I got no problems

But everyone else,

Don’t have to wonder,

Mama tells me she has desperately

Wondered how to make it through the day

I don’t know the skills to make it go away,

But I try, and I try

To make the obsession

Go away

Dear, my dear, we’re facing a problem

I thought I always wanted you to stay,

Now I can’t get you to go away..

Mama always needs sedation,

Many slippy sock vacations,

I’m in need of no medication,

But I try, and I try

To make her obsession

Go away..

Mama tells me she wishes

She were like me

She doesn’t know the demons I keep,

Mama tells me she has a problem,

No one else has this problem,

No one else has to wonder

I no longer know the demons she keeps

But I try and Try

To make her obsession

Go away….

Dear, my dear, we’re facing a problem

I thought I always wanted you to stay,

Now I can’t you get you to go away

Now I have lost my mind,

I have slippy sock vacations,

I’m in need of constant sedation

Where the hell is my medication,

Off to the ER I go,

Hoping I will score,

Holy crap do I need more,

A descent worse than Kafka

Now I try, and I try

to make my obsession go away

The only thing I can do is break the chains,

Now my obsession has gone away,

This is only temporary,

I must ask for help every day,

Dear, my dear, we’re facing a problem

I thought I always wanted you to stay,

Now I can’t get you to go away

SecretsFriendshipChildhoodBad habits

About the Creator

Susan Eileen

I am an aspiring writer currently writing a book on the Sober Revolution we are in the midst of, a book about essays that will change the way you think, and a novel about a serial killer. I am also working on a book of poetry.

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