How Alcoholism Saved My Life

How Alcoholism Saved My Life

By Tracy Foh 01/05/17
I wanted revenge for Jerry’s murder but the closest I ever got to it was falling asleep and waking up with to a pillow wet with tears and drool.
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Woman looking pensively out window.

Two days after I started NYU, I got a text message while in the shower. Actually, it was six text messages and a missed call. I read the last one from my brother: “Call me as soon as you get this, it’s about Jerry.” I almost ignored it, but I thought to myself my brother wouldn't text the same damn thing six times in a row.

I was high on life. I was finally happy. I thought I had finally caught a break. I had just been accepted into the top school in the country at the time. I was finally on top of the world. 

I was wrong.

I was quickly brought back to the reality of being black in America when my brother said to me, “Jerry got shot.” I didn’t believe him until I heard him crying. I threw myself on the ground and just lay there naked on the dirty stained tiles for I don’t know how long. I couldn’t cry but I wanted to.

“He’s dead. He’s really dead, Tracy,” my brother kept repeating until I hung up on him.

From there, I dragged myself out of the bathroom to get dressed. I didn’t know where to go or what to do and so I went to Drew. Drew was one of my tatted up peers who believed in meditation. I had made his acquaintance during orientation week when they told us to sit next to someone we would never sit next to normally. I, being super-religious and donning an ankle-length skirt, took one look at Drew and thought he was definitely the one. This was confirmed when he showed me the tattoo on his back. 

Drew opened the door to me being hysterical. He offered me a beer. It was the first time I had seen such a thing outside of the commercials. It was a rounded bottle made out of dark glass.

At 18 years old, I began my intimate relationship with alcohol. I became a weekend warrior. I couldn’t wait to get fucked up. My journey towards alcoholism was sudden and profound. I didn’t take a long time to become a chaotic drinker. My alcoholism was supposed to end my life and help me join Jerry. Instead, it kept me alive and comforted me. 

***

Suicidal ideation was a staple in my life from adolescence onward. However, my first hospitalization came that year. It came like the monsters under the bed come for toddlers. I signed up for the free counseling at my university and I found out I had more problems than I knew how to handle. Schoolwork, I could do. Cope, I could not. I took up my old hobby of self-harm with a fervor I had never known before. 

I have always been melancholy. My teen years found me scrunched over Edgar Allan Poe’s illustrated works trying to identity the shadow within me. Perhaps, I wasn’t always suicidal but a dark cloud loomed over me heavy with meaning even before Jerry’s death. His death, however, became a turning point for me. I longed for it to kill me so I could be with him. I took a plastic bag from the kitchen stash. I placed it over my head. I duct taped the bag over my head then I handcuffed my hands to my headboard. I was dead set on dying in my few spare moments of sober clarity.

***

This death of a childhood friend who was almost like family brought me an excuse to delve deeper into self-destructive habits I had only dabbled in before. I drank like there was no yesterday, forget tomorrow. I cut myself with eyebrow shapers. I smoked crack one time with some random dude in an alley in Greenwich Village. I was also raped that year and used it as an excuse to have prolific amounts of crazy sexual frenzies. The central theme of my freshman and sophomore year was alcohol. I don’t know how I managed to get a 4.0 GPA. I was a hot mess but alcohol saved me. She carried me in her arms like a mother. 

I wanted revenge for Jerry’s murder but the closest I ever got to it was falling asleep and waking up with to a pillow wet with tears and drool. I even went to the scene of the crime. I knew I shouldn’t but I couldn’t fathom how regular it was, how life seemed to go on while I was devastated. I watched the news footage over and over. I listened to his rap single over and over on MySpace.

I drank myself stupid when I was upset, which was a lot of the time. I poured Svedka all over my sorrows. It was my balm in Gilead. After I got out of the hospital for my suicide attempt, I was still on Seroquel but I skipped the pills to indulge in booze. The pills were doing nothing but keeping me subdued and I wanted to be in touch with my grief and roaring with rage.

I once ran into my college roommate on a New York subway. I had no idea who she was until she told me she was my roommate for a year. That’s how much of a lush I was. 

When I go to 12-step meetings and people discuss how they stumbled into the rooms and how alcohol was a problem, I smile. Alcohol was my solution. Without it, I would be dead either from some attempt at revenge or due to my whirlwind of self-destructive feelings. I felt guilty. Jerry had come to visit me and I had figured there would be more time. I refused to see him because I was too caught up in church events. Jerry died before I could see him again. This guilt niggled at me for a very long time but alcohol dulled my sense of remorse.

When I came to AA, it was by accident. I had gone to support a court–mandated friend. But, I heard the stories and felt the laughter in the rooms and I related to these people. I felt like I had finally found my tribe of people. They could relate to my grief and longing for oblivion. I stopped drinking. Not because of any profound revelation but because I didn’t need saving anymore. I was actively a part of this sober posse and I felt like my salvation came from them. Now that I wasn’t numb, I finally was able to really grieve for the first time in years. I thought I wouldn’t survive the grief. However, in spite of myself, I did.

Tracy Fo is the pseudonym of a writer who resides in Brooklyn and hopes to not be a representative of AA but merely a member.

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