My First Drunk

It is St. Patrick’s Day—my eighth consecutive sober St. Patrick’s Day. But with all the boozing that has been misidentified with St. Patrick (and the Irish) I am brought back to the boozy honeymoon of my first drunk.


Drinking fascinated me before I ever drank. I used to collect Absolut Vodka ads and drape them to the walls of my bedroom. I sneaked sips here and there from a discarded beverage. I drank a warm Budweiser that I found in the garage. But it was when I was twelve, and sleeping over at my best friend’s house that I experienced my first drunk.

We had it all pretty well planned: the James Bond marathon on TBS gives us an excuse to sleep in the TV room where the bar is. We steal from the clear liquors and refill what we take with water. We’ll drink, chew lots of gum, then go to sleep.

A little after midnight, with no light but the glow emanating from Sean Connery racing in a speed boat, we stood in front of a liquor cabinet filled with sweet liquid rebellion. We knew to mix Absolut Vodka with Tropicana Orange Juice to make a screwdriver.

After we forced a highball—half-vodka, half-orange juice—down our gullet, my friend suggested we stop. I informed him that we weren’t drunk yet. “Watch.” I put my arms at either side, and toe-to-heel, with tightrope walker concentration, walked a straight line on the broad carpet back to the liquor cabinet. “You’re drunk if you can’t walk a straight line. Haven’t you seen Cops? We’re not there yet.”


I wanted us proper drunk; but at some point that night, I overshot the mark.


I woke up in the basement, face down on the carpet,  with a Nintendo controller imprinted on my forearm and the Super Mario Brothers inviting me to “Press Start.” A strange joy came when my friend told me what I couldn’t remember. I felt I had arrived by reaching a state of mind where I could act without thinking. In the conflicting bouts of identity formation, this is paradise—a refuge from inner-criticism and awkward inhibitions. I was someone incarnate, some stranger in my skin who behaved without the burden of self. He was a person others talked about, and I wanted to meet him again.

And I did. Blackout-drinking became a typical night out for me. Only I began waking up in strange places with strange people. I once woke up with my jaw broken. The uninhibited stranger wielded a sledgehammer and smashed up my life, my relationships—my sanity.

It wasn’t until I first admitted I was an alcoholic that I began to feel comfortable in my own skin. And I’ve found as long as I honestly accept who I am—an alcoholic and drug addict—there is no stranger gnawing at my bones to be set free.

Wholly me, I can experience the miracle of the mundane: spending time with my children, or listening to early spring rainfall on the rooftop. Tonight I welcome back my wife and kids from their four night trip.


Tonight, when I tell my son how much I missed him,

there will be no stranger in my skin trying to crawl out the door.

6 Responses to “My First Drunk

  • This brought tears to my eyes. My father is and alcoholic and he is a stranger to me. He left when I was 6 and my step-dad raised me and for that I am grateful. But my father? I do not know him. I do know I can’t change him and it is actually OK. All I see now is a lonely man that is tied to this beast called Alcoholism. He is a vehement Atheist which also troubles me. He doesn’t have a lot of people in his life that love him but I have a lot of people in my life that love me and no longer *need* to feel loved by him. But he needs my love.
    I am rambling. I am glad that you are not a stranger to your son.

    • Wow, Birdie. Your posts are so real. And this comment is absolutely raw. I hope and pray you find peace and acceptance with your relationship with your father. I admire your courage in all that you are.

      • My dad grew up without a father. His father left his mother, my dad and his two younger siblings (ages 2 and newborn) when my dad was 4. He never saw him again until after he was called and told that his father had fallen and hit his head and died on the streets of Vancouver. He was drunk. It turned out he was gay which was sad in itself because he had obviously tried to live a heterosexual lifestyle and could not do it. (It must have been hell for him and i wonder what it would be like for him today?)
        Anyway, my dad did his best. He is a sad and broken soul. He can be so awful when he is drunk but when he is sober he is kind and gentle and interesting.
        I try not to think on the years when I was terrified of him and the abuse that he inflicted on me, my brother and my mom. It is too heavy a burden to carry and it is so completely pointless at this point. Sometimes I think of him as a child without a daddy and see how much he needs me to love him. I may be his daughter but likely his only hope.

        • Thank you for sharing more of your story Birdie. I really believe that everyone that most everyone is doing the best they can with what their given. How lucky your family is to have you in their lives.

  • Kip Shubert
    2 months ago

    My last drunk was a Pattys day. Love that life that has unfolded in front of us.

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