Also when I was 16, I got back in touch with my father’s family. I had not seen them for years. I don’t believe there was a feud or anything like that between them and my mother, I think it’s just something that everyone let slide. My father was the oldest of five, and his two younger sisters had seven kids between them, with me born somewhere in the middle. That gang of cousins and family and belonging was potent to me.
I visited them and stayed with them, and looking back, I think I was over emotional and clingy. I loved being with them. A funny memory that just came back to me involves a time my mother got drunk there and I refused to go home with her. I called my sugar daddy across the street, and he came to get me.
I asked one of my aunts about my father, and if he had been an alcoholic. His official cause of death, or the cause of death they told to me, was pneumonia. I think fatal pneumonia hides a multitude of sins. She said that he was an alcoholic, and I know it stressed her to admit that to me. She also told me that as a child, he had been hospitalized with spinal meningitis. She said that all the other children on the ward died, and that the disease may have weakened his system, so that he couldn’t drink. She also said that his job as a boxer may have weakened him, since I guess he would have suffered blows to the liver.
Around that time, I went on a sort of anti-alcohol campaign. At my 16th birthday party, I actually poured out the drinks of some of the relatives who would tolerate it.
So, I started drinking. I had an actual goal, which was to be slightly drunk all the time. I’m fortunate in that the time frame during which this worked and was pleasurable was very small. I was too young to buy alcohol. I had gotten a hair cut that required using a “mister” to frizz up my hair (this was the 1970s). The frizzing didn’t last long, and the empty Fantastic bottle sat on my dresser. I filled it from my mother’s endless supply of sangria or white wine. She always had a gigantic bottle under the sink or on the basement stairs. When I babysat, I took some of their hard liquor to add to my bottle. So I drank a hideous mix of whatever I could get. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t there for the taste.
This came following my short lived anti-alcohol campaign. I had not been educated about alcohol or alcoholism by anyone, and I had just a little knowledge I had acquired on my own. I’m such an alcoholic, I did a classic thing without knowing about it. I set rules for myself and guidelines that I could not cross. I mentally listed what would make me alcoholic, and at which point I would know I had a problem. And like I said, I was 16, and didn’t know much about it.
Again, I can’t really remember in what order things happened. I will need to look at the 18 months of sobriety and what that entailed, but it’s hard for me to know what lead to it. One thing I’m fairly certain of, I drove my car with my best friend, Isabel, in it while I was under the influence. That was a biggie for me. I was such a child, I was driving her to the pet shop to get hamsters. I was such an alcoholic, I wasn’t able to keep my promise to myself for even a short time.