There was a time in my life when I was an alcoholic. Generally when I share this information people look at me and my youth and instantly shake their head. How can someone so young have ever had a disease that is always given a face of age, grief, and shame? What they see are the walls I have always surrounded myself with. What they don’t see is the soul inside that screams at those walls.
I entered the state of grief when I was rejected the second time by my birth mother. I count the reunion that did not happen as our “second time” because the first feeling of rejection had to be when she left my ass on a street at the age of two years old. Is there any worse way a person can reject someone? I suppose there is, but for a two year old I imagine your reasons are insignificant in comparison. I don’t remember the pain of that day, but when I compare it to the pain I felt during her second rejection I can only imagine. I became the man in the iron mask.
I found an instant companion at the age of eighteen for my new found grief as I went to college. It was neither a she or he, but instead wore a label of the day. The numbers mattered little because we didn’t need digits to connect. All I needed was a willingness to open the cork or top and a resolve to see the deed done. I became an expert at attempting to crawl inside a bottle and in the process I began to destroy my liver. It felt great to finally feel a pain to accompany the pain I felt within.
In 2003 I returned after my failed “prodigal son” journey and resolved to up my game. I was in such a hurry to reacquaint with the bottles of my life that when I landed in Memphis, Tennessee I didn’t stop. I hit the ground running and immediately jumped in my car to drive six hours to Knoxville. Once there I was able to hide my shame from those I cared to hide it from and in the same moment I found freedom at last. I was finally free to hate myself and the happy ending I would never have. I was ready to die.
At the age of 23 I was a full-fledged alcoholic. Some people will immediately ask me with scrutiny in their eyes “what do you mean you were an alcoholic? All kids drink in college and in their youth.” That is very true. Many kids do drink in college and normally their goal is shared. They are out to have fun or to release their stress. Drinking for me became an afterthought. An automatic-thought and action I would do daily and sometimes hourly. I woke up and had a scotch before the breakfast I didn’t eat. I went to bed forcing myself not to count how many it took to get me to sleep. It normally took enough that I couldn’t count them anyway.
I became the type of person I despised. I would walk into Joe’s Liquor Store on Poplar and buy the cheapest, rawest pint I could afford. Roughly four dollars and fifty-three cents later I would crack that bottle open while putting my car into reverse to head home. There was nothing cool about it. I just didn’t give a fuck. And that was how the bottle began to drink me back.
Jason C. Cushman