Updated: Sep 2, 2021
I often wonder if my problems with drinking took off in college, simply due to the culture in which it was encouraged. I know that I was introduced to drinking in high school, so it wasn't like it was my first experience. But when I think back on my experiences with alcohol, I think of GA as when I dipped my toe in the drinking pool and then Colby is when I dove in headfirst.
When I talk about Colby, I refer to it as the four best years of my life. Finally, I was able to make my own decisions. I had the chance to experience things without my parents breathing down my back. I could eat what I wanted and study the things that interested me.
I could sleep when I was tired, wear what I felt like, and ultimately, I could drink whenever I damn well pleased.
The weekends were pretty much spent in perpetual drunkenness, starting every Wednesday night. I had a core group of girlfriends, and we stuck together for the most part throughout college. We began our pregame ritual early freshmen year and our routine carried us through the four years. Beginning with vodka shots chased down with whatever crackers or chips we had, also known as "solid" chasers, we began early around 5:00pm. My earliest memories began blasting music in the virgin vault freshmen year, usually the same 3 songs on repeat. Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, and Nelly are a few that come to mind.
The pregaming was fast and furious. We usually had a destination in mind - a party in the senior apartments, an off campus party at the farmhouse, Mainely Brews with our fake IDs. We knew we had to be somewhere eventually, but we had to be sure we were sufficiently drunk before we got there. For me though, the main event, the real reason for going out, the huge party of the night, I never actually remembered it. Ever. I was always in a state of black out. The curtain had come down by that point. Always.
Starting freshmen year, Thursday through Saturday, I blacked out. Every. Single. Night. By the time we left the pregame venue, I usually was so drunk I could barely stand. Stumbling down the snow covered path in heels, running to our cab, we would carry our Razr cellphones. We had disposable cameras in our back pockets, hoping to snap some pictures that we would develop at the Walgreens the next day, in hopes to capture some memories of the evening so we could piece together the night. These photos for me were invaluable, as they gave me clues as to where I had been, who I saw, possibly who I spoke to, hung out with and what guys I made a fool of myself in front of at the party. We would dress the theme, always. Semi-naked dance, techno-luau, sexy cowboy, toga party. Whatever the theme, we were game. Always. The less clothing, the better the costume.
By the time we got to the party, off campus house or apartment, it was so crowded and we were so drunk, our clan would break up and distribute themselves. Off to find the boy they were crushing on, the luge, the dance floor - we were never together long. It's terrifying to think of the vulnerable situations we put ourselves in. From opportunities of rape, falling asleep in the cold and freezing to death, to being kidnapped on the sketchy streets of Waterville. I can't even begin to think about the stupid things we did. It terrifies me. And it all revolved around excessive binge drinking. Always. There was never a night that I went out that I didn't get completely wasted.
Actually, I can think of only one single night. It was my junior year, and I decided to be the DD to an off campus party, because I was so hungover from the night before that I had to skip my cousins wedding. I spent all Saturday puking from a wild Friday night. (Most days after drinking were spent laying around hungover but this was a particularly bad one.) The guilt of having to skip the wedding that evening was too much, so I decided to drive all of my friends to a party. I was so hungover still I could only sip on a single beer. I ended up getting pulled over anyway and failed a fucking sobriety test, simply because I was so nervous, anxious and had the worst luck of anyone in Maine. Talk about karma.
I look back on these days of drinking and wonder if this excessive alcohol consumption is what in fact jumpstarted my problem now. Did my days of shot taking plant a seed deep in the depths of my brain? Did all of those keg stands and shotgunning beers permanently alter the pathways of my frontal lobe?
Aside from the drinking, I did form some real, lasting friendships. As my friend Maura said, friendships like ours from Colby "are intoxicating." They are built on a ton of nostalgia, and we have been there for one another through some of the biggest moments of our lives. I have known these girls since I was 17 years old. I was a child then. These girls have seen me through my parents' divorce, my dad coming out, my wedding and all three of my kid's births. We have all been through love, heartache, breakups, death and birth. Now, we all live in different places for the most part, and even though we text on the regular, we don't see each other anymore. We have grown up. We have our own families, jobs, lives separate lives completely apart from what we used to be to each other.
But on the rare occasion when we do get together for a wedding or baby shower once every few years, we inevitably revert back to our Colby ways. We find the need to relive the good old days, and it feels like we are immediately thrown back into the virgin vault. Immediately, I can hear Nelly reverberating through my 1999 stereo and I can feel the heightened teenage emotions coming out of us again. The energy and conversation is high and suddenly the shots start flowing, the cigarettes are lit and the wheels inevitably fall off. That is usually how it goes. At least for me.
Since these friendships blossomed and grew amidst the world of binge drinking, is this the comfort that we fall back on? Is this all that we know how to do together? When we see one another, why is it that we all need to fall back into the same routine of getting blacked out, just like when we were 18 years old? For some reason we revert back to the emotional maturity of when we all met one another. Is this normal? Will it always be this way?
Now that I have stopped drinking, I wonder how it will be once I see my Colby girls again. They have all lovingly accepted this new part of me. But, this is all we have ever known of one another. These are our identities, woven together. Binge drinking is how I was born into them. At the same time, is this ultimately where my drinking problem really took its roots?
The memories I have of Colby have faded and started to blur as time has gone by. The colors turned more sepia and gray in my mind. But right now more than ever, I know I may need to let more of these memories go, as these years may not have been the best four years of my life after all.