On Turning Forty: Toxic Masculinity, Burst Eardrums, and Hugging Marie

Today is my 41st birthday.

Last birthday I launched a blog project, “On Turning Forty.” I did a number of posts and then it sputtered like a 1987 Le Car trying to drag race an ’86 Yugo. Dissertation, teaching, pneumonia, and ongoing struggles attenuating lifing while bipolar. Yes, you read that correctly. Living is one thing; lifing is something else. Similar to adulting, but that kid inside is still working a few levers. Lifing while bipolar is much harder than living with it.

This week I found out that I am going deaf. As you can read from previous entries, I’m honestly good with it. And it is not imminent. However, I went to cover a YSHS alumni event I really wanted to attend and at which I was going to gather interviews for a series I am writing for the News. As I was chatting with our superintendent of schools about teaching students the Five Pillars of Islam and taking them to a local mosque, the volume in the room increased significantly and quickly. It was filled with people who have not seen each other in decades, in some cases, honoring two undefeated football teams at a school that has not consistently had football since I was a student. Our soccer team got to play homecoming, which was cool for me because our soccer team was awesome. I was not, at all. I played JV my whole career, but my senior year I got to start the homecoming game/Senior Night. I was pulled quickly, but that was totally fine. Anyway, the undefeated football teams being honored was bringing together a lot of loud people together. We all got loud mouths in YS.

Talking with the superintendent, my left eardrum burst. I managed to hold my face together, calmly pack up, and then go tell my friend Dawn who was organizing it that I had to leave. I’m now at home with a very loud head and sensitive ears.

But that’s not what this blog is about, really. If this were a psalm, it would not be one of lament. It would be a praise psalm in which I am looking back at a period of my life and appreciating how God was working and leading.

From the ages of 13-14, I lived next door to my best friend, Marie. We were virtually inseparable. It was very Kevin and Winny. But we were actually two complex kids going through really complicated life circumstances. The details don’t matter; what does matter is that I think Marie was my first “unrequited” love. We listened to music together; we talked about books; we would take long bike rides together; we would sleep out on the screened-in porch at my house. She was my best friend in every sense of the word.

Marie was beautiful. Long, blonde hair. Very pretty. And she developed physically quite quickly and noticably. Seniors in high school were hitting on her as an 8th grader. So, I won’t lie and say that I was not gaga over her because she was hot. That was part of it. But not the bulk. It was the first time that I talked about my dreadful insecurity with my body. Marie and I were both showing signs of later exercise addictions; for the first time I felt like someone outside my family got me, and I didn’t necessarily think my family got me. I did not drool over her. I did not try to make inappropriate passes. But I did feel special because all these guys wanted to date her and she spent time with me. A lot of time with me. I absolutely fell in love with her. Hard. I remember once thinking about kissing her when we were sitting under a bush in a park; she was moving out of town the next morning, and I so wanted to do it. But I couldn’t muster the gumption (Muster the Gumption is the name of my Mot the Hopple tribute band) to do it.

Oh, if only the story ended there. But it doesn’t. Ever a writer, I wrote her a love manifesto, confessing my sincere desire to be her fella. She told me no, only because she was 20 minutes away and we were 14 and 15 years old. I didn’t believe that and then essentially withdrew my friendship. She wrote me letter after letter–I still have them–to no response. Finally, she wrote me a letter saying that our friendship had come to a close because I was not being a good friend, and was punishing her for not being my girlfriend. I started to burn it but then blew it out. I still have that letter, too, charred edges and all.

By the time I graduated from high school, over half of my good friends were girls/women. I’ve written before about not having many male friends. The ones I do are great, great people, largely because they do not have a drop of toxic masculinity in them. At the age of 18, I realized that I never wanted to be one of those guys who would tell a girl how beautiful she is, only to call her a fat cow when she simply said, “I’m not interested.” I realized that Marie had all these guys sniffing around her, and I was her best friend. I know we were just kids, so I have forgiven myself for what I did, but only because I made it a strict policy to never hit on my female friends again. I am a serial monogamist, and I was in a committed relationship for my entire 20s. My longest, sustained, meaningful friendships are almost 8:1, female to male. So at my 35th birthday party, almost everyone present was female. My life is rich and full because of badass women, and Marie was one of the first.

I saw her today for the first time in 25 years. We’d gotten in touch when her mother attended a Beloved Community Project liturgia. My contact info got to Marie, we started emailing, and today, on my 41st birthday, I got to hug my dear friend and meet her wonderful husband. We talked for about 90 minutes, and it was like nothing had changed. Her eyes and smile are the same; my heart is filled with the same love and appreciation for her, and I got to tell her in person about the influence she has had on me.

Yeah, I blew out an eardrum. Whatevs. I’m alive and loved and in love with so many people; but mainly, I am grateful that there are so many incredible women who have helped me be accepting of myself, even in my maddening contradictions and idiosyncrasies. I’ve carried a bit of Marie in my heart, and she me, to get us through until our paths alighted upon a common ground. Now that we are here, I say thanks be to God. IMG_2900.JPG

On Turning Forty: Back in

There’s a peace that comes with surrendering. Believe me, I’ve pushed back on that idea for most of my life. Everything I had been taught pushed me to question. To demand evidence. To require definitive answers. Theology is the wrong subject to go into if you simply want to be an academic. If you don’t want your soul or your emotions involved in what you do for a living, don’t pick theology. You can’t hide.

In the past fifteen years, I have completed three masters degrees and started three doctorates. I have taught at four universities/colleges and worked as a youth pastor, a pulpit supply, and a stated supply (Presbyterian for “permanent but paid like the help”). I have applied to ten doctoral programs, and been accepted to six. I don’t state this as a matter of pride. Not at all. Look at the hot mess that is that CV. I’m like whiny Luke in the Degoba System. “All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was… what he was doing.”

I left the classroom two years ago. My Visiting Professorship was up; I was feeling wounded and pouty about having to return to adjuncting, and frankly, I was burned out. There is a certain type of madness that comes with adjuncting at two univiersities teaching five classes total while finishing a graduate degree. I did it twice. By the time I was finishing up my M.Div., I had not updated my class materials in nearly three years because I was so burned out trying to get a leg up to get into a PhD program that would pay for itself, I sacrificed just about everything. The last semester I taught I was awful. I was also having problems in my family relationships. My health was suffering. My sanity was slipping.

Bipolar does some amazing things. If I can harness a mania, I’m a beast of productivity. But bipolar will kill you. Legit, no playin’, fuck you up kill you. Leaving teaching was the first sign, in retrospect, that I was on an unsustainable path.

I tried a new identity as a campus minister and I met some amazing people who I value and cherish, but it was not my calling. That was tough to take. I believed in the mission and I was inspired by the educators. But it just didn’t work. And my brain finally had enough. Full system shut down commenced. I had a nervous breakdown. I was able to get to the church on Sundays, but the rest of the week I was in bed. I was broken. I quit my campus ministry position. With it, I committed us to financial poverty.

For the second time in my life, God was revealed to me through difficult circumstances. The first, of course, was Stephen’s death; the second, my own dance with madness. Had I lived at another time; if I did not have a certain security net provided by my family; if I had not won the genetic lottery in terms of when and where and how I was brought to this earth, I don’t know if I would have recovered from that experience.

I surrendered. I said, God, I am tired of making plans that blow up in my face.

“So don’t.”

This doesn’t mean that I am passive, or that I do not have goals and aspirations. Not at all. Spend five minutes with me and you’ll learn that I am a go-getter and I like to try to make things better. But I don’t have to go out looking for problems or places to serve. God is presenting them to me in good time and for good reasons. Sure, I fret about money but thankfully Jesus said a whole lot about that and I have his words to assure me. I am following God’s lead.

I was back in the classroom this week.

stewie

I’m no longer an academic. Not the way that I imagined myself. I’m a preacher and teacher of the Word. I am a teacher of history and religion; a pastoral theologian and a servant to God’s people. And if you’re wondering if you’re God’s people, let me assure you that you are. And I can’t know God fully without getting to know you. I think that’s pretty cool.

I’m back up to full speed and I know that there are some nervous people. I get it. I really do. I know that there is a danger of overloading myself. Believe me, I have contingency plans. I always have a plan. It is what I do. But I can tell you this: I don’t dread waking up in the morning. I am not having anxiety attacks about upcoming events, and even when I have full days, I pretty much go at a pace that works for me, and right now it also gets stuff done.

I can’t explain why I have been able to come back from the brink and others have not. I can also safely say that there are people who go through much, much more than do I and they bear it all and continue to be reliable, strong people. I don’t always understand how grace works in other people’s lives, but I see it so clearly in my own. In the end, that is all I can affirm. I’m not making this stuff up. At least, I don’t think so. If I am, that’s okay, too. I like me having surrendered completely to God. This feeling that I will be shown what I am meant to do is working thus far. For that, I am grateful. And let the people of the Church say,

On Turning Forty: Over the Rhine, Divorce, and Wanting Everything These Latter Days

Press play:

I’ve fallen in love five times. Well, actually five million. But I’ve had five sustained loves. I won’t use names. Four of them know who they are; the other, well that’s another story. He knew but he didn’t know. The closet is a hell of a thing.

I had a magical summer back in the 1990s. After Ireland. I had dropped out of K College to try my hand at being a working musician. Four years later I would realize I was a great bartender and that it was time to go back to school. But before that, in the midst of boy bands taking over the airwaves, I met my ex. She was rad. Still is. Strong. Funny. Talented. Beautiful. Smart as all get out. Like, damn smart. Still is.

Things ended painfully.

I still love her. Or maybe I confuse her with the memory of her. That’s possible, too.

We had a summer. A summer in which dandelions sparkled and clouds sang. A summer in which we had our clothes off most of the time, and not just when we were alone. With our group of friends we were living our own Summer of Love. Right here in the Shire. Clothing optional.

Three times that summer we saw Over the Rhine live. It was their Good Dog, Bad Dog tour. Karen’s voice. Linford’s piano. I didn’t know enough of the back catalog  yet to call myself a fan. But that album. That goddamn album with twelve perfect songs provided the soundtrack to one of the most intense and vibrant three month periods I’d ever experienced. I had really thought that after the heartache experienced with my first love–for whom I would still do just about anything because she’s got a piece of my heart forever–I couldn’t ever really love again. I was wrong.

I don’t write details about periods of my life that involve others and their pain, especially pain I caused. Or at least contributed to. Breakups suck.

After our divorce, I tried to listen to Good Dog, Bad Dog again and I couldn’t. It hurt too much. It made me feel like a failure, like I had let myself down. I had let her down. I had let our love down. While it takes two to end a relationship, I did everything I could subconsciously in the marriage to push her away. I think we both held on for a few years longer because of that summer. Because of what we had once had.

All we needed was everything.

As time passed, and especially after Mimi and I committed to each other (on our first date!), I have listened to Good Dog, Bad God from time to time. I smile most often. Sometimes I cry, but because the songs are so beautiful. Because that time was so beautiful. A group of us numbering from 4-12 would gather almost every night. The first apartment. The irresponsible decisions. The parties and laughter and love. The love. The love.

Being a Christian, in many ways, means needing less. Wanting less. There are times, though, when I want everything again. The everything I defined as everything then. For my world to be less complicated. Less filled with uncertainties that nip and bite slowly, but insistently, until I become agitated. Inflamed. I want to feel invincible again. That the future will take care of itself. To have the energy to work a double shift and then go out to the bar.

Well, maybe not that. But I sometimes miss those friends. That time. Don’t get me wrong, a vast majority of the people from that time in my life are still my dear friends. They are fantastic human beings, and I love them. But from time to time I miss who were were then. The stupid, wild, reckless and intense relationships. The sense that tomorrow would never come. Or always come. Perhaps both.

God has given me a wonderful life. I try to embrace the blessings of each day. I try to serve and love and respond with an open mind and a full heart. (Can’t lose!) Today, I miss that kid. That uncomplicated life. I’m going to go back there in my mind, in my heart, for a little while longer, and then I’ll look up.

I wonder what I’ll see.

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On Turning Forty: Comfortable Contradictions

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Two years ago, I stepped away from the classroom after nearly a decade of teaching. There were three reasons that led to this major life shift: one, my visiting professorship was up, and I would have to return to the adjunct pool. Two, I had burned out. Years of teaching, sometimes five courses at as many as three universities, while going to school (I hold three master’s degrees), had left me exhausted. And three, seminary, ordination, and taking a pulpit revealed to me that I could no longer spend my time only talking about God, justice, grace, and love. I needed to live it. To follow Jesus in ways that were written onto my body.

That means two things.

My appearance has changed radically in the last two years. I have lots of tats and will get more as soon as I can afford to. I have a long beard, which I have mentioned I grow to stand in solidarity with Muslim and Sikh men; I’ve gained a bunch of weight from medications and while I’m slowly starting to take it off, I’m a big dude; and, of course, I have locs now. Even for those close to me, the shift has been drastic and even concerning, until I explain it. For me, though, it has been taking control of my body. I can now say that I love my body. Every blessed inch of it. I still feel fat, but less often. I still have insecurities, but they are not as insistent. I look in the mirror and I see an external that better fits my internal than in the whole of my lifetime.

And I’ve changed my sense of self in the past two years. I am returning to the classroom at the end of the month, and I am truly excited to go back. But I think that my pedagogy will have changed. For nearly two decades, I defined myself as an academic. An academic who had yet to earn a terminal degree, yet one who published a major book and was an effective teacher; an academic who always felt less than, sometimes as a result of the CV measuring contests that can attenuate academe, sometimes as a result of my own insecurities that plague other areas of my life. But I know that I made a difference in the lives of students; that’s not to boast, but just to state a fact. I have remained in touch with dozens of students and still get messages periodically from people who tell me they went to grad school because of my class, or that they gained confidence in their writing because of my commitment to them. Teaching has been the steadiest blessing of my life, and I look forward to returning. But I know that I’m not an academic, at least not in the traditional sense (remember that I am the child of two academics); this became clear when I was summarily rejected from a PhD program I was certain I would attend. Two failed PhD programs and a rejection was the third strike. No more. A tenure-track position at Xavier or Wittenberg University was not to be my future.

It was in the wake of this realization that I discover Dr. Tony’s Martin Luther King Beloved Community Scholars program at United Theological Seminary. God showed me that I am a pastoral theologian and my call is to be a Doctor of the Church. Just typing that makes me smile. I finally found myself. Well, that part of myself anyway. But this doctoral program has been incredible and I am only in the first year. I’m excited about what God has in store.

Going back to the classroom is part of that excitement. I’m teaching a course I have never taught before, Christian Doctrine I. I have taught the second half, which runs from the Protestant Reformation through Liberation Theology, but not the first half. Putting together the syllabus over the past week or so I’ve realized that the past three years of preaching have prepared me to return to the classroom. It feels odd to put it that way, as I have always maintained that the classroom prepared me for the pulpit, but the fact is, I was still primarily approaching theology as an academic pursuit when I left the classroom. Even though I was a practicing Christian for about half of my teaching life, my faith was greatly influenced by academic training.

 This has changed pretty radically.

Theology matters. Theology matters. Don’t read those as the same. I deal with theology matters. Why? Because theology matters.

I get why people are wary of religion. Religion has done a great deal of damage; I encounter people regularly who have been abused by religion. But religion has worked for me. Like, big time worked. It has helped me strip away the false senses of self more authentically and holistically than anything else I ever tried, and short of shooting anything into my veins, I tried just about everything. (That’s basically a joke, but not really but kinda yea, no.)

But I think religion has worked for me because I got my theology right before trying to fit myself within an already existing system. The way my mind works, things need to hang together, or if I am going to exist in contradictions, I need them to be comfortable contradictions. That is what I want to help impart on students. That what we are studying are not just ideas or maxims, but rather we are seeing ways in which persons and communities across time and space have communicated with one another how God operates in their lives. Good theology utilizes a number of languages–and I don’t mean that in a strictly etymological sense–and attempts to be a finger pointing toward the moon.

Bad theology tries to be the moon itself.

So I’m excited to be teaching again. To see how ministry work and God’s continued work in me will impact how I teach. How students receive me. How I feel about no longer thinking of myself as an academic, at least the way I did before. Now, what I do does not feel so academic.

That also means two things.

On Turning Forty: Memories of Them

I’ve written ad nauseum about my brother Stephen’s death. For the past five years or so, my thoughts more often than not move away from his schizophrenia, away from the rough years before and after his diagnosis, before the attempt and the completion of his voluntary death. Before we lost him to the slow, indifferent insidiousness that is mental illness.

It should come as no surprise that I waited as long as I did before finally seeking a diagnosis beyond “bordering on clinical” depression given by a GP. My family tree has a lot of nuts. As far as I know, I am the only fruit.

Heh.

Today I read that Dischord Records has digitized its entire catalog and made it available cheaply, with more proceeds going to the artists than with other services. That will come as no surprise for those who have followed Fugazi, fronted by the founder of Dischord Records, Ian Makaye. This dude.

ian mackaye

The album Repeater was on nearly constantly; we had it on vinyl and both of us were learning to play guitar. Steve had a black and white Fender Telecaster; I had a Strat in the same color scheme. We fought a lot. Usually it is both guitarists wanting to play lead that is the problem, especially with brothers. Most people want to be Angus. Not us. We both wanted to be Malcolm, and bands like Minor Threat and Fugazi are rhythm guitarists’ dream. In the cramped bedroom that now houses the cat boxes, Stephen and I filled tape after tape of extended, excruciatingly inexact songs, riffs, arguments, and conversations. I mean, there are dozens of them.

We also did comedy skits. Really involved things with recurring characters, like Chester and Leonard, two old men who, looking back on it, appeared to have a homoerotic relationship; Jimmy and Billy, two Cartman-like characters a decade before South Park with a proclivity for knocking over Entemann’s trucks and eating a Duff’s, a local smorgasbord. And then there was Billy-Bob-Joe-Frank and Cleetus, two hucklebucks who liked to ride motorcycles and take trucks mudding. We would do routines for our parents, who would laugh hysterically, and we would take it into the world doing street theater before we even knew what that was.

I miss him so fucking much.

Cleaning out his storage space about five years ago, I found all of those tapes with the songs and the skits. And I can’t bring myself to listen to them. It has been almost 14 years since he died, and I still don’t think I’m ready for the sound of his voice, to hear the life in him, to remember how much I loved him. My life would have been so different if…

I hate ifs. But I love this:

graduation day

Steve is on my mind today because this is the three year anniversary of PaulE Schenk’s murder by the State of Ohio, not two blocks from the above mentioned room. This is Paul:

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Now Steve and Paul didn’t know each other real well, and I didn’t know Paul nearly as well as some of my very close friends. But until today, I had forgotten–completely forgotten–about the time PaulE, Steve, and I talked about Dischord Records. If I remember, PaulE was more into Minor Threat, while Steve and I were partial to Fugazi. But in an atmosphere in which there were not a whole lot of people listening to Straight Edge or Dischord, it was awesome to talk to someone who got it.

I’m thinking today that both PaulE and Steve are gone. Both souls too powerful and complicated and beautiful for this world. I wish I remembered more about that conversation than the bonfire and beer. I want to say we sang. I hope we sang. I’m gonna think we sang and laughed and punched other other because that’s what boys do and that’s what we were, we were boys. Boys who became men who are complicated and passionate and sometimes misunderstood.

So today I’m going to turn the stereo up to 11, scream like they can hear me in the graves,* and I might just cry because sometimes you realize that special moments come and go without you realizing their importance.

*I actually think they were both cremated, but it was too good a line to leave out 😉

On Turning Forty

colt 45

Chapter Four: Acts of Wanton Recklessness

Like most people, I imagine, my relationship with alcohol began with a desire to have fun. Having an older brother who was apt to partying, I was introduced to booze at a rather young age. I have a handful of high school drunken stories, but I didn’t start drinking with any regularity or earnestness until I went to college. I saw undergrad as an opportunity to totally reinvent myself, a project that went horribly awry in the course of two years,but one that meant I was to become a walking contradiction. A guy who partied four nights out of the week but who was on the Dean’s List and made the freshman academic fraternity. The Dean of Housing, who dealt with disciplinary issues, said to me: “We don’t know what to do with you. You don’t fit the profile.”

I was busted for pot smoking one hour into the first day of college. My Dad had barely left the campus and already I was written up. Mind you, I was not smoking; one of my five roommates, a guy who I would later that year see attack a girl for a nitrus balloon, sparked up without even lighting incense. When we were discovered by the RA, I refused to say who was smoking. I said that I was not, but wouldn’t fink. I assumed the other dude would fess up when it turned out that we both got written up, but such was not the case. I would be busted for weed twice more before I left the school, both of the times taking the rap for everyone else in the room. I know that I was trying to make up for incidents in the past, but that is another chapter. I just don’t want you to think that I’m bragging on myself. I wasn’t always a stand-up guy, and even now I sometimes fear if I will stand up or not when it really counts. I thought a lot about that after the Virginia Tech shooting, back when I was in the classroom.

But drinking was where I distinguished myself. When I first arrived on campus, I would catch a buzz off half a beer. By spring quarter, on any given night I was drinking two 40s of Colt 45. Generally a group of us, a mix of computer nerds and children of hippies, would pool together our money to buy a quarter bag of weed, which we would smoke in one or two sittings. For five bucks, you got all the weed you could smoke. The 40s were two for a dollar on weeknights. My pink lungs and liver were just beginning to encounter the damaging abuse I would unleash upon them over the years. Cramped in a dorm room inside of a suite, nearly ten of us would hotbox the room, listening to Beastie Boys and shooting the shit. We had a bong, and a joint was always going and another was being rolled. People would float in and out, a fan sucking the smoke out of the room, and drop contributions into the hat. The nights rolled one into another.

I was taking Latin III and struggling; I was afraid of losing my GPA if I slipped below a B+, and the nights in the hotbox probably weren’t helping with the development of neural nets. I remember that I had been studying in the library for the whole weekend, forgoing any partying, preparing for a test that we had coming up. Not the final, but the last big test before the final, which included a sight translation. I walked out into the warm air from the library and made my way down the hill; Kalamazoo College’s campus is on a hill. I was living in one of the dorms at the bottom, near the edge of campus, and as I used my keycard to buzz myself into the building, I thought: I should just go straight to my room. I shouldn’t stop off on the second floor. No luck. I’d like to say that I was summoned, that someone caught me in the stairwell and dragged me into the hotbox. But I doubt it. Knowing myself, I quickly said Fuck it, and walked straight into the party.

What I do know is this: my brother was there, an unusual occurrence for him. Steve was four years older than his classmates with whom he would graduate in a few weeks, and nearly eight years older than my friends. But there he was, toking away with my friends. I don’t recall exactly what happened, but I do know that my friend Kevin Barry was always razzing me about not really being Irish, which for some reason was a simple way to get a rise out of me; he was taunting me in a similar fashion, in between smoking the three joints that were circulating within the room. Before I knew it, I said, Oh yeah to the querying of my Irishness, and I cracked open a Colt 45 four-by-five, a real steal with an extra five ounces for the same price, threw my head back, and commenced to chug the entire thing.

I imagine if I had stopped there, I would have been okay. I was young; I bounced back well. I had never really had a hangover; I’d feel a little rough, but after an hour or two in the library I was fine. But I didn’t stop. I cracked open another bottle and did the same things. Unprompted. The first one had shut Kevin up; he was a waif of a thing who could step his body through a tennis racket, a talent he used to win money from drunken football players who bet against him, and my challenge for him to follow suit had gone unanswered. The second bottle was total ego. Completely unnecessary, and has become probably the best puking story I have, and unfortunately that is not a slim file.

I lived in a single within a suite; I had my own room and it was across from the bathroom, which I shared with my five other roommates. The beds were also dressers, with a prison thickness mattress on the wooden structure. By this time I had invested in foam eggcrate pads to lessen the pain, but nothing could change the fact that the bed was a little high for me, and I had drunkenly fallen off of it and failed to get on a few times. This night, after getting lost in the stairwell going from the second to the third floor, I was more intoxicated than I had ever been in my life. Luckily, the halls were rather empty, and I was able to get into the suite to find it unoccupied before falling. I crawled to my room and somehow managed to crawl up on the bed. My instinct was to put a foot on the floor to stop the spins, but the mattress was too high. Within two minutes I knew that I had only a matter of second before I was going to vomit everywhere.

Now, this was certainly not the first time I had to puke from over drinking. In fact, I had a system that I had perfected over the course of three quarters. I knew that from my open door, it was “step, step, kick” (if the door was closed), step, pivot, step, step, step, [kick if the door was closed] lunge, barf.” I was going along well until I messed up on the pivot, and by the time I lunged I went straight into the shower and commenced puking. My slightly digested cafeteria supper was in our shower. I stripped down naked, turned on the shower, and tried to push the vomit down the drain with shampoo bottles. Failing this, I took a towel I hoped to be mine (it was), and scooped all the vomit I could and pushed it into the corner of the bathroom. I crawled naked back into the bedroom and passed out, somehow making it into the bed.

A fervent knocking awoke me far after my alarm clock should have, had I set it for the Latin test that I had missed. Pulling on boxers, I opened up the door to see one of my flatmates. His thick glasses made him look like an alien. He said, “Was that you who puked last night?” I nodded, squinting at him despite the fact that the hallway was dark. “Can you clean it up?” “I did,” I muttered. “No,” he said. “I stepped on something sharp.” This took me aback. Am I vomiting machine parts? I cleaned up as best I could, put on clean clothes, and for the first time I can remember, lied as a result of getting too drunk the night before. I played sick, which was believed. I took the test the next day, with a penalty, and earned a B+ for the year.

By sophomore year, my partying had gone to new levels, so much so that my family did an intervention on me. I’d like to say that did it, that I quit drinking and stopped using drugs. I didn’t. You see, while I started drinking and abusing drugs as a way to have fun, after awhile I did it to self-medicate. Not drugs. I quit those with relative ease. But drinking. It was my go to. To feel something. To not feel something. To forget things; to remember things. To celebrate. To commiserate.

I celebrated my fortieth birthday without a drop of alcohol, and while others were drinking, I had absolutely no problem. It was joyful to see others responsibly consuming, and to feel that I was as fully a part of the party as were they. I don’t know if I’m not drinking for the rest of my life, but right now I have no desire. I mean, when you have a protocol for how to properly puke, you might need to reconsider your relationship with alcohol. But that’s just me.

All I know is, Colt 45 does the trick, every time.