In 1996 , we moved from Whitby to Alliston. I started fresh in a new town, a new school, and new friends.
I had an instant connection with a girl who lived just around the corner from me – she was the youngest of three, and also the only girl. So to have another girl to play with – it was heaven for her.
We stayed in touch through the years, and into high school. It was never the same “let’s eat candy and play with barbies!” kind of connection – but we stayed in touch.
I was in grade 9 and befriended a girl from my school, who happened to live across the road from the house where I lived with my mother and her alcoholic-vacuum-slamming boyfriend. She was odd, and two years older than me. But her mother was sweet, a real estate agent with a loud, sing-song voice – such a contrast to her daughter.
I wandered across the road one Friday night to hang out with her. She said her mother was out for the evening and she flashed a bottle of vodka. I had never really drank alcohol before… but I had seen the effects of it on some of my older friends. We had a few drinks and I was feeling the buzz. That vodka and juice went down so easy. I knew I liked it, but I definitely felt a little out of control. I like being inside the lines, and this was definitely outside the lines.
She said she wanted to call some friends over, and drunk, giggly me agreed. Next thing you know two older boys show up – one of them being my elementary school friend’s older brother. I had seen him before as a child, and watched him pick on his little sister. But here he was, now, in my friend’s house – and I was drunk.
We all went in the pool and threw a ball around, while laughing at a level of loudness that was likely disturbing the neighbours. My friend was drunk to the point of being able to rip a fence board off while the one boy tried to pull her into the pool. Things were getting a little out of hand; so we retreated indoors. I was soaked from going in the pool with my clothes on, so my friend and I stumbled upstairs to get changed. She lent me some clothes – I was feeling funny. No, sick. I felt sick. I was going to be sick. I grabbed a small garbage can and was sick in it. I retreated to the spare bedroom, head spinning. This was too much. And it wasn’t fun anymore. I laid down on the bed, desperately hoping this would end.
The door opened, but it wasn’t my friend. It was the older brother. My vision was blurry and my head still spinning, but I felt him crawl into the bed. I knew this wasn’t right, but I didn’t have the capacity to stop what was going to happen.
I woke up the next morning, with the sun beaming on my face. My head was throbbing. My stomach was churning. I was naked. And I was alone in the room.
I gathered my borrowed clothes, got dressed and went downstairs. I got “the look” from my friend’s mother as she pointed to her fence. I went red, and apologized instantly. She just laughed, and said, “I see you girls had a fun night. Can you please take my garbage can into the laundry room and wash it out in the laundry tub?” I nodded and hurried to go find it. If this was my punishment, I’d take it. She never told my mom what went on in her house that night.
I also never saw the brother again. I see him on Facebook every now and then as we have lots of mutual friends. I did try to tell my friend that her brother did that to me – but it made her mad and she got instantly defensive on his behalf. I spent a good part of my younger years blaming myself for getting too drunk. For being too “available” that night. After all, we invited them over. And WE chose to drink. But now, as a grown woman I see that he was the one in the wrong. He made a poor choice. And I cannot hold blame or resentment toward him for it. It happened. And that’s about all you can say about that.
As a mother of girls, though… how do I talk to them about this? How do I say, “Don’t get to drunk or bad things could happen to you!” – without making it seem like THEY could put themselves at risk and it’s THEIR fault? Because a rapist is a rapist by choice. THEY make the calculated decision to do what they do. Sure, underage drinking is illegal – but it happens. And I can tell my kids NOT to until I’m blue in the face, but that doesn’t meant they will listen. Did I make a poor choice to drink that night? Absolutely. I see that now. Maybe if someone would have taught me how to drink in moderation, and pace myself? I had no idea that drinking could make you sick – they never taught THAT in school. It was just something I figured out myself – several times – until I learned the signs and started listening to my body:
- Space it out with water.
- Make sure you eat.
- When your vision starts to get fuzzy – stop. Cause the next stage is barfing, Melissa. S-T-O-P N-O-W…..
I mean, this is a lesson teenage-me could have actually benefitted from in DARE.
And it’s a hard lesson, but maybe I do need to teach my girls about how alcohol can affect you. It can wreak havoc on your body, it can become a coping mechanism, and it can impair your judgement. Putting yourself in a situation where you feel trapped is terrifying. And can make you feel so embarrassed, should something actually go wrong.
Vodka and juice is still my drink of choice. But I can hold my liquor a little better now.