This Thing of Ours


I’ve never read Dante’s Inferno, but I can personally testify to its veracity–

there is more than one layer of hell to visit alone.

The progression of my alcoholism was swift and perfunctory. The first time I got drunk, I blacked out. It was then that I smoked my inagural cigarette–a Marlboro Light–after which I instinctively kept from choking on my own vomit in my sleep. My first drunk was my foray into prolonged alcohol poisoning.

I was a hopeless, lonely and desperate woman before I learned to compartmentalize my ruin. And at 17, I knew it.

Toward the end of my senior year, I agreed to accompany my high school boyfriend to visit his brother at college. Before I went on this trip, I consulted my girlfriends about my doubts, i.e. an intuitive nudge. I thought either my boyfriend wanted to be a priest or he was gay. We were never physical, except for the occasional make out session. I stopped doing even that for a brief period after my parents and sister caught us necking in his car outside of our house. He was withdrawn, moody, cold and entirely uninterested in me.

Years later I would recieve an urgent message from him telling me he was gay. The relief I felt at that moment will never leave me as long as I live. For once, the problem was not of my own making.

Despite my reservations, I made the ill-advised decision to join him knowing full well I planned to break up with him as soon as I possibly could. I did just that, in the car, on a three-hour long drive. I used my casual, yet stern voice to bring down the hammer. He was understandably pissed and it bothered me very little. I knew I had more important matters to attend to, vis-a-vis, uninterrupted debauchery. But not before I napped in the car.

Our four-person group killed a 30-rack in a matter of two hours. Next, at least eight trips to the jungle juice bar. The first thing I remember is dancing with a frat boy while my ex-boyfriend sulked in the corner. In a flash, I was lighting up with total strangers. I woke up covered in vomit. I apologized to my ex’s brother and sister for what, I did not know. The second thing I remember was asking when we could do that again. Their faces reddened with anger and shock, but all I saw was a challenge.

I know now that I experienced two things that weekend: 1. alcohol poisoning and 2. limitless potential. It didn’t matter to me that I cleared my path of self-destruction by pushing my ex out of the way, or by spraying vomit at locals–what mattered was that I got fucked up. And later, what mattered more was that I got fucked. I don’t know exactly how the two became inextricably linked, but after my first visit to college, I would never take a drink again without taking someone to bed.

The years went by like this on a carousel of  pure misery.

I drank and drank and drank and the flames went higher.

That was then, this is now. We have something, you and I. La Cosa Nostra, this thing of ours. A recovery mafia, in keeping with the Italian tradition Dante began. We know where the bodies are buried–you know the ones. Drunks passed out on the couch, drunks on the subway, drunks at work in the breakroom, drunks stumbling at a holiday party, drunks kissing their kids goodnight. We are hidden in plain view, most of us. My body was hidden behind straight A’s, salaried jobs; underneath humor and alacrity. Talk about limitless potential.

I am of the mind that an alcoholic is what I will always be. I am in recovery, still out of breath from the ten years of electric hell I put myself through. Memories continue to resurface, and as they do, I will recount them for you here. I keep the life of those flames alight, flickering in my mind’s eye to remind me to keep going. The layers of hell are burned in my memory and for that, I am grateful. So please know when I say, ‘see you in hell,’ we will never have to stay there.


Photo courtesy of shutterstock




Lucy Hartman

Lucy Hartman

I'm funnier when I'm sober.