Live Through This

Me, On Drugs

This is the first of three installments this week that deal with guest authors’ relationships to drugs and alcohol.

Illustration by Kelly

I was 15 when I got drunk for the first time. I went to Hayley Anderson’s* Halloween party dressed up as Beelzebub (we had just finished reading Paradise Lost in English), took probably four sips of Hayley’s parents’ vodka out of a water bottle, and promptly declared myself “schwasty,” at which juncture I proceeded to stagger around proclaiming my drunkenness to the world until I found a boy who would hook up with me. We kissed on the dance floor for a little while before he took me by the arm and pulled me outside.

On the swings in Hayley’s backyard, he told me, “I don’t want to make out with you.”

“Oookay…” I said, wondering what in the hell he thought we had been doing for the past 10 minutes.

He took a deep breath. “Do you want to give me head?”

At that point in my life, I pretty much thought a blow job entailed pushing hot air out of the lungs, through my mouth, in the general direction of someone’s penis. While it’s actually a lot more up-close and personal than that, I found the mere notion of putting my face anywhere near this stranger’s crotch deeply disturbing. “No thanks,” I said.

He stood up and brushed off his jeans. “Bye, then,” he said. He turned around and went back into the house. It wasn’t until one of his anonymous goon friends whistled at me as I slid off the swing that I realized the kid hadn’t even been wearing a costume, and that I was dressed up like some kind of Wannabe Devilish Sexual Predator.

I loved it.

You have to understand: At the time, it seemed like I was eons late to the whole make-out scene. (Later on I’d find out that this was just patently untrue, as a good 60 percent of my friends—girls and guys—were still card-carrying lip virgins at that point. On a similar note, most of them had yet to touch a drop of liquor, contrary to my firm and unquestionable belief that everyone was partying like crazy without me. So much of what I did in my teenage years was contingent upon stuff I thought other people were doing that they weren’t actually doing.) I’d had my first kiss only a few months before, and it had been averagely sucky in the way of too-much-braces and not-enough-tongue, but the overall awkwardness of the situation had been considerably augmented by the fact that it had taken place in an old folks’ home. A fellow volunteer and I dutifully set our charges up with a Fred Astaire video and snuck off to go make out in the hallway, which smelled like adult diapers and vitamin smoothies. I guess I should’ve closed my eyes, but something about the DROP SOILED LAUNDRY HERE sign just to the left of my make-out buddy’s head had me mesmerized. The whole thing was just too embarrassing to handle, and so it didn’t really count.

So as much as I knew that I ought to be offended by this thing that had happened at Hayley’s party, I actually felt…validated. This was how it was supposed to go down–fueled by alcohol on a sweaty dance floor, not out of boredom in the back hallway of the dementia ward at 10 o’clock in the morning. For a long time I had tried so hard to have a normal, functional teenage existence—to get on the map as somebody who goes to parties and gets attention from boys and knows how to have a good time. And it turned out that the whole time the key was right in front of me, in a bottle, 80 proof.

But people don’t just jump from zero to 60 with this stuff; gradually, concessions are made, standards eroded, expectations allowed to shift. A lot of the time, you enter high school as innocent and sweet-smelling as a baby’s bottom and you tell yourself, I’ll go to their parties, but I won’t drink their alcohol. And then something happens—maybe you’re desperate for someone to kiss you, or you get curious to see what all the hubbub is about, or you’re bored and it’s there—and you take those first sips and secretly want to yak but you keep it together and in your head you know something’s changed. So then maybe you say to yourself, All right, I’ll drink their alcohol, but I won’t smoke their weed. But then you make up some kind of bullshit in order to break that promise (really, what’s the difference between an actual high and a contact high? [answer: a heckuva lot]), and from there, it’s only a matter of time before you’re smoking crack daily from your tree house in Mobile, Alabama.

Of course, that whole slippery-slope argument is ridiculous, and anybody who tells you that is probably either a neurotic parent who’s watched a few too many SUPER IMPORTANT REPORTS ABOUT THE CRAZY SHIT YOUR KIDS ARE GETTING UP TO RIGHT THIS MINUTE (jenkem! toad-licking! Smarties-as-gateway-drug!) or on crack themselves. But I think it’s true that a lot of teenagers think they’re invincible, and that their beliefs are set in stone, immovable. Some people’s are, but a lot of people’s aren’t, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing either—the world is really complicated, value judgments one way or the other are inherently dangerous, and the people who know exactly where they stand on every single issue are more often than not closed-minded morons—but when drugs and alcohol are involved, it becomes surprisingly easy to give relativism a bad name.

I know, because I went a little crazy. The summer before 11th grade, I moved to the East End of Long Island, where it was a lot easier for me to get my grubby little paws on alcohol ET CETERA than it had been in my suburban town back in California. The Hamptons were full of cool, creative, wealthy people who partied all summer and really partied all winter, when there was absolutely nothing else to do. My new school was the kind of place where a kid could be expelled one week for snorting coke in the bathrooms and invited back the next because his parents were, you know, important like that. I’d never experienced such culture shock in my life. It was all well and good to flounce around tipsy and giggling at a Hayley Anderson-type (i.e., very classically high-school-ish) high school party every once in a while, but in New York, the stakes were higher; everybody seemed so much older, and so much more adventurous. And somewhere along the way, I made the decision to become like them.

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48 Comments

  • Olivia January 16th, 2012 3:39 PM

    this is killer. i don’t know of any other teen girl magazine that would write about this. killer.

  • Violet January 16th, 2012 3:42 PM

    That was amazing.
    You’re a fantastic writer – it was like watching a movie, and I laughed / was amazed while reading.
    Thanks! Violet

  • Violet January 16th, 2012 3:44 PM

    Forgot to add: I liked the Rookie backgrounds better when they were just a single, tiled image.
    Today’s looks as if two images had been superimposed, same thing a couple days ago – and it just doesn’t feel as lovely. V

  • riotsnotdiets January 16th, 2012 4:32 PM

    This was amazing and really honest, thank you I really enjoyed reading it!

  • Jamie January 16th, 2012 4:43 PM

    THIS HITS SO CLOSE TO HOME THAT IT IS SITTING ON MY COUCH WATCHING MY TV AND CHECKING MY FACEBOOK

    but really. A+.

  • Ablovagio January 16th, 2012 4:48 PM

    This is amazing and really struck a chord. I’m sixteen and know fine well how alcohol really messes things up. I’m a straight A student and a previous ‘asset’ to the school, I was even considered for head girl and then I got absobloodylutely sloshed at a school event and had to be escorted out. I can’t even remember what happened. I hated myself, I thought my parents hated me and my friends started to hate me. You don’t really believe people when they tell you the consequences of drinking but I really wish I had.
    I felt like I had destroyed everything I had ever worked for, and I know that may sound a bit far-fetched but you don’t really understand until you’ve been in that sort of situation. Even now, and it has been months, things haven’t gone back to exactly the way they were before.
    Once again, amazing article Lexie I know EXACTLY where you are coming from. Keep the awesomeness rolling rookie!

  • Eelizabethh January 16th, 2012 4:54 PM

    I like the tone of this article and feel the advice is practical. As someone who relied on Erowid through the entirety of my “experimental stage,” I can say that it is helpful and probably turned me off of doing some incredibly dangerous (read: stupid) things. That being said, I am 27 now, and really wish I wouldn’t have done some of the things I did…now that I am older and more informed, I learned that people lace drugs with absolutely crazy shit (think common household cleaners….animal tranquilizers, etc.).

    This article touched mildly on sex. Please, no matter what…if any experimental episodes lead you to some seemingly excellent sexual opportunity with a stranger, do yourself a favor and get their number for a raincheck instead. I am still haunted by one night stands that happened because I was drunk or high. I can’t take them back and the feeling of giving part of myself to some dickhead for his personal pleasure still sickens me. I’ll never get that back.

    Ok, I’m done ranting. Just please take care of your bodies and minds. <3

    • Johann7 January 24th, 2012 1:01 PM

      This is also great advice: a good way to make sure one doesn’t do things sexually under the influence of recreational drugs that one will regret when sober is to… get a phone number, take a rain check, and make a decision when sober. Hopefully you’ll get a positive reaction from the other person, and if you don’t, you may have just avoided a situation where someone was INTENTIONALLY trying to take advantage of you because of your intoxicated state.

      Also, don’t try to take advantage of people in intoxicated states, especially sexually (not that I think Rookie’s awesome readers would); at best, it’s extremely unethical, and at worst, it’s rape.

  • space mtn January 16th, 2012 5:18 PM

    I got super high on thanksgiving in front of my whole family but I didn’t even care, of course, cause I was high. I don’t think I’m at the point where I’m out of control yet, but when I am, I’ll refer to this article.

  • MissKnowItAll January 16th, 2012 5:31 PM

    Wow this is so beautifully written. In middle and high school a lot of my friends suffered from abuse and addiction. I was afraid and tried to distance myself from them. It took me a while to realize that they truly needed help.

  • whoopingcrane January 16th, 2012 5:36 PM

    OHMYGOD this piece is perfection. Some of the most honest advice I’ve ever read.

    YOU KICK ASS, LEXIE!

  • kimpine45 January 16th, 2012 5:43 PM

    Oh man. I just attended my first party this weekend and now this has appeared on Rookie. Sometimes it feels like you folks are reading my mind.

  • andreyacasablanca January 16th, 2012 7:01 PM

    Oh god, this so reminds me of myself, I also had the ‘One Of The Worst Things That Had Ever Happened’-moment when I was 16 and my parents decided to spent holidays with me in italy and gave me disappointed looks all the time.

    I’m also in University now but still have problems to deal with it, especially because I live in a capital where the party never ends … and christmas / new years eve hit me hard, so hard that I decided to ‘stay sober’ for some time.

    It’s so good that you write about it, I wish I would have read this back when I was 16 / 17 and totally wrecked.

  • Bean January 16th, 2012 7:21 PM

    I have always been very stuck on my ideas of drugs and alcohol and when i say i am not going to do something, i’m not. This being said, i am not a close minded moron. I have never once smoked anything and that in no way makes me close minded. But you did give good advice.

  • fung-eyed January 16th, 2012 7:34 PM

    wow.

  • pocketmouse January 16th, 2012 8:37 PM

    I’m really glad you guys cover topics like this, my highschool experience was similar, except I ended up getting addicted to heroin in the end, after 2 maybe 3 years of hitting rock bottom (while maintaining my interest in fashion and photography, Tumblr, and getting straight A’s in college, of course) I finally quit just barely a week ago. The only reason any of my family members found out about my drug problem is because I ODed and ended up calling my mom for a ride from the hospital, it was the scariest day of my life. It still took me over a year to quit after that. It’s crazy how fast things can go from shrooms, cold medicine, pain pills like oxycontin, to h. You never expect it to be a problem, and then it’s too late when you finally realize it. Luckily though after years of feeling like shit, quitting wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be, not nearly as bad as being addicted to drugs.

  • portia13 January 16th, 2012 8:44 PM

    I really love that Rookie doesn’t post cotton-candy crap. Thank you for this honest approach, it was incredibly refreshing.

  • diana94 January 16th, 2012 8:52 PM

    this is such a good article, everytime i read an article about drugs and alcohol i feel like im being grounded when havent even done anything, but this is just perfect i feel like is a friend telling me this

  • calliegirl January 16th, 2012 9:02 PM

    this has got to be one of the best written things i’ve come across. i certainly could relate to the drinking with your friends being mainstream as opposed to heavy experimentation on your own time being pathetic (i’m somewhat of a relativist, too).

  • I.ila January 16th, 2012 9:05 PM

    This isn’t sarcastic; I actually do (did?) think that all my friends are doing really awesome stuff without me. And they are. I know they are. Am I just as messed up as everybody else is? Wow, I’m confused. I cry about this all the time.

  • SweetThangVintage January 16th, 2012 11:10 PM

    I love how this tells you the info you really want, instead of just “Don’t do drugs, they are bad,” I mean, I wouldn’t personally do drugs, but I’d love to have a drink ever know and then.
    Not a lot of party opportunities when you’re home schooled though! haha

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/SweetThangVintage

  • kzspygv January 17th, 2012 12:13 AM

    This is a really great piece; I just have to add an amen to the the “slow your roll” part. I didn’t drink at all in high school, and even when I started college, I barely touched weed and maybe put sprinkled a few grains of coke in my nose a few times, and I can’t say I feel left out or that I missed something when I listen to my peers recount “awesome” stories of their reckless youth (don’t get me wrong, I was reckless in other ways, he he).

    The point is, experimenting with drugs when you’re older, in a controlled environment, with other people who’ve done it a bunch of times (and who are more likely to NOT have tainted drugs from unknown sources) is much better, and dare I say it, fulfilling. It takes the social pressures away from it, and gives you a bit more clarity afterward to decide if it’s something you really want to do again. Turns out, I’m not that into drugs. But I’m glad I waited to find out for myself.

  • airheads January 17th, 2012 12:34 AM

    This is the best article I have ever read on Rookie. It’s so candid and well-written. As an addict, I appreciate the honesty presented here. The tips at the end literally made me clap. Erowid.org is one of the most useful websites on the entire Internet, and “watch Brazil sober” is great advice for everyone.

  • mona814 January 17th, 2012 1:12 AM

    THIS.
    This was golden. Absolutely lovely to read and very easy to relate to. Love it!

  • ZodiBabe January 17th, 2012 1:16 AM

    this is important stuff. keep it up yallll

  • AliceBuu January 17th, 2012 2:30 AM

    this fits me… thanks for talking about it :D

  • Spunky January 17th, 2012 3:34 AM

    This is why I love Rookie!
    Usually, when someone writes about drugs tends to be like “don’t get into drugs, cause you’ll get high…and die” or they make them look “super cool”. But this is honest and not exaggerated at all.
    A really good advice that I would loved to get two years ago.

  • heth January 17th, 2012 5:03 AM

    This is pure, brutal, and absolutely beautiful honesty at its finest. There is so much to relate to here, it doesn’t even matter who or where you are. Teens of all sorts need this reminder. That somewhere out there, someone is going through, or went through, the same as you. I needed this reminder, and thank you, you beautiful stranger, for seeming to know more about me and what I’m going through than my family, my therapist, my best friends, and maybe even myself. You are truly wonderful.

  • A-W January 17th, 2012 8:50 AM

    I’m a little scared by how much I can relate to this piece. It so thoroughly describes my life right now, down to the kind of people you did this with, or things things you thought when you did this alone. I’m a fairly safe user myself, but have known for a long time that I really need to slow it down… Thank you for so perfectly encompassing what I’ve been trying to tune out.

  • missmadness January 17th, 2012 1:28 PM

    it all really depends on who you are as a person, I think. I’ve smoked weed since I was 16ish, and it has never interfered with my school (solid 4.0) or social life. The trick with stuff like this is to
    a) NEVER do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, if that means being a total killjoy and leaving a party early, do it.
    b) realize that it IS recreation. don’t get baked and go to a final exam that determines 50% of your grade. that’s stupid.
    c) go with your gut. if you feel like the people you’re around or the person giving you drugs is a sleezeball, don’t take them. “I have a drug test coming up for work/sports” is always my favorite excuse.

    I hate the spinning/headachey feeling I get from drinking, and prefer smoking. I would also never touch any drugs harder than weed, because I know myself and I know that would be a bad life choice for me.

  • KayKay January 17th, 2012 2:28 PM

    I really admire you for writing something like this.
    Where I live *cough* Switzerland *cough* teens get drunk and high all the time, sometimes including me.
    I’m not particularly proud of this, but I first got drunk when I was 14 (Young? Not really. A friend of a friend had to be brought to the hospital due to alcohol poisoning when he was 11).
    And I know it’s stupid and irresponsible and potentially dangerous, but I don’t feel like I’m obliged to do it. I want to do it, because, yes, as silly and juvenile this sounds, I want to have some fun. I want to experiment.
    Maybe it’s simply because I can’t handle my life, or because I want to escape the emptiness of living or something along those lines, but I don’t know.
    So far I’ve never puked (it’s one of those things that are literally physically impossible for me to do) or woken up in a gutter, even though I know plenty of people who have.
    One thing I’m sure of: there’s more to life than drugs and drinking.

  • timelady January 17th, 2012 2:55 PM

    The party you wrote about in the beginning sounds like the kind of parties I *heard* about Monday mornings in the halls of my little magnet school (also in a California suburb, coincidence). Even some of my teachers were on drugs, and I recall the journalism teacher (who retired my 9th grade year) used to let kids smoke in the back room. Cigarettes, weed, whatever. They only got really strict about it my junior year when some of the seniors went off the rails.

    • timelady January 17th, 2012 2:56 PM

      We also read Paradise Lost in 10th grade after we read excerpts from the Bible, then we moved onto Faustus. I actually used Paradise Lost for my AP exam essay.

  • gaaaah January 17th, 2012 3:08 PM

    Your school had you watch Brazil? That is so awesome…

    But more relevantly, this is really candid and wonderful and I love it.

  • Tara January 17th, 2012 9:10 PM

    this piece is so raw and so well-written. I am in real admiration of the honesty of it and proud of rookie’s decision to appeal to teenagers in terms of sharing real life experiences like these (and not just pure prettiness)

  • rubyhobbit January 18th, 2012 12:25 AM

    This was totally me a few years ago, I no longer smoke weed and I drink in very rare occasions. I do have to admit that I tried salvia last friday just because it’s a one time thing/ try or whatever, but just reading this makes feel less ashamed of my decisions and it’s nice to know that you dont have to be doing all of this crap to have a fun time (at least that’s my opinion).

  • cakepop January 18th, 2012 1:29 AM

    This is so relevant. Especially the part about thinking you’re late on everything, making out, sex, drugs, alcohol and that moment years later when you figure out you absolutely were not. I spent pretty much my entire high school career getting blacked out and making an ass out of myself. Although, I’ve definitely have cleaned up my act every once in a blue moon I still drink a little too much for my own good. I love that you seeked help, sometimes that’s exactly what we need but to embarrassed to do so. God knows I needed it and maybe one day I will go just to make sure old me never comes back!

  • sabrina January 18th, 2012 2:43 PM

    This is a really great, relevant piece. I’m in the same position as you were when you were 15, a lot of my friends seem to be partying their teens away and I feel like I’m just standing on the outside watching. It makes me feel a bit better to know that a lot of people were and are in the same position as me.

  • sarahhh January 18th, 2012 11:15 PM

    Thanks Rookie for NOT playing the psychotic parent role about drinking and drugs. If you did, I doubt I (or anyone) would listen. Everything just makes so much sense! Drinking has always been a huge temptation, because my mom is so lax about it and doesn’t really appear to care if I do it. I still try not to because obviously, I know I shouldn’t, but it would be sooo easy if I just did. I don’t know, it’s weird to explain… but anyway I love how this article is so candid and honest, telling it from a point of view that I can actually understand and relate to. I’m glad that I can actually get good advice off of the internet these days :)

  • robin January 18th, 2012 11:52 PM

    this is such an awesome article …so honest and so relatable. i wish id read something like this when i was 16/17 …instead my friends and i read lists in outdated degrassi books about “signs youre an alcoholic” and laughed cause we fit them all, and then got trashed.

    that being said, i still got (mostly) good grades in class and while i was a very unhappy teenager (who isn’t) i’m in 4th year university with one semester left and i’ve managed to balance my drinking habit with working, good grades, volunteering and a social life.

    anyways, great article!!

  • Sky January 19th, 2012 10:40 AM

    Amazing writing. x

  • Flower January 19th, 2012 1:02 PM

    In all honesty I was quite shocked by this. For most of it the tone is not in the least bit educational and makes drugs appear ‘cool’or ‘hip’.
    I’m no preacher, but I don’t think thats right. By coincedence today we were doing drugs in sceince and the teacher said THREE of her freinds ended up in a mental hospital from taking magic mushroom.
    I know the whole mad, drunken, drugs, hooking party thing is really trendy right now, but really be more sensitive.

    • Johann7 January 24th, 2012 12:38 PM

      Your teacher is either honestly or dishonestly wrong about three of her friends winding up in a mental hospital BECAUSE of psilocybin mushrooms (and psilocybin alone). There is absolutely no evidence anywhere that any psychedelics CAUSE mental illness, though plenty of them (cannabis, psilocybe mushrooms, LSD, LSA, peyote, etc.) can exacerbate existing conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. This is why #4 in the list above is so vital. If one is going to use drugs, one should do so responsibly, in a way that will minimize harm to oneself and others (this is the point of the harm reduction perspective mentioned in the article – check out the link). Knowing how various drugs might interact with one’s existing medical conditions is an important part of this.

      That said, there is absolutely no reason that you should use recreational drugs if you don’t wish to do so. They certainly can be dangerous, all of them have some potential negative health impacts (these can range from minor to severe), and most of them are illegal, moreso for people under 21 years of age in most jurisdictions in the USA. These are all good reasons to avoid recreational drug use, and if you decide for yourself that the reason to NOT use recreational drugs outweigh the reasons to use them, then definitely don’t use. However, making the decision to use drugs doesn’t (necessarily) make one a Bad Person, or even necessarily mean one is making a Bad Decision. Contrary to what pretty much every drug education program in schools teaches, one can use drugs without having a drug problem.

  • hellorose January 20th, 2012 5:04 PM

    a good place to research drugs is http://www.talktofrank.com
    the info about laws etc are uk relevant only, but the info about drugs is pretty universal.
    there used to be a website my friend knew which had information about the current strains/forms of certain drugs that were going around and whether or not to stay clear (especially useful for pills). unfortunately i don’t know the address or if it still exists.

    at school they gave us what were effectively top trump cards with different drugs on and quizzed us about nicknames and street values and countries of origin. then again this is a part of london where the local newspaper published a colour coded map of the area showing where to buy different drugs and the current asking prices (under the guise of a drug culture expose).

    my advice is only to take drugs around people with whom you feel comfortable and safe. if it’s for the first time then ideally do it at someone’s house rather than in out and about since different drugs do different things to different people (stating the obvious, but it’s worth bearing in mind).
    if it gets to the point where you’re taking things on your own just to pass the time, then take that as a warning signal.

    mostly, if you’re going to take things then be smart about it.

  • caro nation January 20th, 2012 8:10 PM

    My Granny lives in Mobile.

  • cicatricella January 21st, 2012 9:42 PM

    Great article! Only thing I have to add would be my mum’s awesome advice on drugs (my parents were ex-hippies) – always make sure you know exactly where whatever you take has come from.

  • Johann7 January 24th, 2012 12:48 PM

    Excellent article. Erowid is probably the best site cataloging accurate, non-anti-recreational-drug-biased information about recreational drugs. Part of the problem with respect to research is that samples are biased: a lot of research is (or was – it’s becoming a little better, especially with the expansion and adoption of a harm reduction approach in medicine and law enforcement to some extent) conducted only on people who wind up in legal trouble for drug use (and thus by definition have a drug problem), as the illegal nature of many recreational drugs makes self-identification by users unlikely. High-functioning drug users are frequently an invisible population.

    The list of tips is great, and I would emphasize #4 – the best way to avoid problems with drugs is to know as much as possible about them, including laws around their use. I would also add that when trying something for the first time, don’t take dosage advice from a regular user. Start with a half or quarter dose of what a regular user recommends to get a sense of how the drug impacts you without crossing the line into intoxicated and non-functional territory. This is doubly true if you’re using any recreational drugs in combination with each other (and never, ever mix drugs without someone sober around to get help if necessary – combined effects can be drastically different than the individual effects of the drugs mixed).

  • Marissa January 30th, 2012 10:00 PM

    I love this, you’re a really great writer. It’s real stories like this told honestly and frankly that will discourage teens from overdoing it with drugs/alcohol, as opposed to the whole “don’t try drugs and alcohol or you’ll die, kids” shit that schools shout, which ends up making you want to try it more.