(This article also appeared on Huffington Post.)
The photo above is me passed out in the grass at 3am. I was 27 years old. While I don’t remember anything about the celebrations from that night, I remember telling myself that I “needed to celebrate” being back home after a 3 day weekend in LA. I blacked out completely. I somehow ended up in my front yard. I vaguely remember my roommates picking me up and carrying me to my bed. We laughed about it the next morning. One of my roommates sent me this photo and I posted it on Facebook because being a party girl was, like, soooooo cute. I continued to drink this way for two more years.
Some would argue that being a party girl (or boy) is never cute and I’m sure they have valid reasons for that. I would argue that – in moderation – there’s nothing wrong with having a phase in your life where you have a few too many drinks on the regular, act silly with your friends, and hook up with someone you barely know… as long as you’re safe about it. Yes, you read that correctly. This sober woman supports others getting drunk, safely. My toxic relationship with alcohol has nothing to do with other people’s relationship with alcohol.
My body was clearly giving me signs that the party girl lifestyle wasn’t for me anymore. These are some of the red flags I ignored for years, and wish I hadn’t:
1. My Hangovers SUCKED
Back in my “glory days”, I could party until 3 am, get up at 9am to work a double shift at the bar, then go out again as soon as I got off. But as I pushed into my late twenties, my hangovers got exponentially worse. I would be bed ridden for hours. I couldn’t eat. My head felt like it was going to explode. I promised myself that “this is the last time”, every time. Then the hangover went away and I would be invited to a party and I would break my day-long promise.
2. I Gained Weight
In my early twenties, I could eat or drink anything I wanted without exercising and still have a flat stomach. Once I hit 24, those drunken late night Whataburger drive-thru runs started clinging to my mid section, my thighs, my face, and my butt. I went up three sizes. This is around the time that I fell in love with fitness, but developed a separate battle between binge drinking, caloric obsession, and working out. That’s a whole other story…
3. I Attended 21st Birthday Parties…and I Was 29.
In the restaurant industry, it’s common to have friends of various ages – especially people in their late teens/early twenties, since they make up the bulk of the staff. I found this to be comforting because it helped me feel young. I could justify my behavior because “all of my friends party, too”. I saw celebrating someone’s 21 first birthday as an excuse to get HAMMERED. This was an occasion where there would be lots of shots and I wouldn’t be judged for indulging.
4. I Thought Sex = Love
Sometimes I look at my old self and want to shake her and scream, “He’s just not that into you!!!” I got myself into countless delusional relationships when I was drinking. Ladies, if you take anything away from this article let it be the following: If he only texts you after midnight… if he doesn’t call you his girlfriend… if the only time you two hang out during the day is during a group Sunday brunch… HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. Dudes, if you’re the guy I’m describing in this scenario, just be up front with the women you sleep with. If you’re clear about your intentions, you probably won’t experience the “drama” side of us.
6. I Popped Morning After Pills Like Candy
OK…maybe not that often, but there was a chapter in my life when I took a lot of morning after pills because I had a lot of unprotected sex. Sometimes I’d even mimic the effects of the morning after pill by taking multiple birth control pills. While this is technically “OK” to do, it messed with my body in some pretty gnarly ways. My menstrual cycle became abnormal. I was nauseated and had terrible cramps for days after. But none of that stopped me from doing it again. And again. And again.
7. My Priorities Were Screwed Up
I was always “too busy” to write/study/spend time with family, but I had plenty of time to drink with my friends several times a week. Like I said in #1, I felt like shit… therefore my productivity level was sub par. My to do lists would spill over to “tomorrow” or “someday”(a.k.a. “never”) every day.
8. My Finances Were Screwed Up
I was “too broke” to put $10 in a savings account to invest in my future, but when $10 was in the shape of a shot glass and it smelled like whiskey, I had no problem investing in intoxication. I “couldn’t afford” to go to the doctor or dentist. Rent was often late. I maxed out my credit card. A few months ago, I wrote this piece that further goes into the financial impact having a drinking problem.
9. I Traveled Just to Get Drunk in Other Places
I’d tell myself and others that I enjoyed traveling to Dallas, Austin, Houston, New York, New Orleans, Florida, etc. to get out of Waco and relax. The reality of it was that I just wanted to get drunk in different places. The same dangerous, promiscuous behaviors I practiced in Waco, I practiced elsewhere… only they were amplified because I had the “I’m on vacation” mentality.
9. Duck Face. Everywhere.
I was that girl. I screamed when I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in forever (ya know, like…two days). I wooed. I danced on bars. Duck Face was my go-to pose. Gag…
10. I Held a Drink in Most of my Pics on Social Media
In this day and age, how you present yourself on social media is often how you’re perceived. According to this logic, the places you check into, the people you’re tagged with, the photos you post, the hashtags you use, and the photos you’re tagged in all “define” who you are. Looking back on the social media presence I consciously established, I subconsciously presented myself as a confusing concoction of “fit chick who quotes motivational speakers and chugs whiskey”.
The best part about being a party girl was being the life of the party. Aside from drinking, I really just enjoyed being around people, listening to music, and having a good time. I’ve recently discovered how to do these things in healthy, alcohol-free ways. Now, my idea of going out is getting a group of friends together to try a new work out, then grabbing a juice afterwards. I still go to concerts, I just don’t drink. I go to Broadway shows and have candy or cake instead of a cocktail. While I put the party girl to rest, I learned how to redefine the party.