The itch of restlessness is no stranger to me. Before drugs played a role in my life, I often scratched this itch by putting into play some really bad ideas. My earliest memory of feeling this way was preschool. Ohio heat stuck to my skin through my corduroys as I sailed through the air on the swings, bored. I could never get high enough. I remember singing Joan Jett, “I saw him standing there by the record machine. I knew he must have been about seventeen.” The song waltzed through my veins to my heart and just as I belted out seventeen, it dawned on me that I was in love with Michael Grand and I needed to make him fall for me.
I jumped off the swing like an Olympic gymnast and tore through the playground to find him. I spotted him climbing on top of the monkey bars, conveniently alone. The minute Michael turned to me and I saw those Teddy Graham colored eyes, my confidence evaporated. It wasn’t going to be as simple as I had hoped. Perhaps I would need to impress him before I dropped the L word. I bent down to undo and redo my Velcro shoes. The sun squinted my eyes as I climbed up the red caged bars.
When I got to the top, I dropped through the bars, hanging upside down like a trapeze artist. This was forbidden of course, but I’ve never been one for rules. After thirty seconds or so, I reached up and grabbed the bars, loosened my legs, and dropped to the pavement. I nailed the landing. Surely my talent would be the ticket to his heart.
“I want to do that. Is it hard?” His voice was as lovely as his perfect tiny teeth. This question presented me an opportunity to secure our fate. If we broke the rules together our rebel love affair would ignite.
“Come on. I’ll help you,” I said, tucking my blond hair shyly behind my ear. Standing beneath him I reached my arms up and grabbed one hand at a time as he lowered himself. He was even more beautiful upside down. Goosebumps rose to my skin and the entire playground took on a soft hue. I swear I could hear the wedding song. This would explain why I didn’t hear him when he said, “Don’t let go,” something I would remember hours later. My intention in letting go of his soft hands was to allow him the full experience of hanging upside down on the red caged monkey bars.
I remember the fear in his eyes as he dropped head first onto the concrete. This was the eighties after all, when schools weren’t hip to paving playgrounds with kid safe soft stuff. Blood painted the ground as my Michael screamed in agony. I remember running to the monitor. Forced to stand back, I watched as the paramedics loaded him into the ambulance. Our short love faded as fast as the sirens speeding him to the hospital. Michael returned to school a few days later, his head partially shaved, exposing a row of many stitches. Things were never the same between us.
The disease of addiction or alcoholism is a disease of wanting more. While my drug of choice was heroin or at times meth, when I drank, I drank like an alcoholic. I remember the first time I got drunk. I was 18 and though I had experimented with weed and acid, I didn’t know much about alcohol. My friend had just moved into her first apartment with her boyfriend. To celebrate, they invited over a few friends. When her boyfriend asked what I wanted him to buy me to drink, I had no idea what to say, especially since I thought beer tasted like feet. “Jose Cuervo,” I said, even though I didn’t know what it was. So when he returned with the tequila, I had no idea of its strength. My friend got out two shot glasses and handed me one. This confused me. It didn’t seem like enough alcohol to me. That’s when I got the idea that if we were going to drink out of such small glasses, we should do it every ten minutes.
I pulled my pager out of my purse to keep time. The first shot disgusted me, but I finish what I start. The second warmed my entire body. After the third I realized that ten minutes between drinks is entirely too long. I switched my schedule to every five minutes. That is the last thing I remember. I woke up the next day in a Dead Kennedys’ shirt that said, “Too drunk to fuck,” my hair soaking wet. Apparently I had puked on myself and all over the new carpet after I did a seductive dance on the coffee table to a NOFX song. Luckily my friend showered me, dressed me, and put me to bed.
In my life I have impulsively executed a series of bad ideas. If someone were to ask my best friend Kelly what idea of mine was the worst, she would say, “The fire baton.” By the second year of college I had forced myself to acquire a taste for beer. It was a Friday night and I had invited around twenty people to my apartment for a small gathering. I was on my sixth or seventh Corona when someone asked me if I remembered twirling baton in ninth grade. I quickly ran into the spare room to get my baton as proof that I remembered those three short months. I don’t know who it was that asked me if I could still twirl, but without hesitation, I performed the high school fight song. Everyone clapped. I sat down to drink more beer, a bit bored with the evening, the baton still in my hand. It was then that I realized I had never fulfilled my baton destiny. It had to be done right then. I went to my kitchen and found dish rags that I wrapped around the ends of the baton with rubber bands. I grabbed some sort of aerosol and led the party outside. I remember a single second of glory as I tossed the baton into the air, flames magnificent, the catch perfect. However, I hadn’t taken into consideration that rubber bands will melt and break or that I should have pulled up my hair. Thankfully, except for a patch of my hair, no one was injured.
As a parent, the choices I make will directly affect my daughters. In choosing to live a sober life, I know that in order to make a good decision, I must not act out of boredom or restlessness. If I have an idea that I’m not sure is healthy, I ask someone else in recovery. Chances are that if I have to ask someone about it, it’s not something that I should do. My impulsivity has subsided a bit, except when it comes to Skittles or chocolate. I suppose that splurging on candy is a step up from using cleaning spray to assist in igniting dish rags rubber banded to a baton.