Recipe For Disaster–Just Add Alcohol

For our buddy series, we have invited some of our contributors to share a drinking-related story–an incident, an experience, a conversation, a relationship–that has been memorable. We hope you will enjoy reading these stories as they appear each Monday.

by Tara T. Handron

It was ‘like’ at first sight. I knew when I saw her bright blonde hair, red bow and magnetic smile that Melissa* and I were going to be great friends. She oozed fun. I also liked that before freshman orientation even began, she, too, was looking for the party, any party. We did crazy things when we were drunk, like hitting up the Pizza Hut for free pizza at 2:00 AM as it was closing or setting off dorm fire alarms. It was fun, for a while. Our college years passed, and I transferred schools, but our friendship remained strong.

After graduation, one visit in particular sent our friendship off course in a way I never expected. We were heading to a bar in DuPont Circle in Washington, DC.  Not an out of the ordinary evening. Driving down N Street, I shared from the back seat my views on clinical psychology versus social work. My arrogant and ignorant views, I should say. I thought having a psychologist father and having made a few trips in my life to the shrink’s office (not my dad’s) somehow qualified me to comment.  It most certainly didn’t, especially when I was dismissing the social work field, the field that Melissa was presently toiling away in at graduate school.

My insensitivity was overwhelmingly obvious to everyone but me, and I hadn’t even started drinking yet that night!  To make matters worse, Melissa* was in the midst of a particularly challenging semester.  She was in a rough spot, and so was I. While this doesn’t excuse my behavior, my drinking and my life’s circumstances had me in a bit of a depression. What a recipe for disaster–just add alcohol.

I doubt I need to describe what happened later in the evening after we both had been drinking.  Some people get mushy, but—when imbibing–I have found myself in many more contentious situations than kind, compassionate ones. Frankly, I almost can’t describe it because it is very blurry (my drinking can be categorized as some sporadic fun/incident-free moments mixed in with many black and brown outs). We were yelling at each other and probably looking pretty crazy.  She let me have it and had every right to do so.

The next morning we barely spoke as I gathered up my things to leave.  By the time I left, Melissa* was nowhere to be found.  Years passed, and I wondered what went wrong (duh!?). I assumed there was no repairing the situation.

For years, the event baffled me, until I was in recovery. I found out that my illness goes far beyond my inability to safely consume and metabolize alcohol.  My physical allergy to alcohol is quite nicely paired with a host of insecurities, fears, and coping mechanisms that greatly impact my ability to unselfishly connect. Part of my recovery process involved going back to the people I harmed and making amends for my behavior.  Sure enough, Melissa was on that list.

I was very lucky.  When I finally had the courage to call Melissa and apologize for the harm I caused her, she lovingly and graciously listened.

Today, I check in with her as often as I can, which still isn’t often enough.  I send her birthday cards that for a few years were always early because I mixed her date up with another friend, to whom I was practicing a living amend.  This is about progress, not perfection, right?

For me, while alcohol sometimes made moments more exciting or wild, it was always fleeting. The fun never lasted. It couldn’t. I am grateful today to have relationships of substance that aren’t artificially buffered or irreversibly wrecked by alcohol.  Recovery and being blessed with incredibly gracious people in my life has made that possible.  I just remembered–I owe Melissa a call.

*Names have been changed.

Tara T. Handron is an actor, writer, and communications/change management consultant in Washington, DC.  She is the founder of What’s a Girl to Do Productions. She wrote, produced and has performed in her one-woman show, Drunk with Hope in Chicago, about 20+ women and their experiences with alcoholism and recovery.