"chem 101" by Anonymous


Am I a drunk because my dad’s a drunk? Is that really how it works? Or is that just something our health teachers told us to scare us kids that have seen our parents continuously attempt to drink themselves into oblivion out of ever picking up the bottle?

They say that if your parents are drunks you’re chemically more likely to be one yourself. What a wonderful way to take the pressure off me. “The chemicals made me-they were whispering, chanting in my ear-“Take another drink. Take another drink.” I didn’t have a choice. I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. People also say though that it’s a learned behavior. “I’m a drunk because I watched my [so-n-so] drink, that’s what I was taught.” But of that theory I’m not quite convinced ‘cause I watched my dad drink and it wasn’t exactly a lifestyle I desired to imitate. Like, it didn’t look fun. I didn’t watch my dad turn jaundice and frail thin and think, this guy is crushing it, sign me up. But I don’t know, I’m not a scientist OR psychiatrist. I would just rather believe that we’re only meant to be what we are chemically combined to be. Nothing more, nothing less. The chemicals decide and we have very little say in the matter.

My dad thinks I think I’m better than him because I study at a big university and I get angry when I talk to him sometimes. But actually I’m angry because I study at a big university and I know I’m no better than him.

Don’t get me wrong, I have an incredible, creative, sensitive, beautiful father. I love him more than life. Despite his problems, because I know we all have them. But I used to hate him for reasons—reasons that have taken permanent residence in a place in my memory where the hurty things go. The things that make you want to curl up when they touch you like a roly poly bug does when a child tries to poke it—reasons that led me to believe that he loved booze more than his family. I know now that that’s ridiculous, but it doesn’t change the fact that I believed it at one time. And I’m really not kidding. I like really hated him, but honestly I hated everything. I hated being “trailer trash.” I hated that people told me “girls like you do this, girls like you can’t do that” but, mostly, I hated that I believed it.

At the age of 15, “I had enough hate in my heart to start a fucking car.” At 15, I didn’t know how to deal with rage like that. I could try to drink it away like my father did. Like a pissed off teenager. The truth of the matter was, I didn’t know how to stop hating. Myself. My life. My town. My school. My parents. Helpless, blind, stupid. I wanted to punish the world for being so fucking unfair to me. Idiotically, my destructive habits fueled everything I hated. Reinforced the stigma. I stopped going to school. When I was at school I was detached, painfully hung over, still drunk, or working on a buzz. If there’s one word that describes my high school experience it would be ‘inebriated.’ I was absent more than I was present, was threatened with truancy, was suspended, regularly assigned detention, was a habitual “slacker.” I spent the majority of my educational experience resenting or avoiding school entirely. If I was going to be a failure, it would be of my own doing. I wanted no one else to have control of it.

I remember my vice principal asking me, the first time I was suspended, “why did you think coming to school drunk was a good idea?” I argued that it didn’t exactly seem like a bad idea. That response is what pointed my vice principal to the conclusion that could only have been more obvious if I had “yikes” tattooed across my forehead: I was fucked up. I mean, not like 2006 Britney fucked up, but well on my way.

I was allowed permission to return to school only under the condition that I attend substance abuse counseling. You know, the typical things sophomores in high school do: homecoming dances, learning how to drive, and don’t forget about AA!

“Why are you here?” the counselor had asked me.

I have to be. If I want to be able to go back to school” – which I didn’t – “I have to attend these sessions.”

“Have you ever been to therapy before?”

“Nope, first time.”

“Okay, well, let’s just start by answering a few questions.”

Then she asks ridiculous questions like, “what do you do for fun?”

I have to say, lady, if you’re in substance abuse counseling at 15, things stopped being fun quite a while ago.

What’s so interesting about that experience was that I left that session with a prescription. For a drug. After she just got done telling me, at length for 50 minutes, that I’m dangerously abusing alcohol. A drug. Ludicrous. Could you guess how long it took for me to wonder if I could overdose on it? ‘cause it was almost immediately, haha.

One time, when I was…I don’t know…maybe 11? I was “curious” what would happen if I snorted and took a bunch of Tylenol. So I tried it. And before you ask, yes I was actually that stupid. Literally too young to understand that there’s a difference between drugs, like, for example, the pills my mom takes for headaches and the pills that pop stars take in the movies are not the same ones, I crushed up a hefty amount of acetaminophen on the foot end of my princess bed frame and up my nose it went. If you can believe it, it was not fun at all. Imagine my disappointment that after consuming about 4,000 mg of Tylenol, all I got was an upset stomach and probably liver complications in about 30 years.

I can see it now, the doctor will come into the patients’ room with the test results and there it will read: hepatic failure due to trying to kill self with too much Tylenol when patient was 11. How embarrassing.

I actually don’t remember particularly wanting to overdose and die. I’ve just always been fascinated by pushing the limits, dancing with the boundaries of self-destruction. It’s all very fragile; life, the world. That’s pretty scary. I think I just want to know what it takes and what it feels like to carelessly bend something flimsy and see where it fractures.

For example, my parents used to scream at me, like seriously get so angry, because I was literally incapable of opening a cereal box without absolutely destroying the box and the bag. Same with potato chip bags. But it’s really the same reason for why I pick at a peeling cuticle or a scab just starting to detach from a wound. if something has a weakness, I have to explore it, push it further. I always regret it later when it’s completely impossible to pour a bowl of cereal, when that cuticle stings in agony every time it’s touched, and the prematurely removed scab retaliates by coming back. I’ll just pick it again. As I’m sure you could imagine, I have a lot of scars. All because I can’t just let things be. Let them heal. Let them remain in their perfectly good condition for holding mom’s breakfast. I think that’s what made my parents to so angry—that every time they poured a bowl of cereal it reminded them that their daughter is careless, reckless, destructive.

But I get it from them.

Is that really how it works?

Gary MillerComment