From the January 2015 magazine.

Wild in Hong Kong

A teen lets loose in the bar district and finds it’s much harder to stop than she thought

I got sober at the age of 19. I only drank for about four years, but I really made those four years count. As a child, I always felt like something was wrong. I started seeing therapists when I was 10. Things on the outside in my life were pretty good: I had two parents, a roof over my head and I went to good schools. Yet I was always in conflict. I suffered from anxiety and depression, which in those days they did not diagnose in kids. I was just considered a willful, sensitive, weird child who was always in trouble at home.

At 16, we moved to Hong Kong, where drinking was legal. The relief for me came when I took my first drink. At that point, I made the decision to chase that feeling as much as I could. My life and priorities changed. Instead of pleasing my family and getting good grades, I wanted to drink alcohol until intoxication. I found my niche drinking in bars. When you set a 16-year-old alcoholic loose in a bar, fun becomes fun with problems very quickly. For the next two years, I tried to control my drinking, to no avail. When I was controlling it, I wasn’t enjoying myself. I spent all my money and every free moment I had in Hong Kong, in the bars. In those two years, the only parts of the city I “explored” were the bar districts. Wan Chai, the red light district, was my favorite … dingy bars with cheap drinks, sailors carousing on leave and questionably hygienic tattoo parlors. This suburb-raised girl took to that environment like a duck to the water. The sticky floors of the bars and the stench of stale beer and cigarettes made me feel calm and at home. As the problems increased, I kept looking to others to blame: if only I had another group of friends; if only my parents got off my back; if only school wasn’t so hard—these were only some of my excuses.

-- Lexi M.

Dallas, Texas

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