Magazine

July 2011: Tales of a Roll Dog

A drunken teenage mascot grows up to discover that even when she’s sober, she’s a blast

Not only was I a blackout drinker, I was also a liar.

My earliest experiences with alcohol consisted of sneaking sips from my dad’s beer while he played poker. When I was eight, my dad remarried. In the wedding video, you can see me drinking champagne and “newscasting” the wedding, toasted out of my mind.

The first time I knowingly got drunk, my older sister was in college and I was ecstatic to hang out with her and her friends when my mom was out of town. They had all been seniors when I was a freshman, so I felt special, way cooler than any of my friends. When I got home that night, the party was already well under way. They handed me a shot of bourbon, a hit of weed and it was on like Donkey Kong. For the rest of the night, I drank, danced, barfed and cried. I embarrassed my sister and myself, but luckily, nobody teased me about it. My sis was way too cool for anyone to think of me as anything other than a cute, drunken mascot.

When I left for college, I felt out of my element, nervous and shy. But that didn’t last long, as I quickly found myself a friend, a wild girl from Hawaii who was pretty, fun, exotic and chose me to be her roll dog. Together, we drank, fought, partied, and somehow managed to get good grades all four years of college. We were inseparable. We thought we were invincible.

So much of college is a blur. I always found myself trying to piece together what happened the night before based on what club logo was stamped on my wrist (or forehead, depending on the night), what messages were on my phone, and who was there the next day. It was a vicious cycle, but it all felt part of the college experience. I thought everyone drank like me.

My family and hometown friends started distancing themselves from me. I remember thinking that they were just jealous of my raucous lifestyle. I was a wild card. You never knew what you were going to get with me. Sometimes, I was dancing all over the place, happy and boisterous. Others, I was crying my eyes out in a puddle on the floor. I acted this way in the workplace as well, taking full advantage of the casualness around drinking in my industry. I stole alcohol from my employer, manipulating people into supporting my insatiable need to drink. I found other people who liked to drink as much as I did and kept them close. I should have been fired or killed in a car accident more times than I could ever hope to recall.

Not only was I a blackout drinker, I was also a liar. I couldn’t turn it off. I lied about unimportant things, like what time I got home and what I’d worn the night before. Lying came more naturally to me than the truth. Keeping up the ruse was exhausting. To this day, there are certain things I am not totally clear about. When I was young, a friend died in a car accident. For years, I lied and said I was in the car, too. Sometimes, even today, I have to remind myself that this was not the case.

My boyfriend at the time was getting tired of worrying about me, but we were both so codependent, I knew he wouldn’t leave. The nagging, however, started to get to me. I would try to take a break from drinking, but could never make it more than a few days. I tried drinking only beer, only wine, allowing myself only two drinks an hour … all the games we play. Anything to not have to (gasp!) quit altogether! A DUI, public humiliation, staph infections and complete moral degradation were not enough to make me think I had a problem. I started to think maybe I was crazy. Was I abused as a child? I needed pills! That must be it. Nobody understands me. This relationship is stifling. Anything but booze was my problem.

Then one day, I just knew. Enough was enough. It had stopped working for me quite some time ago, but I had finally gotten sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time.

Without putting much thought into it, I called a girl I knew was in the program and asked for help. She took me to 90 meetings in 90 days and consequently saved my life.

I still have some bad behaviors. I still get fearful and uncomfortable, but I am conscious of my actions, my surroundings and, most importantly, my options. I have a voice today. I understand consequences and my power of choice.

I used to be scared of being a follower and never having any fun again, of being a bore, trapped in a mundane existence. Turns out, I’m a blast! Without confrontation or heartbreak, the negative influences in my life have slipped away. Days are no longer wasted because of a hangover. I might not always be happy, but I have peace of mind knowing that I am present for my life and for those that matter most.

—Shannon R., Los Angeles, Calif.