We’d had lunch at Chili’s. I ate fish tacos. I had borrowed a dress from my sister. Black. Size 0. It was December 31, 1994, and I was acting the part of “normal.”
Only problem? I was a fucking disaster.
I planned to have only one drink. It had become clear that drinking wasn’t working out for me. I never did it right—I ended up puking, crying, and kissing boys that were handsy. Even if there was no genetic component to alcoholism, my behavior was proof enough that I was a person who should not drink. Plus, I was already in recovery for an eating disorder and alcohol was “strongly discouraged.”
I called my sponsor from Chili’s and mentioned my idea of having “one New Year’s drink.”
“Sometimes alcohol triggers bulimia,” she said. I hung up quickly.
We got dressed in our hotel room. I loved that my dress was a size 0 and suspected – correctly—that my days of fitting into it were numbered. Before the curtain fell on my almost-emaciated figure, I wanted one more great night.
I started with a single glass of White Zin. I flirted with a charming guy who had the sweetest smile. He was wearing a black cowboy hat.
Like every other night I drank, I took that one sip too many. The sip that made me no longer care about the cute boy with the cowboy hat. He was a stupid hick. Screw the stupid size 0 dress—it looked better on my sister anyway. Screw it all.
I wanted more wine. Then, I wanted more food.
When dinner was over, we made our way to dance floor. As bodies moved to Whomp! (There it is), I snuck back into the dining room and started eating leftover food off strangers’ plates. If they’d left anything in their glasses, I downed that too. Furious consumption—there wasn’t enough food or drink in the world for me that night.
A waiter walked by—his arm over head with stacks of dirty dishes piled on a tray. “Can I have that tray?” I slurred. Confused, he set the tray down and disappeared through a swinging door. I grabbed half-eaten dinner rolls with globs of butter jammed in their centers. When he returned for the tray, the waiter asked, “May I get you a fresh plate?”
“No,” I said, vaguely aware that I’d gone feral. I was eating in public—in the middle of a party—the way I had only done in private before recovery 18 months ago.
My roommates found me—face smudged with gravy. “The cute cowboy is looking for you.” They urged me to the dance floor. “I’m too sick.” They didn’t know I was talking about my soul.
I woke up in my hotel room the next morning, physically ill and emotionally wrecked. I called my sponsor from the lobby payphone. “I don’t think alcohol works for me,” I conceded. The receiver dangled as I ran to the bathroom to throw up.
“Is this the bottom?”
“Pray that it is,” she answered.
Thank God it was.