At 15 I was the funniest person in my class. The funniest looking. You’ve seen me in your school. I’m the one with the oversized glasses, the stringy hair, and the plaid pants.
I had a self-esteem problem so big that you could walk up and talk to it. “We” took up two seats on the bus. At least that’s what I figured, since no one ever sat with us, much less talked to us.
Then I found the formula for success, popularity, and beauty—booze!
I had been drinking on “social” occasions since I was about 8 years old. My sisters hated the stuff (now you know who got all the brains in the family), so they let me drink theirs too.
The more I drank, the more I realized that I was really an interesting person. When I drank I was hilarious, popular, and, of course, stunningly beautiful. I had more friends than ever before. They laughed with me and not at me.
It was a wonderful change. At least it seemed like it at the time.
Then there was this party my friend Rochelle invited me to. You know the kind, where the other kids are all older, and beer flows like Niagara Falls.
I drank and drank. Little things in my stomach started waxing their surfboards. Some of Rochelle’s friends got the bright idea of throwing me into the pool—fully dressed. I swore and swore and swore. Loudly.
Rochelle came out of the house, where she had been talking with Kim, the girl who was giving the party, and took me aside. I stared at her owlishly, trying to focus. She told me in a hushed whisper that Kim’s mother had asked about the girl who was so “loud and obnoxious.”
Not me, I thought. Of course not, silly, my pickled brain agreed.
Rochelle asked me to be a little quieter so Kim’s mom wouldn’t kick us out. Suddenly shame and humiliation washed over me. I saw exactly what I was like when I was drunk. I was loud and obnoxious, and now I was soaked to the skin, my teeth chattering.
I promised Rochelle that I wouldn’t say another word. Then I crawled off by myself to dry. Meanwhile I got a lot of thinking done. How could I have been so blind? Alcohol had seemed like such a great solution at first. But all I had managed to do was mask my problems.
What it all boiled down to was that I didn’t like me. Drinking (and this is true of all drugs) made me feel more accepted. I wasn’t, but it made me feel as though I was. And all the while it was destroying brain cells. Even today I’m pretty sure there are signs in my head that say “vacancy.”
The harder I tried to stop drinking alcohol, the more I wished I had never started. With the help of my pastor, parents, and supportive friends, little by little I realized that my body was a temple of the Holy Spirit, and that if I wanted Him to live there, I was going to have to keep it clean.
Eventually there came a day that I took my last drink. I like to think of it as the day I put down my crutches and started walking on my own.
I did a lot of changing that year. I started concentrating on my good points. Once I took my mind off my bad points, I forgot about them. I was more comfortable talking to other people. And when I helped them out, I completely forgot about myself.
Once I started to accept myself the way I was, I could accept other people the way they were. From there it was a lot easier to do what it says in the Bible in a book called Leviticus: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”*