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[ Personal Narratives ]

How Did It Come To This?

Part I: Graduation

If You Introduce Alcohol In The First Act…

Let’s say I started drinking when I was 17. That’s different from when I had my first drink. Or when I first got drunk. Or any number of other alcohol-related firsts. It’s when I became a drinker, someone who drinks, someone whose personality both internally and externally began to be inextricably linked to alcohol.

Whatever other factors may have contributed to being relatively abstinent (from everything mind you) during my junior high and high school years I would say the main factor was I was essentially a “good kid” and a bit of an introverted, socially anxious nerd (for all intents and purposes I still am.) Sure, I had a few beers, I got so sick splitting a bottle (a fifth? a pint? I can’t remember) of some knock-off JD analog with a friend that I swore I’d never drink again, I’d been party to the stealthy replacement of vodka with water in a friend’s parent’s bottle of vodka (“They never drink it.”,) I’d smoked the odd cigarette, I’d even had more than a few tokes on joints here and there over the course of those six years. But I wasn’t a drinker per se.

It was literally the day I graduated—well, okay, not literally… it was the night I graduated, that my drinking (and drugging for that matter) career began in earnest. I had graduated as Salutatorian, I had been accepted to a “West Coast Ivy”, I was… what? Free? A Man? I don’t know. I do know I felt like I had somehow fulfilled whatever obligations I felt I had to myself and my parents (another story for another time) and was free to do what I wanted to do as opposed to what I had to do. I know that that evening at the graduation party I drank copious amounts of keg beer and partook eagerly of the marijuana available. It was on! I would not stop to do any meaningful reflection on my drinking, or myself in general for that matter, for the next thirteen years.

Part II: Freshman

Fluids, Bodily and Otherwise —or— Blood, Booze and Butane

I went to college. Left to my own devices, however, I did not go to school. That is, I basically stopped going to class sometime around… whenever. This was the year that provided the catalyst, the spark, for the infernal combustion engine that was my alcoholism.

Within my first week at school I had, in no particular order: Somehow acquired four cases of beer with my roommate which we proceeded to sell out of our little dorm room fridge, become falling down drunk at least twice, and smoked more weed than I had up until that point.

Within my first month I’d done cocaine for the first (and second and fifth) time.

By the first break I’m pretty sure I’d done one of the following: drunkenly punched something (a plate glass window, a wall, the steel underside of the bunk above,) cutting my knuckles so deeply that they required stitches (this would happen at least twice during my first year at university;) held a bong building contest, instituted a the “red light in the window” to let people know that there was a party (beer, weed, coke in some combination) to be had in our room.

By the end of the year… well…

Fueled one late night by alcohol, mescaline (if memory serves me) and likely cocaine, some of us decided it would be a good idea to use a bottle of lighter fluid we had (because of course we did) to “draw” lines of fire across the street in front of the odd car (at that time of night,) around the sidewalks of the dorm courtyard, and finally, and most egregiously, zig-zag flames up and down the dorm’s back concrete steps over which decades-old bamboo formed an arch. I think the bamboo’s gone. Off-campus police, the Dean, and, it was rumored, the FBI for a bit before anyone had fingered the perps all got involved in hustling most of us off the illustrious school’s stage in one way or another. I had been party to what the Dean called (privately in his office to a few of us miscreants) “The Worst Act of Vandalism Ever Perpetrated On Campus.”

Over the next eight years or so I attended four more well-regarded institutions of higher learning in that time not accruing enough credits for one complete year.


Not As I Did

There always come a point when sharing my story that I’m overcome with the sense that I seem to be glamorizing the behaviors I’m recounting. Or worse that I’m telling my tale a bit too wistfully. While I hold few, if any regrets, I neither celebrate nor condemn nor do I long for or disavow these periods of my life. I embrace them as a part of me. But, make no mistake, my alcoholism and drug use led me down some very shady paths doing very stupid things. I’m not the type to wish I could do anything over again but given the chance to be an observer of an alternate sober history, I think I might.

Part III: Sophomoric

And All The Fish Get Drowned.

Between 1984 and 1997 I’d attended all the aforementioned five schools, I’d been a Jack-of-Few-Trades-Master-of-Fewer and I’d bounced around a just a bit: from Palo Alto to Olympia to Palo Alto to Olympia to (very briefly) Europe to St. Louis to Seattle to St. Louis to Olympia to St. Louis to Paris to St. Louis to Chicago to Houston to St. Louis. I think that if you wanted to call it “running,” “hiding” or both I’d be hard pressed to disagree with you. Of course, my alcoholism and drug use came with me and they easily evolved and adapted to my varied circumstances and fortunes over the years. But this telling isn’t so much about the middle as the beginning and the end.


A (Possibly Incomplete) Chronology of The Pharmacology, 1984-1996

Alcohol, 84-97; Marijuana, 84-85, 95; Cocaine, 85, 88-97; Hash, 85; Mushrooms, 85; Mescaline 85; Acid 88-92; Ecstasy, 88-97; Freebase, 90-91.

Story continued @ KLĒN + SŌBR


Chris Aguirre / Founder: The KLĒN + SŌBR Project & The Since Right Now Podcast

Recovery Renegade™ / 9.1.97 /// Shunning stereotypes & shattering stigma of being in recovery from alcoholism & addiction.