31 Beers Old

Thirty one. What a weird number. Dirty one just doesn’t sound right. You had a whole year to foolishly justify your chaos and debauchery. Now, the ride is over, or is it starting? I’m not really too sure. I have a new born nephew, an amazing, borderline prodigal older brother, a beautiful sister in law, friends that have my back no matter what the cost, a wonderful relationship with my parents, and a girlfriend who supports every ounce of my fanatical obsession with coaching and playing soccer. I love my family dearly. As I embark on this next decade I feel I am a wiser man than most my age, I guess cause I did all the stupid shit long before my counterparts made themselves out to be a fool. I was pretty good at that, the acting a fool part that is.

Drinking and partying is a part of youth culture everywhere, well for sure here where I grew up in North County San Diego. I heard someone say the other day, most kids get to college and learn how to party, us graduates from Vista High got to college, well those that went, and it was nothing new, we were seasoned. I chuckled cause it was true. High school is where the next generations are molded into the people that they or may not be for the rest of their life. Our teenage Friday nights consisted of either going to a liquor store that would sometimes sell us alcohol, or finding the local homeless man, Freddy, to help us out. In times of desperation, beer runs. Which I have reason to believe we may have invented, seriously my *krew was fearless. A couple dudes would just walk into any local grocery store, sometimes grab a cart on their way in, which usually just slowed your escape, head right to the liquor department to grab a couple of thirty packs and a few bottles, then walk right out. Now of course that would be in the case that everything went as planned which never happened. Rent a cops, cops, store clerks, good Samaritans you name it, we got chased by all of them. Many times there were fallen soldiers left behind, and they went to court as a minor to hopefully get a slap on the wrist and some community service. But, I have to admit, I may have told a white lie here or there that I did participate in a beer run in my life, which I have not. I’m not that dumb. I did however, always help in getting rid of the evidence.

I have done it all. Booze of course, and the party stuff. Nothing hard, because we were all smart kids and just wanted to have some fun. Not find ourselves falling down the endless rabbit hole of oxy addiction that a couple of our friends fell into, and one found the bottom of. God bless his soul. Somehow we caught a breeze from our older siblings and whoever influenced them, that we liked this culture. Which is weird that I would think of them as “fun” nights when I recall all the ones where I blacked out, puked all over my buddy’s Mom’s car, slept in my car, or hacked up drool and spit all over the carpet at some random persons house. Yes, I know that sounds terrible. And yes, there have been many more than just those few in the last seventeen years. One of which happened about two weeks before my 31st birthday when I woke up laying face down on the cold cement in the alcove of a store front in downtown Encinitas, not a soul around, probably five in the morning with no phone and a three mile walk home. That was fun…. uh yeah?

It was just another episode for the audience of friends that I felt inclined to brag these badges of honor to. It’s like I just wanted to wow a homie with this amazing story of stupidity and irresponsibility, till he goes, “Damn man that’s crazy.” It hits close to home, it hit me, it’s hit my friends, I’m sure a ton of people have had those not so great nights. Those who have not, I applaud thee. They were the kids that you never saw at the party over the weekend. Or, you do see your cute geeky girl lab partner one random night and you are shit faced, which makes your following Monday class really awkward. These were the good kids, if you will, that just didn’t get influenced by that, or were raised more stringent by their parents, maybe sheltered more, I don’t know the answer. I’m sure some professor has come to a conclusion from some case study, but I just want to tell you what happened to me. What it took to finally open my eyes to what I was doing to myself and where I was going with my life. It took a lot of courage to separate myself from certain toxic friends, the party scene, and even coming to terms with my parents and asking them for help, because as much as I hated to admit it, I knew that I had a problem. I’m not in anyway glorifying the path I walked, in fact its more so just a testimony to my family and friends, the real ones, who love and support me even after all the bullshit. I want them to know what it took to get here.

So, as I mentioned, we started drinking early. Freshmen year of high school we were already getting drunk. Snagging beers or booze from our folks, buying it ourselves at particularly shady liquor stores around Vista, or stealing it directly from the grocery stores. Honestly there are far too many ridiculous stories I could tell you to help you understand my journey to finally opening my eyes to my life I was wasting away, but I will just share two particular stories that I feel were the most important as well the resolution of where my life is now. Story one being the beginning and story two being the climax.

  1. THE BEGINNING : I’ve always been a hard worker and have never had trouble finding a job. I started working for Costco at the age of 19. I worked in the early morning hours stocking the shelves in the milk cooler. I would usually be off by 10am and would head to class at the local community college afterwards. A couple years of this and finally after waiting and waiting, I finally turned 21, PARTY TIME! Now, having to work at 5am everyday and turning 21 don’t exactly go hand in hand. I was staying out at the bars till closing and driving straight to the Costco parking lot, only to sleep in my car for 2 or 3 hours till I had to start work. Multiple times I was told by my co-workers that I was friends with, that I wreaked of alcohol. One time, my dear friend “Mama” as we all referred to her as, literally had to hold me up while I puked all over the break room trash can, till she dragged me to the bathroom and help me wash up before any of the managers saw me. That was if I even made it to work, more often than not I would call in sick, or no call/no show because I would get so shit faced I wouldn’t even wake up until 11am, and basically sleep right through my shift. Anyway, a couple years of this and it caught up to me, I got suspended for having too many sick calls in a year. Most people get fired after they come back from suspension, but I wrote some bullshit heart felt letter to our store manager and she spared me, but I was walking on thin ice. I basically had to go three months without being late or calling in sick, if I could do that, all of my previous years sick calls would start falling off and I’d be in the clear. I made it one month. I’ll never forget that day, it was a Friday, I had to work that Saturday morning at 4:15am. A friend of mine called me and invited me to go to a punk rock show at a dive bar nearby. Far before FOMO was a thing, I had the worst case of it. So, I met my friends at our local watering hole, Q’s, saw all my favorite bartenders, who of course all knew as soon as they’d see me walk in that they would need a ton of creamers from the kitchen to concoct my very particular 90% vodka, 5% kahlua and 5% creamer White Russians, that of course we dubbed the Double Dude, in reverence of the one and only Jeffrey Lebowski. It had been a while since I’d been in and I had some catching up to do, at least that’s what I told myself. I slammed 7 of these pint glass sized Double Dude White Russians before blacking out, which came out to actually be 10 total after I went in to the bar the next day to close my tab and get my debit card back. I woke up Saturday morning in my room, at 1130am, slept right through my shift, no call, no show. Found out later that day that a friend of mine’s cousin actually drove me home from the bar, he had to fish out my keys from my pocket as well as my wallet so he could check my license for my address to take me home. Once we got to my house, he had to carry my dead weight body upstairs to my room and explain to my Mom on his way out that I had “a little” bit too much to drink that night. I was off of work that Sunday after but needless to say when I showed up for work that Monday I was sent straight home on suspension again and 3 days later I was terminated. I was an alcoholic.

After getting fired, I went to some AA meetings I guess in hopes of proving to myself that I wasn’t an alcoholic. By surrounding myself with people who were far more troubled than I was made me feel a little better about my situation. Pretty terrible way to think, but I didn’t know any better, I mean I was 23 years old and stubborn as a bull. I didn’t have a problem, crack heads had problems, I was just having a little fun. But, all of a sudden it was like my life was stuck in fast forward. Seven years of the same shit day in day out, go to work, go to school, get drunk and repeat. Now don’t get me wrong, I was a very functional alcoholic. I maintained my job and school, played soccer, had a seven year relationship during this time and did lots of cool stuff other than just party, but it definitely ate up years of my life that I can’t get back. Part of it was I guess that I didn’t recognize or admit that I was in a rut and I believe the other part of it was that the person closest to me at the time, my girlfriend, really didn’t give a shit. At the same time, those that cared about me the most had no clue what I was going through, probably because I was so good at painting a facade that I was happy and everything was grand. In reality, I was a tornado, spinning out of control, fearful of what was to come, but too afraid to stop, because I knew if I did, I would have to face the damages.

2. THE CLIMAX PART I : I was just out of a seven year relationship, one that ended after me proposing to a girl that may have said yes at first, but in the end months later didn’t want to be with me, at all, and we parted ways. Now at the time I didn’t believe this was a good thing, but I was tough, I was a man. It didn’t hurt my feelings, or at least that’s what I told myself. I covered up my pain for a few months with copious amounts of cocaine, endless bags of molly or ecstasy, waterfalls of liquor, oceans full of beer, and glass ships of champagne, all in an effort to tell myself that I was okay. After seven years I was single, I could do whatever I wanted with whoever I wanted, life was great…. or I thought it was…isn’t it…I guess? My 30th birthday rolled around which was exactly two weeks after my best friend’s at the time, and exactly one week after cinco de mayo, not to mention a couple of other friends May birthdays as well, it was always a wild time of the year, this year was no different. In fact I felt more obligated than ever based on the circumstances, to RAGE, as we would call it. We did our usual birthday shenanigans for my best friend, we’ll call him P, and we partied per usual in our ponchos and sombreros for cinco. Then it was my turn, we got a hotel room for the last ever Dive Pool Party at the Harrah’s Resort and Casino out past Valley Center. Essentially it was a want to be Vegas style pool party. Of course we pre-gamed up in the room with shots and mountains of blow, to prepare ourselves for game time of course. We got drinks. We drank. We got drunk. Then it was back to the room. Now I didn’t exactly have a room full of winners around me once we got there. Most were just mutual friends who wanted a room to crash so they could continue the party. Out comes the blow, it was like a blizzard in that room that day, shortly after that came the molly. For those that are unfamiliar, molly is slang for pure MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, except it’s supposedly more pure or whatever. Anyway, there was this Asian kid, we’ll call him V, who I only knew through the grapevine of friends, and he always had a bag full of pills whenever I saw him. I bought three molly pills from him that night and immediately popped one. An hour later I ate another. V then gave me another one shortly after that and said happy birthday, I ate it right then and there. Another hour or so passes and I eat my last one. Couple hours after that and V was leaving but of course as a token of his gratitude for letting him chill he gives me another, which I popped right into my mouth and chugged it down with a beer. Now for anyone who has or hasn’t ever taken molly, eating 5 pills in the span of 5 five hours is not a good idea, ever. Yes, it felt euphoric as fuck, especially with all of the lines of blow I was racking out the whole time, along with champagne, beers and shots of tequila. There was only two of my actual friends left, P and his roommate, we’ll call him Bugatti, and we raged like there was no tomorrow. In all honesty, I actually thought to myself quite a few times that night, that I didn’t care if there was or wasn’t a tomorrow for me, whether I woke up or not was a non issue, so I just kept partying. Nothing else mattered, probably because my mind was so spun out, I had no concept of life, my life, or my family’s lives, or me being a very special part of that, all that mattered was that we kept the party going.

Not sure what time that whole dirty thirty escapade lasted till but I’m sure we were up until sunset. Luckily, those damn hotels have those black out curtains which I’m sure were invented for degenerates like myself, and we were able to get maybe a couple hours of shut eye. I remember waking up and just seeing a shit storm of a hotel room. Broken bed, broken light fixture, broken chair, broken bathroom fixtures, broken trash bin, broken table, even the TV remote was shattered. Everything was broken, including my soul. Somehow I got suckered into driving my friend P and our friend’s car home that morning. A 30 minute drive felt like an eternity, this was the first time where I really asked myself, what the FUCK am I doing? But, that wasn’t important. Memorial day was coming up, and my other good friend’s birthday was that weekend, we we’re going to go wine tasting. It was going to be epic…right?

3. THE CLIMAX PART II : Memorial day weekend rolls around and somehow I made it through the two weeks of work leading up to it. Of course the residual anxiety from burning through a years worth of my brain’s serotonin in a night had me feeling a little glum to say the least. But, I was used to it, I was a pro, I took some foolish pride in being able to party so hard and live to tell the tale. It was just another badge of honor I could flaunt to my audience of losers. My friend’s birthday party, who actually is my best friend to this day we’ll call her K, was that Sunday. We were supposed to go wine tasting and then play it by ear after that. I thought this was a fitting occasion to bring my GoPro to snap some pics so I grabbed it on my way out and headed down to her house in Oceanside that Sunday afternoon. I met up with her and some of her other friends, all of whom I wasn’t well acquainted with, but were all super cool. We had some wine, cheese, and fruit while we waited for a few others until it was time to head off. I have to add that the whole time we were at the house I had a big bag of coke in my pocket that I of course was not sharing, not because I’m selfish but because I just didn’t know this crowd very well. So, I was dabbling here and there trying to be as stealth and as low key as possible. Anyway, we take an Uber to the winery which was a good 25 minute ride. At which time I decided it was a good idea to snap a pic in the uber with the GoPro and began to do so until I foolishly realized I forgot to put a memory card in it. Not a huge deal but stupid that I now had to carry this thing around all night. I was bummed when we got there though, because it was beautiful. A lush green hillside with the rows of vines decorating the slope, a big barn of a tasting room, and a cool little brick patio with tables and chairs for you to lounge and eat. Some families were picnicking on the grassy slope, feasting on conversation and sipping their wine as the sun fell asleep atop it’s lofty ocean pillow to the west. We were there for a quite a few hours and I guzzled down a few liters of wine to say the least. Closing time was upon us so we moved the party to the local Stone Brewery and continued the shit show. A few IPA’s there and numerous trips to the bathroom to snort blow off of the biggest key on my key chain in perfect synchronization with me flushing the toilet, to avoid any incriminated noises. Our patronage was short lived as we all realized we were way too hammered to be there, so we figured a more suitable environment would be fitting. Carlsbad. Most of our party went home but a few of us took an uber to the wonderfully divey establishment we all knew and loved, Mas Fina Cantina in downtown Carlsbad, also known as The Can. Always a plus for me since I worked there for a couple years so the discount was earned and the pours were heavy. I get there with the birthday girl and a couple other troopers who are still hanging in there, at this point everything should be a blur, but I’m barely holding on by the short bursts of soberness from the intermittent cocaine spikes. Few rounds here and we head to the sister bar of The Can, Compass. At this point, there was only two of us left, I’m on the border of blacking out at any moment and I’m sure the birthday girl already was. It’s close to midnight, place is jam packed but somehow we get two seats at the bar, and order a bottle of wine. Festive, I know, but hey it was K’s birthday. Couple sips of that first glass and I head to the bathroom. Walking, strolling, stumbling I’m sure to the beat of my own drum. The guys line was outrageous, so I just casually storm right by the few girls waiting as soon as the women’s single occupancy bathroom door opened. I literally pushed the girl out that was in there out and locked the door. I could hear the girls screaming at me, and pounding on the door, ready to kill me when I came out. I literally was laughing to myself as I pulled the remainder of my cocaine out of my pathetic pocket, and dumped the rest of it right onto the top of the toilet. I crushed it up, lined it up, flushed the bag, and snorted it, all of it. As soon as I walked out, this blonde chick immediately just started wailing on me, and I just casually kept walking, trying to get back to my friend, and seat at the bar. That was absolutely the last thing I remember from that night.

I woke up that next morning, in pain of course, and the first thing I thought was, “FUCK, where’s my GoPro?” It was gone, really not sure at what point in the night that disappeared but there was no tracking it down. I was optimistic that maybe it was at the Compass, last bar I remember being at. So, I strolled on down there the next morning, and no luck. But, hey since I’m here why not get a few bloody marys. Somehow I ended back at my friend P’s apartment to loiter my day away, in a deep puddle of my own remorse. I tried texting my ex, I guess hoping for some sort of comfort, which was met with basically, “You’re a fucking loser!” I agreed. Five hundred dollars literally pissed away to a night of nothingness. At this point I had already gotten more cocaine, for whatever idiotic reason, and I was sipping beers, smoking weed and snorting lines in some sick hope of curing myself. A bunch of friends were coming and going, per usual at this apartment, and late that afternoon as I lay on the couch this overwhelming feeling of uncontrollable pain, discomfort, and sadness took over every ounce of my body, mind and soul. I crawled, seriously crawled, crying my eyes out as I dragged myself across the floor to my friend’s bedroom and somehow made it up into his bed and under the covers. I have never cried so much and so uncontrollably in my life. Only to have my “best friend” P come in the room and say, “Dude, are you alright, do you want a line or something?” I fucking lost it on him, not even sure what I said I was in such a rage, not necessarily at him just at life.

4. THE RESOLUTION: Thank god for my real best friend, to this day, we’ll call her K, came into that room that day and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You need get yourself together, go home and tell your parents you need help, or I will?!” I never thought that that could ever be a solution to these sort of problems. But, she was right, I needed help with this and I couldn’t do it alone. People that I thought were my friends were just enabling me. They didn’t care, they’re song remained the same, they had no ambition in life. Nothing to lose, nothing to strive for. Why were we even friends, or why did I think they were anything close to even resembling a friend? So, I did just what K asked me too, I called my Dad and asked him to meet me at my Mom’s house. Called my Mom to make sure she was home, and said that I needed to talk to them. I went home that day not sure of what to expect from their reactions but unafraid of sharing with them, because I know what an awesome and supportive family I have. We sat down in my Mom’s living room, her, my Dad, and my step Dad listened as I spilled the beans. Down to every last hit, line, bump, drink, and detail, everything. When it was all said and done, we decided it was best to seek help from the employee assistance program through my work. I mean why not, it’s free, and that’s what it’s there for. So, I did. Best decision I ever made.

5. THE PRESENT: Today is my 32nd birthday, and what a roller coaster it was to get here from 30. I had some really “high” highs and some rock bottom lows. But, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. It took some time but I got rid of the most toxic people in my life, which was hard since some of them I had known since middle school. I also realized who my true friends were, especially the one that picked me up off that floor in that dingy apartment that day, Karley, I love you, you seriously are an angel to me and my best friend in this life. I am forever indebted to you and will always be there for you as you have been for me. I quit a job last year, after 7 years of employment. A risk, a leap out of the comfort zone, but I didn’t care I wasn’t happy. After a few months at a cool, but financially insufficient job I stumbled across my current job. Soccer Shots. I literally get to wake up everyday and play soccer with kids all over San Diego, impacting children’s lives in a positive way, giving them a role model to look up to, maybe like someone I needed when I was a kid. All of which has pushed me feet first into chasing my dream of becoming an educator, a path I’ve already begun to walk. Lastly, and most important, my girlfriend Janiece, my “twin soul”. The events leading up to us meeting and eventually falling in love may not have been story book, but it’s our story. Your love and support has given me so much strength, purpose, and drive to pursue and achieve my dreams. Your constant efforts to be a part of my crazy, on the go, all the time lifestyle brings so much happiness and warmth to my heart. You are everything that keeps my soul happy and my mind focused. Everything happened for a reason and it was written to play out exactly as it did. Thank you, I love you beyond words, I love you unconditionally, I will love you till the last beat of my heart. So, today, I am 32, and I have never felt so alive. My mind is healthy and my body is in tune as well. As I embark on my day, I have no regrets about what it took to get here. Everything has shaped and molded me into the man I am right here, right now. My character and integrity was built upon everything from my past, like layers of concentric circles just continuously compounding over the previous until finally, it resembled, somewhat of a masterpiece. But, this piece of art will never be finished, I will continue to grow and paint over parts of my life that I can improve upon. I’ll make sure to always keep the bristles of my paintbrush wet.