The summer in between high school and college, I took some of the hardest drugs a person can put into their system. The drugs made me puke, made me tired, wreaked havoc on my Crohn’s, and made my hair fall out. When I arrived at Boston College, I looked like a pale, bloated, bald junkie with needle holes and bruises up both of my arms. Although I was able to keep a positive attitude throughout my treatment, arriving at college in this condition made me more aware of the negative emotions I had been suppressing that summer.
After a semester of staying and letting my body physically recover from my cancer treatment, I decided to go to my first BC party second semester of my freshman year. I had never had alcohol, but figured if my body handled the toxicity of VP 16, carboplatin, and bleomycin; it could handle some drinks. When I felt that warm buzz after forcing those first few beers down, I pulled a Barney and asked the beer, “Where have you been all of my life?” I liked the feeling, and felt ready to unleash the sadness and anger I felt from being the only freshman I knew just coming off of a battle with cancer (Facebook and Twitter might have helped me connect with others, had it existed at the time).
My drinking continued that second half of freshman year, and I mostly limited my consumption to the weekends. A few times, after coming back from a party, I would take a chair (placed by the entrance of the hall to be used by a person checking visitors in); chuck it down the stairwell – smashing it into pieces. Drinking made me mad, sad, and violent. When I was drunk, I didn’t care about anyone else and I didn’t think of the consequences of my actions. I just wanted that feeling, and I challenged myself to be able to handle as much alcohol as I could.
When second semester of sophomore year rolled around, my drinking had escalated. And to add fuel to my cancer-anger fire, one of my high school classmates was diagnosed with leukemia. I went to visit him in the hospital and told him how staying positive and trying to laugh every day by watching something funny helped me when I was in treatment.
Now before even going to a party, I would drink shots of vodka and chase them with a bottle of Veryfine fruit punch. I then filled ½ of the fruit punch bottle with vodka, drank that, and then went to a party. I was still mostly drinking on the weekends (my way of telling myself it wasn’t a problem), but it became my #1 weekend priority. It was worrying my roommate and friends, but I didn’t care.
I continued not caring so much, that I got to the point that I drank so much I didn’t care if I lived or died. I wasn’t happy, and alcohol intensified that and helped me convince myself that my life was hopeless. As one of the doctors told me when I was checking into McLean’s: “Well, that sounds like a recipe to get you here.”
Even though it embarrassed me when doctors placed me at McLean, I know now that it was the right place for me. Like my cancer, it was a reminder that no matter what challenge I may face, my family is there to help me through it. So even though I wasn’t ready to stop drinking, I did what I had to get myself back to school. I promised my family and the kind doctors at McLean’s that I would start addressing the issues that alcohol was obviously not making better. I was still far away from letting my cancer anger go, but it was a step.
Here are some of the notes from my discharge summary. Thanks again to everyone at McLean’s who helped me and my family and friends for supporting me through this time of my life.