It was in the summer of 2010 that the sparkly joy of the party turned to into something far less sparkly for me. Sometime in the throes of a midsummer bliss the carefree glitter of the party dissipated into the humid air and was suddenly replaced by a dismal-looking cloud so heavy in energetic dread and so utterly dark in appearance, I was certain I would never be able to crawl through it.
I was f*cked. Worse than f*cked. I was stuck.
I didn’t realize that curled up at the bottom of that seemingly endless bottle of booze, lived a wildly depressed girl. And, guess what? That wildly depressed girl was me. I didn’t know it at the time. I wasn’t one of those Upper West Side girls, who grew up with weekly shrink appointments, who came out of the womb hip to the elusive symptoms of mental illness. I wasn’t privy to the vocabulary that might’ve helped me identify what this homesick feeling of pending doom — this heavy feeling that followed me around like a distorted shadow everywhere I went — actually was.
So I partied until the shadow was far too blurry for me to even notice it was there.
And by partying, I don’t mean simply thrusting my body around a shimmery dance floor whilst clad in a sequin-scaled dress, basking in the gorgeous bloom of my gorgeous youth! By “partying” I mean taking shots of vodka alone in a dirty pub, adorned in a torn dress bedazzled with a scattering of inexplicable stains. By “partying” I mean spending night after night shoved inside the dirtiest bathroom stalls of the prettiest nightclubs in all of New York, with other damaged girls whose faces I could never place and names I could never remember.
By “partying” I mean I was slurping back so much booze, at such a rapid-fire speed, that my body couldn’t keep pace, and the lights inside my brain would abruptly turn off in defeat, and wouldn’t come back on again until the following morning, where I would be forced to face my disgraced reflection in the dirty mirror of some stranger’s apartment.
There was, however, a time when “partying” had been as simple and as delightful as merely dancing. When the term “party girl” wasn’t a polite way of saying “traumatized with a side of champagne and a designer clutch full of personality pills.”
When I was a kid I always idolized the party girls. They didn’t seem to give a flying f*ck about toning down their natural brightness in order to fit into some beige, preppy image of what a nice girl is supposed to look like. There was something inherently feminist about the girls who drank booze with a reckless abandon. They didn’t hold back. They had big opinions that they fearlessly expressed, they slugged back the beer with the bad boys, they were loud and proud, and sexually liberated! Most enticingly: they weren’t afraid to have fun.
And I’ve always been the kind of girl who chases fun. So I became a key-holder of fun. I became a bonafide party girl.
And in the adolescence of my party girl days, drinking was part of the fun, for sure. However, it wasn’t really the buzzed-feeling of alcohol itself, so much as the ritual of it all. It was the thrill of getting into the bar with the shitty fake ID I had haphazardly scored in a shady part of town. My heart would race outside of its chest as I flashed that faux piece of plastic to the no-nonsense bouncer who would eye it like a hawk, for what felt like forever, until he grudgingly shooed me inside. Breaking the rules, breaking the law, getting away with it — these were fabulous highs I couldn’t get enough of. All that intoxicating adrenalin swishing through my young veins made me more confident than the best cocaine in all of the land! I would freely chat with anyone I deemed interesting, the armor of my newfound rebellion quelling any semblance of social anxiety that dared to creep its way into my orbit. Sometimes I clutched a glass of champagne between my fingertips as a cute prop, but that was it.
Eventually, I turned 21 and my drug of choice (getting into bars underage) was no longer on the market. Instead of merely clutching that slender flute of champagne, I began to dabble in the art of drinking it. Really drinking it. After a few months, I began to enjoy the feeling of beautiful bubbles sifting down the contents of my tired 21-year-old throat. It gave me a buzz similar to the buzz I had experienced when I was sneaking around underage, except it was a little hazier. The chemical buzz is never as in control, it’s never as crystal clear, as the buzz that is derived through pure thrill. No one (as far as I know) has ever made a life-ruining decision when hopped up on the adrenalin of a curtain call — if you catch my drift.
Even though drinking was a vastly different high than the high of innocent mischief I had so adored, I still drank with the firm intention of chasing the fun. And a champagne buzz is fun. For awhile. But eventually, those pretty little bubbles POPPED.
It all shifted slowly that I can’t put my finger on the exact moment I realized drinking was no longer about the glitter and the giggles and the bliss, but about running from something I didn’t understand.
I had tried not to notice that while my friends slowly sipped back their delicate happy hour wines, I vivaciously slurped mine down, overcome with a feverish panic of it being taken away (and if it was taken away, I would surely die). I laughed along as my friends provided me with embarrassing recaps of my Saturday night antics, pretending I totally remembered that I had cried black mascara tears in front of everyone at the party! I pretended I wasn’t mortified and floored by this jarring reality, I pretended it was nothing but drunken silliness. I pretended I didn’t notice the “judgemental” looks of concern sprawled across the faces of my peers when I laughed a little too loudly, in that desperate, unpredictable, inebriated way that could (and often did) turn into hysterical sobs of sadness at any given moment.
I tuned-out the embarrassing memories that flashed across my brain, like strobe lights, during the painfully sober daylight hours, by working nonstop. When the sky turned black and the office closed its fateful doors, I drank before the shame had a chance to haunt my conscious mind.
Maybe it was the night that I suddenly regained consciousness, in the middle of a blackout and found myself chewing on the birthday candle that I had plucked off the cake of a supermodel, who was innocently celebrating her 24th birthday. Yes, I was chewing on a model’s birthday candle. If that’s not dark, I don’t know what is.
“Are you eating that girl’s birthday candle?” A too-cool-for-school DJ asked me, his eyes ravenous for a scandal to take space in his vacant brain. “NO!” I shouted, feeling the sting of tears penetrate my eyes, as I catapulted out of my blackout. Why did I feel compelled to eat the supermodel’s birthday candle? I don’t know. Maybe I was hungry. My life had been a series of crash-diets since I was fourteen, and you know, a girl eventually has to eat, babe.
Or maybe I noticed the party had rendered itself a dark and glitter-less experience, the first time I woke up with the unshakeable feeling that something BAD had happened the night before. Maybe it was the second or third time that happened. It’s hard to say.
All I know is that sometime in the great summer of 2010, I realized I was no longer drinking to have a grand ole’ time. I was drinking because I was lonely.
Not the kind of lonely that is relieved by a warm body cuddled up against your own warm body, the all-consuming kind of loneliness that can’t be remedied by the presence of another person because the disconnect you feel isn’t a disconnect from humanity, it’s a disconnect from yourself.
I was homesick for the girl I had once been. And the booze and the drugs, at first, threw a blanket over the soul-shattering feeling of incessant emptiness. But the blanket was cheap and wearing thinner and thinner by the night, and it wasn’t long before it was full of gaping holes. And my depression was seeping through those holes, bleeding into the pretty illusion of the party, exposing my drunkenness as the giant mess it (perhaps) had always been.
One night when drinking my way through the sadness, I was struck with a strange moment of clarity. “You have two choices” a bizarro version of myself, I had never come across, sing-songed into my ear. Through my mind’s eye, I saw her gaze at me as she continued. “Get help. Or die.” I hadn’t seen my eyes twinkle like that since I was a teenager. “WAIT!” I shouted back at her. But she had already disappeared.
I knew I had to listen to the fleeting, inner-wise woman that lived somewhere inside of me if I wanted to survive. I knew I didn’t want to die. I knew in the deepest pit of my gut that I was supposed to do something extraordinary with my life. And this wasn’t it.
The next morning I stared at the cracks in the ceiling of my studio and made the most important phone call of my life. I called a therapist I had found on the internet.
I almost chickened out. I almost shrank deeper into myself, because I was afraid to call her, afraid to neglect the self-destructive coping mechanisms that I had I relied on for so long. They weren’t working, but we were in a co-dependent relationship, my addictions and I. Even though they taunted me, hurt me, and threatened to ruin all that was beautiful in my world, I loved them. After all, I had spent more time with them in the past few years than I had with my friends, my job, my family. But despite the fear of leaving my toxic wasteland of a comfort zone, I did it anyway. And I thank my higher power (Lana Del Rey) every day of my life that I persevered through the temporary discomfort and made my way to the other side.
The phone call the first step in the great process of turning my life around. Was the process easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes. F*ck yes.
Imagine that you’re living in a rain-streaked island full of squalor and pain and dirt and dread. And off into the distance, you see this peaceful, sun-soaked island, that’s teeming with joy and authenticity and love. But in order to get to that place you’ve got to trudge through the muddy swamp that separates the two sides. It will be difficult. You’re going to get dirty AF. You might even want to give up.
But you don’t give up. And before you know it, you’ve crossed over to the beautiful, sunny side of life! And while it’s not perfect over here, its baseline is built on the steady foundation of real love. You don’t fear falling into the quicksand and never emerging again, like you constantly did before you got here. In fact, you don’t ever feel homesick over here. It’s home.
I have news for you, that safe place isn’t an illusion lingering in the proverbial mist. It’s you. And the only way to get to back to you, is by confronting yourself. All of yourself.
But you don’t have to do it alone. You have to make the choice to crawl through the beautifully-complicated, stubborn-as-hell mud, but you can also ask for a helping hand along the way. You can lean on amazing people who will lift you and guide you as embark on the life-changing journey back to yourself. You’re not as alone as you think.
So, what are you waiting for, babes? (Message me if you need support!)