I once caught an episode of the Today show in college. They had on Jamie Lynn Sigler who played on the Sopranos. I wasn’t really paying attention because I never watched her show, but she wasn’t there to talk about that. She was there to talk about her exercise bulimia.
It was like a light bulb went off in my head and my brain exploded in light. That’s what I had. That’s what I had been dealing with for so many years, and I never even knew it had a name.
I never even knew it was really a problem.
College was hard for me. Not the grades. Just the social aspect.
I had a 4.0 in the honors college, and I remember rolling the thought around like a lozenge in my mouth whenever I started to feel too hedged in. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t popular or barely had any friends in my sorority (all because of my own doing, thank you very much). The sole reason I had been asked to join anyway was because of my GPA since their collective score was tanking, and they needed all the help they could get.
Even from the likes of me.
I wasn’t fair to them. I know that now. I think of all the missed opportunities to sit and talk with people. To get to know them and lead them away from the darkness. But how can you lead someone away when you live there yourself?
The blind leading the blind.
I would get so drunk on Saturday nights, sometimes close to blackout. I remember walking down sidewalks, enjoying the cool breeze on my face, anyone liable to snatch me up and take me away without me hardly noticing. For all of my anxiety during the day—my watchful eyes on anyone in case they made one wrong move—drunk Ericka was quite the opposite.
And maybe that’s why I liked her so much.
Drinking curbed my anxiety. It of course causes a plethora of other problems like bad skin and weight gain (not to mention the moral and ethical degradation of one’s soul when it becomes a god to you). And that’s what it was, my god.
It was my savior.
When I’d drink too much, I’d eat too much the next day. A whole large supreme pizza just for myself.
I’d eat it in the dining room of our sorority house where nobody would be on a Sunday. Some might have been at church, others with boyfriends.
But I didn’t care. I had a whole pizza to eat and then a day at the gym to punish myself for it.
As a Gender Studies minor (Creative Writing major), I was pretty perturbed that it was officially the 21st century now and frats could invite us sorority girls over to party, but we weren’t allowed to do the same. So I took the initiative to devise a secret party with my roommate when our house mother was out of town.
We, of course, got caught the next day. And when I was questioned by our house mother and a few alumane who I suppose gathered for these kinds of situations, I was asked about the party, and I point blank told them that yes, I did know about it because I was the one who had come up with the idea.
They didn’t kick me out because I was the only one who was honest with them. For all my problems, I couldn’t stand a liar. Oh, the irony.
I was still punished, however. They took away my drinking privileges at all sorority functions.
I thanked them for their time and then went to visit our President to tell her I was quitting.
I’d rather leave a semester before graduation than have to quit drinking.
When I talk to God, I ask Him why He spared me. I could have died so many times because truthfully, I’ve only given you a quick glimpse of what this particular season of life was like for me. It was so dark, and I seemed to crave its darkness.
I was drinking the poison, thinking it was the cure.
He never answers me, but then that’s not correct. I actually suppose He does. In the way my husband loves me unconditionally and my daughter is growing and thriving at her new school. In the way I can still write these words even though you’d think all that alcohol would have dumbed me down by now. In the way I’m healthy and can move and breathe and bring in this new upside-down kingdom that has nothing to do with placating our fears with evil but giving those fears over to a good, good God.
In the way He counts my heartbeats.