The first time I got drunk was my third year of college. Pretty good considering I’d started drinking even before my teens, playing spin the bottle with sugary wine coolers—Seagram’s Tahitian Sunset—kiddie alcohol.
But by the time I finished freshman year of college, I’d built up a fierce tolerance to mixed drinks and straight alcohol. So much so that the bragging rights came spewing. “I can drink you under the table,” I’d challenge to anyone who’d listen. I meant it, too. Bright-eyed and mentally-capable, I could spend the night drinking, then split open a textbook on molecular science for an hour of late night reading. I considered that light reading, lighter than a Shakespeare comedy. The periodic table I got, iambic pentameter—not so much.
All that changed the night we walked up toward the Berkeley hills to a fraternity party. Friends from the dorm days had rushed, joined, and were now part of a good group of guys who welcomed old and new friends into their home. They threw festive parties with bars setup in rooms all over the house with hip hop echoing from boom boxes and more alcohol changing hands than a week of transactions at your local BevMo.
It was Goldschlager night. The drinking games had already commenced by the time we arrived. I muscled my way into the action and warmed up with a shot. The volume of alcohol I consumed always caused concern, which I dismissed. “I don’t get drunk.” Wuh? “I said, I don’t get drunk!”
The guys must have thought, who is this Napoleonette?
The night deteriorated into a frenzy of shots. I found it laughable how much more I could stock away in my 100 pound frame than these burly men. I felt invincible and proud. Gawd, I just don’t get drunk do I? I must have had exactly 10 shots give or take a couple.
Back at home, in my jammies, I fluffed up my pillow and lay down for a restful sleep.
My eyes opened immediately. Why is everything spinning? I felt sick sitting in bed. I ran to the bathroom where I spent the rest of the night, cheek pressed against the cool toilet seat. Please God, make it stop. I promise I won’t ever drink again. The mental bragging rights came crumbling as I spewed obscenities in-between puke.
Until now I thought it was the alcohol, but really hubris had been the problem all along. That’s a sobering insight learned 15 years later. I should have stayed focused on Shakespeare and Greek tragedies instead of mucking around with those damn chemical reactions.