Going into the Drink

STORY BY: GIOVANNI CARDENAS

PHOTO BY: TRANG LE 

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The first time I got drunk in front of my parents was during my 24th birthday. I couldn’t sit down and enjoy the cheeseburger my dad made me as someone called me over to take a shot. The bottle of Jameson I bought earlier that day was finished within an hour, and friends started giving me different kinds of alcohol. I don’t remember how many shots I ended up taking, but I do remember my cheeseburger had gone cold. I was drunk before midnight.

I recall my co-workers leaving, and began to get sentimental about how we endured working at a warehouse for so long, and cried. A few of my friends laughed and I was embarrassed. I never thought I would be that guy getting all mushy in front of others. I also felt terrible, and not only due to the fact that I ended up dry heaving in the bathroom while my girlfriend attempted to comfort me. No, it was because my mom freaked out and ended up in tears watching me go head-to-head with a toilet. Even though I’ve been in this situation before, I think my lies created the illusion of a “choir boy” persona. I always wanted my parents to think that I was a good kid, so I made them believe that I never got into alcohol or drugs.

Alcohol has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching my father with a tall can in his hand almost every day. Drinking can be an enjoyable experience, but I cannot fully enjoy it with my parents around. My mother is religious, conservative and over-protective. I remember my mom smacked me with a t-shirt when I was 14 because she saw a photo on my MySpace page kissing my then-girlfriend. My mother still hates seeing my dad drink. When it finally came time to drink in front of her, I felt nervous. I knew she wouldn’t like it and I felt odd, because I could finally drink without lying. My parents never spoke to me about alcohol or drugs — all they did was tell me to stay away from them. I wanted to rebel, so when I was 13 I had my first beer, a Bud Light, at my first house party.

Teens have their first taste of alcohol as early as age 14, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. People between the ages of 12-20 consume 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. Although the youth consume less alcohol than adults, they drink more.

When my parents asked me where I was going at night, I would tell them I was hanging with friends, but never mentioned what I was doing. Lying to them only made the guilt worse; I knew they would be disappointed in me. As a result, all I ever knew was drinking.

Every weekend I would text my friends something like, “What’s good for tonight?” Meaning: where and how are we going to get fucked up? Some nights were fun and memorable, but other times I would drink to fill a void. I wanted people to believe I didn’t have any problems. I had absolutely no confidence in myself and I never thought I’d be able to achieve anything. Ninety percent of alcohol is consumed by teens through binge drinking, which became routine for me. Comparing myself to my peers made me discouraged as I watched them head off to college. My insecurities added to my bad drinking habits. I was afraid to tell my friends about my dreams and goals because I felt I would be ridiculed. I dreamed of being in the movie industry either as an actor or cinematographer, but I was so insecure that it didn’t matter.

My excessive drinking turned me into someone I didn’t like. I became sarcastic to the point where everything that came out of my mouth was either from a movie or a joke. I used to be someone my friends could talk to, but soon I couldn’t hang out with my friends without drinking and it prevented me from connecting with them.

My drinking habits were influenced by people I saw often. I grew up around some people who had no drive to better themselves. All we knew was going out, drinking excessively and bragging about it the next day. It wasn’t until I worked graveyard shift at an Amazon warehouse that I realized going out all the time did nothing for me. I drank a part of my life away and it pissed me off. I decided to take control of my life and focused on school, something I hadn’t done since middle school. I was in my second year of community college and started attending full-time until I graduated in 2016.

It sounds like I’m making excuses, but I know I’m the one responsible. I relied on other people’s opinions so much when it only should have mattered how I felt.

The morning after my birthday was brutal. I woke up in clothes from the night before, and heard my parents in the kitchen cooking breakfast. I was so hungover I could barely eat, let alone get myself out of bed. What made matters worse was hearing what my parents had to say about my drunkenness.

My dad was cool about the whole thing. He noticed I couldn’t eat the eggs he made, so he microwaved ramen noodles for me. Surprisingly, my mom wasn’t mad or upset, but she was so sad. She told me how shocked she was to see me so drunk and was scared when she heard me dry-heaving. She even kicked my girlfriend out of the bathroom and told her, “He doesn’t need to throw up, he just needs to lay down!” I don’t remember that happening.

This year I’ve been staying with my sister and brother-in-law in San Pedro while I go to school. The first thing that stood out to me was that they each enjoy a cocktail on a weekday while cooking, cleaning or watching television. They choose to drink because they enjoyed their beverages, a type of drinking I was never exposed to at home. Now that I know I can have a drink when I please, my need for alcohol has dropped and I’ve never felt happier. I can finally enjoy a drink without being pressured to get drunk and the burden of upsetting my parents.

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