A Woman With An Addiction Spirals Out At A Friend’s Wedding


It started with an open bar… and good intentions.

When I slipped into my floral A-line dress for a wedding, I never imagined the night would unfold quite like it did. Playing back the night, I think my biggest mistake was the presumption that the hosted bar was limited to the cocktail hour. My need to down as many alcoholic drinks as possible in 60 minutes was insatiable. Did other people respond to open bars like this? Scared that they’ll come to an end before their straight. Eventually I discovered the free booze continued throughout the evening. It was somewhere between the thirteenth and eighteenth drink when the night really veered off course.

My former San Diego State classmates and I thought it would be wise to keep the party going on Garnett Ave, a strip of beach bars we used to frequent. When we arrived at our old haunt, I promptly wandered off from my friends with a guy I had met at the wedding.

Stumbling and slurring about in front of The Tavern Bar & Grill, the bouncer declared that I was too drunk to enter the establishment. I disagreed with his assessment of my condition and tried to sneak in any way. He kicked me out. After numerous attempts, he finally warned, “Miss, if you don’t leave I’m going to call the police.”

I continued to stumble around a bit more.

“Miss, do you want me to call the cops?” He warned again.

I thought, how exciting, and shouted, “Yes, call them!”

Wouldn’t you know it, but just then a patrolling officer happened to drive by.

Moseying over, the cop repeated the bouncer’s line of questions, “Miss, do you want me to take you to the station?”

“Yes, take me!” I repeated, with even more enthusiasm.

“Are you sure?” He tempted.

“Yep!” I had never been surer.

Handcuffed and headed to jail…

The officer sighed, slowly cuffed me and led me to his patrol car. My partner in crime, the guy from the wedding, offered a weak plea for my freedom, which was ignored. Eager to see the inside of my very first cop car, I hopped into the back seat. Expecting to feel a plush interior under my derriere, I was surprised when I bounced up and hit my head.

“Ow!” I cried, “Who stole the cushions?”

The officer guffawed, “Never had any. That way when drunks, like you, puke up your brains, we can just hose it out.”

“Oh.” I mumbled.

Sitting behind my first set of bars, my fascination with spending time in the slammer quickly started to fade. Maybe this wasn’t an experience for the bucket list after all. I decided it was time to lay on the charm. I leaned up against the bars and whispered, “I was just kidding, I don’t want to go to the station. How about we just pretend you’re a cab and drop me off at my friend’s house?”

The officer said nothing and continued to the precinct.

Upon arriving at the police station I was handed off to a guard who led me down a hall to a back area where a big blue matt covered most of the floor space.

“Now, just lay down here and sleep it off,” the female guard ordered.

I probably would have done as I was told, had I not been at my peak drunkenness and had the blue matt not reminded me of my days in elementary school gymnastics. Instead of resting, I began doing cartwheels, handstands and part of an old competition routine. The guard didn’t seem impressed by my athleticism and would have happily ignored my antics, had I not leapt when the telephone phone rang, and answered, “Jail! How may I direct your call?”

I was then transferred to the women’s jail.

“Send her to Santee!” The guard barked to my arresting officer.

‘Santee,’ I learned, is short for Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee, California – the exclusive women’s jail in San Diego County. The cuffs were slapped back on and I was reunited with the cushion-less back seat.

“Wait, where are you taking me?” I cried. “You can’t do this to me! Don’t you know who I am? I’m a nice girl from Orange County!” My fun drunk persona, which my girl friends dubbed ‘Chi Chi,’ was wearing thin, meaning only one thing—my mean drunk personality ‘Helga’ was on her way out. Helga was the hell-raising counterpart to Chi Chi’s fun loving cartwheeling.

Inside Santee, my dual drunk personalities fought for attention, culminating in one alarming spectacle. The chaos started from the time I got booked and smiled in the mug shot, to show off my freshly bleached teeth, and continued in the group holding cell where I began reliving all of my favorite prison movies. First, I did push-ups and dips; determined to get buff while serving time. Next, with my spoon, I tried to chisel my way to freedom. And for my final performance, I took to the intercom between the guards and us. It was supposed to be reserved for emergencies, but I pushed the buttoned—incessantly—trying order an orange jumpsuit and a side of fries.

After a few additional cartwheels, I started to get sleepy. I curled up on the floor of the jail cell, in my preppy dress from the wedding, and drifted off to sleep.

substance-abuse-female-imprisonmentWhen I came to the next morning, I wasn’t feeling quite as slaphappy. In fact, I’d bet I felt worse than the bride’s father when he reviewed the bar tab. I felt even worse as the shame set in. I quickly discovered that everyone from the wedding heard about my detainment, including my best friend’s brother, a San Diego Police Officer. It was his face I saw when I opened my eyes on the dirty jail floor. Pulled away from his family in the wee hours of the morning, he said it took him longer than he anticipated locating my whereabouts.

Jeremy said, “I’m impressed how deep you got inside San Diego’s Penal system.”

One more attempt at controlled drinking…

In the following days and weeks, I was so embarrassed by my behavior that I sentenced myself—not to a Twelve Step Program, but the next worse thing—designated driver duty.

After about six months, with a few slips, requiring Taxi back up, I let myself off probation. It was useless, plus it was almost New Year’s Eve, a time of year when celebration most certainly should not be contained.

New Years Day… I woke up on another dirty floor, this time it was a neighbor I barely knew. As the events of the night before were pieced together, I began to see an alarming trend.

  • The pregnant couple from unit B arrived home just after midnight and found me passed out on the apartment complex’s front lawn.
  • A taxi driver resorted to laying me there, after an unsuccessful attempt to reach my parents. He took the time to scroll through my phone and select the contact labeled “dad.” This was, apparently, after I was kicked out of the nightclub for hurling bottles at the bouncer.

Every time I picked up a drink, I couldn’t predict my actions. My mind was consumed with thoughts of drinking and not drinking and thinking about the next time I could drink. The gig was up.\

My window of clarity opened. There were several signs that alcohol consumption was at the core of most of my problems.

  • To start, I’d come to know the DMV hours, after regularly losing my driver’s license in one drunken debacle after the next.
  • I also moved away from dating shy sweet college athletes named things like Sean and started dating shady club promoters named ‘Snowy.’
  • I white knuckled it out at bars with friends; waiting to get home, to get drunk.
  • I had not one, but two drunk alter egos.
  • When I started drinking I couldn’t predict what would happen next.

Realizing my alcoholic predicament, I asked for help…

It’s been over 11 years since I’ve taken advantage of an open bar or even had so much as a beer. I also gave up cheese, but that’s neither here nor there. I like to imagine that Chi Chi and Helga ran off together. I imagine receiving postcards from all the places they’ve wreaked havoc on. I imagine them saying I’m a pussy for not drinking, as they try to temp back into their fold. Underneath, I sense they’re extremely proud of the woman I’ve become. They know they couldn’t offer me the self-esteem and integrity I’ve built. They’d be the first to admit that if they hadn’t exited my life, my gracious husband and precious daughter never could have entered it.

Today I am grateful for my recovery and grateful for the window of clarity that allowed me to seek the help I needed for my own addiction.

– Melanie, Nashville

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