Friday, August 18, 2017

Guest Post by Author and Advocate - Jay Chirino - My First Drink

I had my first alcoholic drink when I was fifteen. It was a Friday. We sat on the back porch of my girlfriend’s cousin’s house, looking out at a yard that gradually filled with the raindrops that had been falling for about an hour now, lifting the smell of wet grass and the heat of a Florida summer. It was the first time I had been invited over; Heidi and I had been dating for just a few months, but I was convinced that she was the one. Her cousin was significantly older; a twenty-year-old-something man that had gotten married to a girl he met in Massachusetts, and now they were beginning to build a home. It was obvious that he saw his entire future with her. In her, it wasn’t obvious at all. 

As the rain continued to precipitate, the pitcher of sangria came out, and everyone had a delighted smile on their faces, everyone but me. There was never much alcohol in my house, not after my grandfather suddenly passed from a heart attack at the age of forty-eight. He was a functioning alcoholic that couldn’t go a day without, and because he wasn’t one of those drunks that would get belligerent or violent, no one seemed to notice much, not until that night when Grandma’s screams woke up the entire neighborhood, and Grandpa didn’t make it to the hospital alive. I now faced a difficult choice; would I be the social pariah given the high stakes of the circumstance? Was it really wrong if I had one drink this early in the game?

Before I could make a sound decision, there was a cup full of red stuff in front of me. The choice had been made for me and I couldn’t say no. I apprehensively grabbed it off the tray and took a quick whiff. The fruity smell was attractive, its color dark and deep, like blood. I put the cup to my lips and chugged it all, thinking it was just like any other juice I had before; the faster you drink it the most refreshing it is. But the surprised hollers in the background quickly told me that I had done something that maybe wasn’t up to par with the protocol. By that time, it no longer mattered. I was about to experience my first buzz.

I had always been an anxious kid, not very social, shy and quiet. Being an only child with overprotective parents ensured that I didn’t develop the needed skills to handle the real world, out there, far from home. School was an everyday torture; the quiet kid has always been an easy target for bullies and other children that want to feel better with themselves, because they know that there will be no retaliation. Every morning I woke up in tears and panic, and mom had to give me a stern, yet loving pep talk about how I needed to get over it. My life was filled with the dreaded expectation that the worst was always coming immediately after waking up.

It was a miracle that I had the strength to ask Heidi out, even then, it took a few months for her to say yes. That was one of the reasons that I knew she was the one; I was convinced that I couldn’t go through that again with another girl. And now here I was, with a girlfriend, hanging out with people, older people, drinking alcohol, like an outlaw. Oh, how things had changed! They indeed had changed, I just didn’t know how much.

As I looked through the screen of the porch at the blades of grass, I noticed the violence with which the raindrops fell on them, bending them down with force as the drops shattered in a million pieces. I could hear every single one of them, thousands; a concert of water like I’d never heard before. The greens of the landscape became brighter, the blues of the crying sky became vibrant, and inside of me, something I had never felt before, not like this;


I knew right there and then that alcohol would play a crucial part in my life, that I would resort to it to fix some of my biggest problems, and that it would help me get through things that otherwise I would not have been able to get through. What I didn’t know, of course, was the damage it would cause, and the high price I would pay for the continued buzz. At the time, everything seemed perfect; I had all the answers I needed to successfully get through life. Twenty years later, I chuckle when I think about how wrong I was.

Parents, please talk to your children early about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. Most importantly, do not alienate your children or overprotect them; they need to know how to handle the real world. Talk to them and communicate, let them know that they are not alone. Your input will go a long way at not letting their first buzz become a life-long struggle. 

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