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Confessions of a Vonnegut Wannabe MAG
I had my first taste of alcohol when I was 14. I was at a friend's house, and I took a shot while listening to Ed Sheeran whine on his iPod. The burn engulfed my throat. Across the room, two blonde girls from my world history class were dancing wildly and beckoned for me to join them. I did. My memory of that night is a blur of sloppy kisses and raspberry Smirnoff – but I do remember waking up in my boxers with the girls on either side of me. It was safe to say the poison had claimed me. By the time I was 15, I was a raging alcoholic.
I went home that morning and wrote down everything I remembered of my first drunken exploits, which wasn't much – 148 words, to be exact. I couldn't decide if I wanted to be like Tucker Max and create a legendary persona surrounding my name and soon-to-be impressive partying career, or take a more Hemingway approach and delve into why my peers and I poured this numbing liquid down our throats. I settled on somewhere in between and immediately uploaded it to my then-unsuccessful blog. That was January. By springtime I had earned myself hundreds of followers, thousands of dollars, and a crippling alcohol dependency.
I'd party every Friday and Saturday, then blog about it on Sunday, usually with a Captain and Coke in hand. My follower count was rising by the day. Then I got my first e-mail from a client.
Some guy from Ontario wanted to buy my stories. He sent me a contract he had drawn up. The whole experience was surreal; I had never imagined anyone would want to claim my writing as their own. When I checked my PayPal account, I was amazed. I had earned money just by writing about my hookups, the inhuman amount of alcohol I consumed, and sprinkling in a bit about my manic depression and how partying affected it. This lasted for months, and my parents had no clue that I was drinking or selling my work.
Until mid-June. It was a Saturday noon, and four of my best friends were over. We cracked open beers at about 12:30, started on the hard liquor at 1:30, and were thoroughly wasted by 3. My dad was home the entire time, in the family room, watching reruns of the show “Gunsmoke” and dozing in his recliner.
From what I remember, the day went swimmingly, until I woke up covered in vomit in my dad's bed. My friends were all gone. I took a shower, crying the entire time. I got dressed and sat down to hear my punishment. My dad's disappointed look finally made me question everything I'd done to get to that point.
My aforementioned depression was at its all-time worst. Though I never would have admitted it at the time, I was drinking in an attempt to medicate myself. I wanted to feel numb. I didn't want to feel anything. A 15-year-old kid shouldn't be thinking that alcohol solves problems, and most don't, but these values were instilled in me at a young age. My father to this day has consumed a screwdriver or two by the time I get home from school. One of my earliest memories is him getting a DUI on our way to my first T-ball game. In addition to having an alcoholic father, the profession I hope to pursue glorifies self-medicating with alcohol.
Ever since I began reading I have wanted to be a writer. But the writers I idolized – Bukowski, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Faulkner – were hardly role models when it comes to substance abuse. Naturally, I assumed that being an alcoholic was the first step to becoming a great American writer.
And very quickly, I made thousands of dollars following this plan. I was a writer, I thought. I had done it.
This thought lasted approximately an eighth of a second before it hit me that according to anyone else in the world, I wasn't a writer. I had sold my words but had nothing to show for it. If you Googled my name, the only thing that would come up would be pictures of me in my eighth-grade baseball uniform after we won a tournament. If I did have any fans, they would assume that what they read had been written by someone else.
I pondered this as I looked into my father's expectant eyes.
Then I came clean. I told him all about the drinking, the writing, the money, and my self-destructive behavior. In return, he gave me a black eye that lasted for a week.
After that I quit ghostwriting. I was tired of others taking credit for my work. Instead I began submitting my opinion pieces to small magazines. At my dad's insistence, I transferred all of my earnings into a college savings account.
Most importantly, tired of waking up hungover in bathtubs, mimicking the actions of Vonnegut, and lying to my parents about my escapades, I quit drinking.
As of right now I haven't had a drink in eight months and two days, and I know I'm a better writer for it.