I got drunk for the first time when I was 11 years old.
Some slightly older friends took me to a corner bar in Heidelberg, Germany, and the bartender handed me a Bacardi and Coke.
Being drunk made me feel free. Free from my anxiety and my pre-teen insecurities. I laughed, I danced, I learned to shoot pool and throw darts.
But it also made me feel out of control. As though I was watching myself from somewhere else in the room, with no say in how the evening would proceed.
I decided, then and there, that getting drunk wasn’t my thing, no matter how much fun it was.
Only a few short months later, at the age of 12, I was raped.
Not in a bar, not in an alley, not on a train or even in the dark of night. It was in my friend’s bedroom, on a cold, crisp, winter day.
I wasn’t dressed provocatively. I wore a white turtle neck, black cotton dress pants, and black boots that went click-clack when I walked across tile. Hung carefully on a chair was the grey Member’s Only jacket I borrowed from my Daddy.
After that, I learned how to drink just enough to numb the pain. At the age of 12, I quickly found the line between buzzed enough to feel good and drunk.
Alcohol was my crutch, the thing I turned to when I didn’t feel like life was worth living. With it coursing through my veins, I could be a different person, one who knew nothing of fear and rape and shame.
I gave it up, eventually. Even in my extreme youth, I knew it wasn’t the answer to my problems.
Instead, I put my pain in a box, built a brick wall around it and walked away, hoping that if I didn’t have to look at it, I’d forget it existed.