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How Do You Remember

"I took the first sip neat, straight from the bottle, without a chaser because I was told that real men don’t use chasers."

"All it took was twenty-two years and two hundred milliliters of Jameson."

How do I remember the first time I got drunk?

As a Christian boy who was raised going to church, I was taught that drinking was evil. 15 was the first time I ever saw my parents drink; they worked in the church. When I saw that, I thought for sure they were going to Hell. Looking back at my upbringing, I realize my parents didn’t have anything against drinking; they simply just didn’t do it. The years of inadvertently being taught, not by my parents, but by the church that it was a sin to drink, really affected my perspective on alcohol as I turned 21. The church made me scared to drink and it didn’t help that I had a friend die because he was driving drunk.

Drunk.

This Tuesday night was already memorable as it was the first night in two years that I wouldn’t be with my ex-girlfriend on her birthday. We broke up just two months earlier. After we broke up, I began to question everything I knew about my faith and what I was taught to believe.

Drunk. Drink.

My good friend Lucas and I decided to go to the beach; an hours ride east from my home in Leesburg. Coming over the bridge into Daytona, we knew that in about a half hour, we were going to get drunk on the sandy shores. Lucas knew what it was like to be drunk, but I didn’t. Tonight was the night I’d get drunk for the first time. Wrestling the whole ride over with the thoughts of what I had been taught and my current desire was too exhausting so I just pushed my anxieties to the back of my mind and assured myself that tonight would be a good night.

Drink. Drink what? Drink Alcohol.

It was about 11 o’clock and all of the “big-name” liquor stores were closed except Metz Package Liquors. There it was, sitting innocently on the shelf behind the counter. It was small, green, and had a red cap that read in gold cursive letters, “Jameson.” It looked at me and said, “Say goodbye to your innocence.” I timidly bought the bottle and Lucas bought Beefeater Gin. With spirits in hand, we walked straight down to the shore of Daytona, and right through my hesitations.

Alcohol…Distillery.

I took the first sip neat, straight from the bottle, without a chaser because I was told that real men don’t use chasers. Lucas mixed his with Gatorade, suppressing the notes of juniper and pine. I was definitely trying to escape something because my sips became more generous and more frequent within the next 15 minutes. Before I realized it, I had finished the whole bottle.

Distillery…St. Augustine Distillery.

All it took was 22 years and 200 milliliters of Jameson to never be able to look someone in the eye and confidently say, “No,” to anyone who ever asked me if I had ever been drunk before. Was I a bad person now because I had just done something I brazenly said I’d never do? In the moment, not at all.

St. Augustine…August.

Maybe I was tired of feeling so much or maybe I was just tired of seeing Laura in every detail of my life, but for the first time in two months, I had escaped my introspection.

August.

Lucas and I walked around talking about life until I had to sit down. When we sat down, we played this game called, “How Do You Remember?” In this game, you get asked a question like, “How do you remember the color of your car?” If the answer is “red,” then you start on the last word of the “How do you remember” question. In this case, you would use the word “car,” then play on each word and make up phrases in an unconventional, round-about way just to get back to the word, “red.”

August is the 8th month of the year.

After the game, we went to Denny’s right across the street because I needed food. After we ordered, I staggered to the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror. I looked right into the eyes opposite mine and said to that person I had never met, “Hunter, is this worth it?” For a split second, I felt the full weight of my decision, and then it disappeared.

Year…One year equals twelve months.

I went back to the table, completely ignoring the confrontation I had just had, and ate the best burger of my life. Lucas and I shared a short conversation about something I have now forgotten and then made our way to the condo.

12 minus 1 equals 11.

We went up the elevator to the seventh floor, took a right, then quietly opened the door to room 702. At about 1:30 in the morning, the spins decided to pay me a visit and stay until about 8 AM. When I woke up, I had a headache that felt like a stampede of elephants had just ran over my head.

The first time I got drunk was August 11th.

Over the next few days, I wrestled with God and my thoughts until I came to the conclusion that I am a human. I’m flawed and do dumb things, but in my own ways, I’m pretty amazing. I spent so much of my time letting other people dictate how I lived my life without actually making any of my own decisions and learning from them. I’m 23 and have a better relationship with God now, than I ever have, because I stopped taking myself so seriously. On August 11, 2015, I finally made a decision to be my own person.