Trying to Recapture That High

photo credit: jenny downing

Written for the Scintilla Project for the prompt

Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally able to do so.

Your teenage years are a time of confusion when you are no longer child but you are not yet an adult.  It’s the same for everyone. Your brain jumps from being a child, to being an adult and back to being a child – sometimes multiple times per hour. My teenage years were somewhat unique in that I worked in an environment that expected me to act like an adult from a very young age – I was a theatre kid, one that worked constantly from age 7 to 21. School holidays were spent more often than not doing 8 shows a week and most weekends were spent doing 3 shows in under 24 hours, drama classes and rehearsing for the next production. Homework was done under a red light and quadratic equations and the periodic table learnt between scenes and along with all those lines you needed to learn.  It is not a life I would have traded for anything else.  I loved it.  I was addicted to it – and that was the problem for me and my peers.  As a child, you know that being on stage makes you feel like nothing else in the world does.  It is great, it’s makes you hyperactive – and if you can’t sleep for hours after finishing a show, even though every muscle aches from being so tired, well, that’s for your parents to deal with.  But when you hit your teenage years, you start to rebel. You start looking for ways to replicate that high from being on stage.  You start drinking.

My parents raised me in the European way, in that alcohol was never forbidden.  I was allowed to have a glass of wine with dinner from a young age, but it was when I was 14 that I began to drink without my parents’ knowledge and it was with my fellow theatre kids that I drank with. They were so much cooler than I was. I wanted to be as cool as they were, so I never questioned lying to our parents about where we were going and ending up on the streets with a bottle of port mixed in with a bottle of coke. We were responsible in our own way.  We never drank before or during a show.  Gotta stay sharp and sober as acting was in its own way a way of playing with danger.  You never knew when you or someone else would forget a line or suddenly go blank forcing you to think on your feet and think fast. It was a rush, always courting danger on the stage, and so we would court it off stage with alcohol trying to recapture that high. For me, it never really matched up. Getting tipsy was fun, but getting drunk just made you feel really sick. I learnt to control my drinking very early on – enough to get tipsy and have fun, not enough to black out or lose control. I learnt the value in being the only one that was able to remember what happened the next day. Knowledge is power in its own way.

I soon drifted away from my peers. Drinking is fun at first because it is illicit and laced with danger, but after two years, it becomes the same old thing and quite frankly, rather boring.  However, I’m still surprised that nothing bad happened to us in those years when we were young and stupid. We just got really lucky because we certainly were not thinking about keeping ourselves safe. So much could have gone wrong and today that is the part about that time that scares me the most. The could have beens as we were chasing that unreplicable high.


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