A Fork In The Road

It is 1989 and I am finishing my junior year of college. I am taking a full load of coursework and working around 25-30 hours each week. My free time is divided between the gym and the fraternity. I had intended to spend my junior year abroad but let an ex-girlfriend talk me out of going. I don’t know it then but it will be one of the five major regrets in my life. It is compounded by the fact that she dumped me and I am single.

Single, alone and angry meld together into something called confusion. Law school doesn’t sound interesting to me any more and neither does anything else. I want to drop out of school and find myself but my father tells me that I’ll lose my healthcare so I don’t. Frustration mounts and I add time in the campus pub to my regimen. I have an enormous thirst that I can’t seem to quench.

Pitcher after pitcher of beer finds its way down my gullet and I decide that getting drunk three times a week is a rite of passage for a college student. It doesn’t matter that it is the middle of the day nor do I care if I drink alone or with friends. Most of the time I have company so the drinking alone is infrequent. Often times we sit on a patio that overlooks one of the pools.

Our table is filled with endless pitchers of beer and slices of pizza. The skies are blue and just below the landscaped is dotted with girls in bikinis. It is hard not to look at this and think that I have discovered paradise.

One of my drinking buddies is in two of my classes. He is worried about failing so he tells me that he is going to cut back on his time at the pub. I tell him not to worry and he tells me that I am being stupid. I am young, dumb and male and determined to prove him wrong. I tell him that I am going to drink three pitchers of beer and then study for the midterm.

He tells me that he doesn’t want to be the reason I fail. I tell him that won’t be and he is not. He remains sober and receives a C+. Not me. I drink all three pitchers and then receive an A- for my efforts. He is furious and tells me that it is because I was sober when I took the test. I laugh and tell him to join me at the gym. He says ok and I tell him that I’ll see him tomorrow.

The next day I stop by his apartment to pick him up. He buzzes me in and I go upstairs. While he packs his gym bag I hit the restroom. While I’m washing my hands I hear a very loud crash and then screaming. My friend sounds like he is crying. I run out and see a wide open door. Some guy is sitting on top of him and beating the crap out of him. I have no idea what is going on but I run over to help.

I hit him from behind and he crumples. It is not heroic. He had no idea that I was there but my friend really is on his back…crying. I find out that he is crying because he has a gambling problem. I am suddenly scared and I take off. I don’t want this guy I cold cocked to know who I am.  Later on I’ll find out that “my friend” has many problems besides the gambling.

One day a fraternity alumnus approaches me at the gym and asks when I became such an asshole. He says that I used to be smart and likable. It resonates with me because most of the house dislikes him and wonders how he ever got in. It makes me think and wonder if maybe he is right.

I figure that the easiest change is to stop drinking.  The alcohol isn’t making me happier or assisting me with making decisions. It doesn’t take long for me to feel like a fog is lifting.

From start to finish that whole experience took all of three months or so but so much happened it feels like years. Hard to believe that so much time has passed.

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