Before I was even old enough to drink, I knew I probably never would.
I remember the exact moment I made that decision; more accurately, I remember the exact moment that decision was made for me. I was 15 years old, it was a Sunday morning, and I was cleaning vomit out of the carpet with a toothbrush.
Everyone in my family liked to drink.
My mother drank, my father drank, and now that he was of the legal drinking age, my sister liked to drink too. She had always drank, ever since high-school, but now she didn’t have to hide it as much.
My sister had come home that night (or morning, depending on how you look at it) at 3 a.m. covered in vomit and completely delirious. I only woke up because I heard her yelling at the door like some combination of words would force it open. When I was finally able to get her inside the house, she immediately collapsed into a heap on the floor. She slurred something to me about this “being the right house,” but I ignored it, attributing it to what was undoubtedly a serious case of alcohol poisoning. It took strength I didn’t know I had to pull her up the stairs to her room, and when I laid her down on the bed, she instantly threw up.
The sun was already coming up, and at this point I was already awake, so I grabbed an old toothbrush from the bathroom cabinet and got to work. As I was scrubbing her leftovers out of the fibers of the carpet, I wondered how this day could get any worse. At that exact moment was when I heard it.
The sound of shattering glass erupted through the house. Strange voices from outside yelled in “If you’re inside, come out with your hands up!” It was all a blur. I flew down the stairs, my father’s door swung open, we ran outside and were met face to face with four officers and three police cruisers parked on our lawn. In the moments that followed, my sister was dragged out of her bed by two police officers and tossed on the hood of a cruiser with her hands cuffed behind her back. Since she couldn’t, they explained what happened. She had driven home drunk, and pulled into a house three doors down the road. She had broken in, found her way to a couch, and fallen asleep on it, but not before throwing up on it. The neighbors had no idea who she was, and as such called the police, who had visited every house until they heard reports of her entering our house.
Lucky for her, the neighbors didn’t press charges.
When my sister was finally conscious, the first thing she did was walked over and apologize. She paid for the couch and the lock on the door, which she was surprisingly able to break. When she came back, my dad and I were waiting for her at the kitchen table. Before we could say a word, she started crying. She told us how the alcohol had gotten away from her. She told us about a pill addiction she had been hiding from us for months. I looked at my father, whose face was one of stern confidence but also clearly holding back tears. After a long silence, my father got up and left the room without saying a word. My sister and I sat in silence at the table. In between tears, I could make out “sorry”. I knew she meant it.
My father returned with his laptop opened in his hands. “It’s not going down like this,” he said quietly, almost to himself. “Rehab. We’ll pay.” My sister, her head still in her hands, nodded silently. We spent the day looking up places all over the country. We found alcohol rehabs in Maine and some California drug rehab centers, but eventually settled on a local outpatient treatment. She went every day for a month, not missing a single meeting. Without my sister’s commitment, my father’s compassion, and the generosity of my neighbors, the situation could have been far worse.
It’s been a decade, and my sister is still sober.
I still don’t drink.
I think back to that moment, now over ten years ago, as I watched where alcohol had taken my sister, and how much worse it could’ve been.
I’ve never been happier to be sober.
Simone Flynn blogs about addiction, recovery, mental health, and wellness.