“I remember waking up at my mom’s house the next day and thinking, ‘That’s it, I can’t do this anymore. I’m 31. I’m not 21. I can’t laugh this off.'”
I come from an Irish Catholic family, so drinking is just something that everyone did. I grew up the oldest of four kids and my parents both worked, so I had little supervision. I guess [at] around 11 or 12 I started sneaking drinks. I remember grabbing a bottle of Peach Schnapps from my parents’ bar and hiding that in my closet and hitting that every day.
And then as I got older, my friends and I would smoke cigarettes and drink–and [by] older I mean still like 13, 14, 15–to the point where when I was in high school I was standing outside the pizza shop asking dudes to buy me 40 ounces pretty much every day after school. Then going home and drinking 40s by myself and just getting drunk in my room. I don’t really know why. It wasn’t necessarily fun, but I guess it was an escape being one of four kids in a house where it was always just loud and I don’t know. That seems stupid, but I guess that’s what it was.
And then I graduated high school and I moved away from home and I met a dude who was a raging alcoholic, so my drinking got put on the back burner as I took care of him. He would just drink himself into oblivion every night to the point where I was checking to make sure he was breathing–and then we got married.
We were married for a couple of years, and he had an affair and we separated. I guess I kind of fell apart at that point, because I had met him when I was a teenager, and we got married so young, and I didn’t know anything else.
So I moved to town and got my own apartment, which was awesome. But it was lonely, so I started going out after work. It was funny because the first time I went to the bar that I would drink in, a friend took me and she was like, “This place is cool.” And we went there and I was like, “This place is awful, everyone here is creepy, they’re playing Slayer on the jukebox–what is this place? I’m never coming here again.” But I did pretty much every night for years.
I lost my job because of my drinking and I lost my apartment because of drinking because all my money was going to just booze. So I had to move into my mom’s house. I would drink and I would catch the bus to my mom’s house because I sold my car.
So I was living with my mom, I was 31 years old, I was divorced by this point, and I was drinking until I was blackout drunk every night, and then riding the bus home. One night I went to that same bar and I just kept drinking, and then at some point I must have blacked out. I don’t remember leaving the bar, but I did. I left and I crossed the street and was waiting for the bus, and the next thing I remember is being woken up by a police officer who asked me what I was doing. I told her I was waiting for the bus and she informed me that it was three o’clock in the morning and they had had reports of someone passed out on the side of the road.
So I was arrested. I remember being handcuffed in the back of a police car and then I remember waking up in a holding cell, handcuffed to the wall and trying to get out of the handcuffs. Then I remember waking up at my mom’s house the next day and thinking, “That’s it, I can’t do this anymore. I’m 31. I’m not 21. I can’t laugh this off. I’m 31, I’m divorced and living at my mom’s house.”
I got up and went outside and told my mom and my sister, “That’s it–I’m done drinking.” They laughed at me and said, “Yea right,” because I’m sure I had said it before. I felt a little defeated so I basically just went back to bed and was just going to ignore what happened.
A few hours later I woke up again and I told myself I had overreacted and it wasn’t a big deal and that I could I drink and I’d be fine. So I went into the kitchen and my mom was in there and she started telling me about what had happened the night before and how I had acted and the things I was saying and I just decided that that was it–that I was done drinking.
I told her and I told my sisters, “No really–this is it. I’m done.” And then I decided that I had to involve my ego. I had to tell people. I had to make it public, because I wasn’t sure I could hold myself to it because at that point I didn’t really see a reason to get sober other than I was embarrassed, really. I was so good at justifying my drinking. I was so good at justifying the awful things I did when I drank. And because I would drink until I was blackout drunk, I had little memory of the shitty things I was doing and the way I was treating people–just the awful situations I was creating because of my drinking.
So I made it very public. I told everyone. I put it on social networking. I wrote zines about it. I just let everyone know that this is what I was doing–that I wasn’t drinking anymore, that I had a drinking problem, [and] that my drinking was out of control.
And the reactions were mixed, which was interesting. A lot of people didn’t think I had a drinking problem, but it was the people that I drank with that didn’t think I had a drinking problem. But like I said, I come from a beautiful, long line of drinkers, so the people who mattered got it and they understood.
That’s when I decided to write my book about my experiences as a drunk and getting sober. It seemed maybe a little presumptuous to write a memoir. I did it when I was three years sober–so at 34 I wrote a memoir– but it was important and it was part of the process. Because then I started touring with the book and doing readings and sharing my story with people and keeping it at the forefront of my life–telling my story and sharing it with people and letting that help me stay sober.
When I got sober I felt like I was still spinning my wheels–I wasn’t drinking, but I wasn’t doing anything. So I decided to take a college placement test and enroll in college, which I hadn’t done–ever. So I enrolled in college and I spent a couple years working on an associate’s degree in psychology, which I got in May. Then I transferred to Penn State, and I’m working on my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I’m working full-time on top of that. I live in a cute little house in the middle of nowhere with my dog and some chickens.
When I moved into this house I was nervous because it was only the second time I had lived on my own, and the first time was such a failure. The first few months I was terrified that I was going to screw up and fall into old habits because it is quiet and it can get lonely. But it just felt more important and I was really proud of getting to this point. Because since getting sober I’ve had various jobs and relationships and nothing’s stuck, and I needed something to stick. And I was so afraid it wasn’t going to stick–but so far it has, which is cool.
Photographs taken at Taryn’s place in Perkasie, where she lives with her dog King and her chickens.