It's strange how many things I remember so vividly from that night, when there are so many other things I can't remember at all. For example, I can perfectly recall standing at the vanity in my friend's dorm room, pouring shots of Bacardi Limon while Lady Gaga blasted in the background. I remember what I was wearing: a fuchsia American Apparel figure-skating dress, black tights, and black flats that I haven't seen since. I can remember everything that I drank later at the party. But then at some point, a black curtain descends and my memory clicks off.
Freshman year was a great one, but with it came challenges. I was suddenly independent of my parents, in a new group of friends, in a new place, with a previously unknown type of freedom. I was never sheltered or overly protected as a kid, and I did my fair share of rebelling in high school. Drinking wasn't new to me; drinking to get drunk wasn't either. But at college, I no longer had to worry about being sober by the time I got home to my parents or lie about sleeping over at my boyfriend's house. There was nothing holding me back and I ran with that freedom.
I came to college still in the final grips of a relationship that I now know was extremely emotionally unhealthy. I was desperately trying to get away from an ex-boyfriend who made me feel responsible for his self-destructive habits, claiming he turned to them because I hurt him first. Stupidly, I threw myself into a new relationship with someone else, a sophomore named Alex* who was so rational and stable that I thought I could be happy with him without addressing any of the old issues that still hung over my head and made my stomach turn. I was having a hard time shaking the mental image of my ex cutting himself because of our fights -- being with someone who would never act like that seemed like a great way to move forward. Alex was safe and steady, older and more mature. But it didn't matter -- when you're in a relationship with someone, your emotions are linked, and I wasn't ready for someone to be dependent on me in that way again.
On this particular night, Alex and I were in our usual rough patch. He wanted a normal, committed, happy relationship and I wanted an open one, free to do what I wanted without having to be responsible for his feelings. For over six months we'd been in this tug-of-war, constantly pulling at each other, both too stubborn to give in, and both too attached to walk out. I had invited him to the party, but in truth, I didn't want him there. I didn't want to spend the night tied to his side, acting like a girlfriend, pretending to be part of a relationship I didn't want. I wanted to be myself, talking to everyone, flirting with whomever I wanted, and having as much light-hearted fun as possible. Alex wanted to have a serious discussion about our relationship and "where this is headed," all of which was way too heavy for me to think about.
So I drank Bacardi Limon shots in my friend's dorm room beforehand to get my spirits up. Then I had a rum and coke at the party to be social and drink with my friends before Alex arrived and wanted all of my attention. Then someone proposed a drinking game, and I jumped right in.
It wasn't much of a game, really. It consisted of a circle of people, a passing bottle of Goldschlager, and some sort of chanting-clapping pattern. When the chanting ended, whoever was holding the bottle chugged. I ended up holding the bottle last at least three times. I remember the burn of the cinnamon flavor sliding over my tongue and down my throat. It was disgusting, as if someone had liquefied a pack of Big Red gum, but I'm competitive, so I kept drinking. When the game ended, my head felt as if it was floating above my neck, and a pool of fire was sitting directly on top of my brain.
I ran out of the room, feeling a panicked urge to get to the bathroom and spit everything back out before it became part of me, but before I could make it down the hallway, I crashed directly into Alex. Suddenly I was thrilled to see him, colliding into his chest and burying my face in his neck, eager to have him hold me and make everything ok. I was always expecting him to make things okay, things that wouldn't have needed fixing if I hadn't made bad choices. He peeled me off of him and held me at arm's length, taking in the sharp smell of cinnamon and booze.
"What's going on?" He looked a bit wary, as if tensed and ready for a fight. He had every right to be -- we had a history of drunken arguments.
Immediately I blurted out the entire story, proudly telling him how I held my own in the drinking game, beaming at him brightly, trying to show him how happy I was to see him. His expression didn't change other than his skeptical raised eyebrow arching a little bit higher.
I left him and ran to the bathroom, where I stared into the toilet bowl for a few minutes, breathing in the stench of stale water, listening to girls screech gossip at each other in the mirror, and hoping the cold tile floor would somehow cool the buzzing burn spreading through my head.
When I woke up the next morning, I could barely open my swollen eyes. I had an IV in each arm and one in the back of my hand. White circular heart monitor patches covered my chest, connecting me to a beeping machine by my head. All I could smell was vomit, tinged with a cinnamon edge. Next to the bed, Alex dozed in a chair, but as I slowly moved to sit up, he jumped awake.
*Name has been changed.
To finish reading the story of how this collegiette got alcohol poisoning, and the impact it made on her life, check it out at Her Campus. To read more from Her Campus, including more firsthand accounts from collegiette women, click here.