Over the past week and a half, I experienced a strange state of self that I am not exactly proud about. On the late hours of Thanksgiving Eve, I was in my dorm with a few of my international teammates who, like me, could not be with their families for the holiday. And what else would three, bored kids do in an empty school with no RAs on site, but have some good ol’ college fun with a handle? In our case, it was Kraken– a black spiced rum.
A little background information: I don’t drink alcohol because 1) I’m underage, 2) I think it tastes repulsive, and 3) because I’m severely allergic. I bust out in hives and itch an unbearable itch that feels like I’m constantly being stabbed throughout my lower extremities. When I say I don’t drink, I actually mean hardly ever, which also means I can count the number of times that I’ve drank with one hand. And after each time, I vow to myself that I am never, ever going to drink alcohol again. But stubborn, optimistic me felt incredibly determined that night. I wanted to prove to myself that I was bigger than alcohol, that I could conquer those hives, and that nobody was going to stop me (my exact words were, “yolo, one time for the one time!”). Five shots, 300 drunken seconds of Snapchat story, and six hours later, I woke up and felt absolutely fine. In fact, I felt great! I didn’t even feel hungover or nauseous. I was so excited– maybe I didn’t get hives after all? Could this be the start of a whole new chapter in my book of crazy college moments? Memories of the past night flashed back to me and I remember having such a relaxed time, laughing with my roommate and her boyfriend, taking ridiculously funny videos with pizza all over my face, without a single worry in my mind. However, all that soon faded when I looked at my mirror and lifted my shirt… sure enough, my body was swollen and red: hives.
Initially, I did not take any allergy medicine because I didn’t feel itchy at all. However, midway through the day, the curse came upon me and I started itching like no other. It was unbearable. From Thursday on, I was in so much discomfort and pain. On Saturday night, I started freaking out so bad that my roommate and her boyfriend gracefully drove to Safeway at 4am just to buy me more medicine. I consumed an unhealthy dosage of allergy pills all the way until Sunday, and in the week following that, I went through two tubes of anti-itch hydrocortisone cream. And what happens? I endure a week and a half of fear, of being at the brink of madness, all because I was uneducated about all the medicine that I took.
Basically, my body could not digest the alcohol nor the drugs, and I went through about 9 days of being drowsy (side effect of allergy meds). Usually drowsiness persists only for a few hours up to a day or two, depending on how fast one’s metabolism is. But not me– nine days. I took way more than was recommended and the over-application of steroid cream (which I didn’t even know was steroids) only made the side effects worse. Imagine that, during hell-week in which I should have been working hard because of finals approaching, I was a sleepy zombie that could not get any sleep until almost dawn. I could not eat (my appetite was gone), I couldn’t focus on anything, I couldn’t walk or talk straight, and I woke up late for almost every class (I missed my Friday class altogether). I did absolutely nothing last week– it was a miracle that I got through it. There was no way on earth that I could get behind the wheel and drive a car at that point. Suffice it to say that I was beyond scared that I would never be un-drowsy. I became crazy with paranoia– what if I get lost in the terminal and never make my flight to LA? What if I can’t function enough to work at Pieology for the month that I’m back? What if I could never play tennis again in my life? What would happen to me? My fear was insane, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I felt like a fog was over my head and infiltrating through my ears into the crevices of my brain; it was as if I was drunk 24/7.
However, I was able to overcome the drowsiness with gallons of water and dutiful hours on the elliptical. But the story doesn’t end there, it’s only just begun.
Let me start off by admitting that all of this is my fault. I am solely responsible for what I put my body through, physically and mentally. No peer pressure was involved, just my free will, absolute poor judgement, and sheer stupidity. But with every storm, there is a silver lining; with every curse, there is a blessing. I’m about to get pretty deep and personal, and expose the contents of my heart and mind throughout this whole experience, because it does turn out to be positive, overall– so I hope that I don’t scare anybody.
I was having it so bad two Saturday nights ago, three days after the whole drinking debauchery. Not only were my hives on full blast, but I became overwhelmed with guilt, discomfort, and loneliness. Guilty because my family was down in Southern California, working hard with unpacking and putting our new place together, while I was up here goofing off. Uncomfortable because physically, I was suffering, and emotionally, I felt so lonely. That feeling of loneliness is a whole ‘nother post altogether, so for now, I won’t get into that. But I was feeling so unhappy that I had to call someone -anyone- from home, and my friend Amberly gave me an hour of familiar comfort that I am extremely grateful for. However, as soon as I got into bed and tried to sleep, I felt the worst, most painful itch attack that I have ever felt in the history of itches– It felt as though red ants were biting me all over while someone was constantly pricking me with a hot sword. I literally wanted to scream and pull my hair out. It got so bad that the thought of suicide even crossed my mind. And that’s when I really started hating myself because 1) how dare I even think about suicide when it is such a touchy subject to me 2) I put myself in this situation, and 3) I was losing my mind and I couldn’t control my thoughts. I got really desperate, started asking people for help, and I was beyond lucky that my friend Nancy got me through the night with her care and words of encouragement. Eventually, I fell asleep to her words, and had never been more grateful for such sedation.
I felt the biggest kick in the gut and felt as if reality drew a giant check mark across my face the very next day. It happened when I FaceTimed with my family and they were showing me our new house… I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was at least five times bigger than all the places that I’ve ever lived in my whole life. I started feeling overwhelmed and made an excuse to go, and as soon as I hung up, I just disintegrated into tears. For a good five minutes I was crying that type of cry where breathing gets hard because you’re crying so much that all you can take are shallow breaths. I was feeling all sorts of emotions– extreme joy for our new house and basically a whole new life for us, I was actually missing my family (something that has never been easy for me to do), and I felt completely ashamed for all the useless, unproductive behavior that I had been participating in.
For those of you that do not know, I come from a difficult background in which my siblings and I were raised to work hard for everything. Although we were very aware that anything is possible and outer space is the limit when it comes to fulfilling our dreams, we had to start from the ground-up, and it hasn’t always been easy; I started working as soon as I can so that I could financially support myself as early as possible. Hard work taught us humility, so I am not complaining about anything. Anyway, fast forward to the day of the video call: I was consumed with awe and gratefulness. I immediately thanked the Lord for this new fortune in our lives, and at that moment, I lectured myself for being irresponsible with alcohol and putting myself in an unnecessary, tough situation. I reminded myself why I am in Holy Names and how I have a scholarship to uphold and that I’m trying to get into med school. I’m not here to party or act stupid– I’m here to make my dreams come true, because if my family can do it, then so can I.
I just want to mention a few things. As bad as this is going to sound, there definitely were perks to being drugged out and drowsy. One exceptional bonus to not being able to focus on anything was that I zoned out everything around me. It became so terrible that I couldn’t keep track of who was sitting around me in the caf, and paying attention to the conversation in front of my face was tough enough, but it put me in a euphoric trance in which I didn’t really care about anything. Normally, I am quite the sensitive person, who knew where everything and everyone was, and I cared a lot about what other people felt or thought. But no! Throughout these confusing days, I said hi to everyone and anyone. Even some cuties that I never dared to say hi to, ever. I just didn’t give a flying duck, and it led to spontaneous conversation and I didn’t feel self-conscious at all like I normally would. And my speech and cognitive ability were definitely affected. This is going to sound crazy, but I gave the best advice ever during my drowsiness. It was as if some smart button was activated by the drugs, and my speech was fluid and sensible. Usually, I stutter and pause, and it takes me a while to string together the exact words that I want to say. But fortunately for me, everything just flowed out of my mouth smoothly and my friends even said that I was funnier. I was more intelligent that I had ever been before, I kid you not! Also, I didn’t care about material things at all. I didn’t have an ounce of desire to check my social networking for about two days, and if someone needed something, I was more than willing to spend my money on them. It was actually really great, because I tuned into the things that truly mattered in life, which led me to call my mother and I had an almost-two-hour conversation with her, and it was probably the greatest moment that I’ve ever shared with her. I confessed to her my bad deeds and we laughed about it together (I promised her that I would never, EVER, drink again, but she told me that I should at least drink red wine when I’m older); I cried like a baby as I expressed my feelings over the new house and cried a second time when I started feeling upset about how people don’t appreciate their blessings in life and how they take things for granted (that topic hits me deeply). I talked about everything with her, and that was very new to me, because I have never had a close relationship with my mom until this year. It was really great, to say the least. And lastly, another amazing perk of being “high” off of allergy meds was that I had to really sweat it out in the gym to break down and release the toxins from my body– This is important because I used to hate the gym, hate running, hate hauling myself down from my comfy bed, hate changing from my nice, normal clothes to gym clothes halfway through the day and having to showering right after. But ever since then, I’ve been hooked. Even though the medicine has passed through and out of my system, I’ve been going to the gym with pleasure and contentment– Can you believe that I’m actually doing abs and weights after an hour of cardio? Community-college-me can’t believe it either. But that’s okay, because this is a good change.
And maybe this is why people choose to do drugs… No, I’m completely kidding. Or half kidding. But with all seriousness, I have learned my lesson, even though I do miss being witty and feeling carefree about who I make conversation with. I am completely au naturel now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m just utterly thankful that something wonderful came out of this experience that I initially regarded as a nightmare.
But really though, never again.
Operation self-improvement, day eleven.
(Or maybe I should never say never… after all, I did have a sip of wine during mass this past Sunday…)