Yesterday I couldn’t. Today I could.
This year, I gave my mom tickets to see one of her favorite bands with me for Christmas. I did it without thinking much about the logistics – I saw that they were coming and I knew it would be a perfect gift. What I didn’t know is that we’d basically be in a mosh pit, and that there would be a lot of alcohol around.
A few years ago, my story with emetophobia and fear of getting drunk was published on The OCD Stories. I talked about how I had trouble walking through the grocery aisle where alcohol was sold, and how I feared getting drunk by absorbing rubbing alcohol from shots at the doctor’s office. When I wrote that, going to a party with alcohol all around me would have been unthinkable.
At first, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. The venue was dark, and there were lots of people, many of whom were drinking. Towards the beginning of the opening act, I asked my mom to switch places with me so I didn’t have to stand next to a girl who seemed drunk. Eventually, though, I relaxed into it and enjoyed the opener.
I am nowhere near completely recovered, and new compulsions arise as I treat the old ones, but I am certainly closer each day to being OCD-free.
It all started when I was three years old and my family was going on a three-day road trip. My older sister was eating a brownie, drinking apple juice, and reading all while the car was moving. So, she threw up. I had no idea that a person could do that, and I didn’t know if she would live. That was the first time I remember having a panic attack, and from that point onward I have been terrified of vomiting or having anyone vomit near me.
When I was younger, my main compulsion was to control what I and my family ate. I couldn’t eat chocolate at all, and my family could only have one dessert item each day. No one could eat more than one snack between lunch and dinner, and if anyone tried to break that rule, I would forcibly steal the food from their hands and put it in the garbage. I could not (and still struggle with) eating in any restaurant that is too dirty or dark, and I cannot go through a revolving door, drink a whole glass of water (especially after 8:00 pm), ride a roller coaster, or use a public restroom without anxiety and intrusive thoughts about vomiting.
As I got older, I became more aware of my surroundings, and I was introduced to the concept of alcohol. The idea of not having complete control over my executive function completely petrified me from the start, and as I had more experience being around drunk people, I decided that I would never drink alcohol. That, coupled with the reality that drinking too much often makes you throw up, caused a new obsession to surface for me. This obsession is with coming into contact with alcohol, getting drunk or addicted, having to interact with a drunk person, driving drunk myself, and being in the car with a drunk driver.