A snap, crackle, and pop into the era of millennial addiction.
It’s running uncomfortably low now. A cartridge depleting like my patience in front of a bro explaining why Hillary lost the election—fucking quickly.
My throat burns with stale electric vapor as I fumble through my purse, an excavation of three weeks worth of grocery receipts and half-eaten granola bars.
After cupping what feels like four slightly rectangled objects (phone, glasses case, sunscreen bottle, half-eaten granola #2), I land on a clean, white package of millennial’s Plutonium. I shake out what I now find to be an empty promise of relief. Fuck.
“Hey, you mind if I have some of yours? I’m out.”
The bro extends his sleek USB olive branch between mutterings of Politico factoids and Bernie lamenting, a cloud of fruit punch wafting over his head — among other things. Yucky, but it will have to do.
Cut to: my pupils dilating and a quick montage of crackling smoke. Juul-ing had become my own shitty remake of a low-budget addiction movie. Requiem for an Unattainable American Dream. Blow 2: It’s Mostly Baking Soda. Fear and Loathing Bros on Rainey Street. Would definitely see, TBH.
Box office smash aside, the dizzying fall into addiction of my partner in puffing crime had solidified itself into my life and shows no sign of slowing as I round the six month mark.
Time since my last puff: 23 seconds.
I quit analog cigarettes in April of 2014.
After a night of partying, I woke up the next morning sitting in the stink of regret that could only be shampooed out of my hair.
Cigarettes stink, I don’t have to tell you that.
They helped shroud anxiety of my early twenties, usually waved and offered and sat burning in front of late night conversations that would never really amount to anything. Anything that lasted, anyway.
It was that next morning, lying adjacent to my then-boyfriend, when I decided to shun the stink of my nicotine addiction and leave that shit in the rearview mirror of a dusty ’98 Intrepid from my dad’s junkyard. On the week’s eve of my 24th birthday, I had made a cognizant decision to take my health (and smells) in a positive direction. My then-boyfriend also chose to take our relationship in a different direction — very much apart.
Those revelations usually came about between shameful hangovers and early afternoon self-deprecation, the loveliest of cycles for wandering Austinites stuck between meaningless Liberal Arts degrees and next steps into a “boring” adulthood. Woe is me.
Back then, the only things that seemed to matter were perceptions of cool and boning dudes in shitty bands with cowboy hats. Loitering outside of closed bars waiting for the afterparty text (you know the one) consumed much of that time in my life — postgrad schmoozing, fucking, and hanging with acquaintances in a hometown that didn’t look so much like home anymore.
I was hosting at a sushi restaurant, paying rent for a curtained-off dining room in a home shared with my BFF, and just trying to make my way downtown, walking fast, faces passed etc. It was all very “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” circa 2001 Britney (a flawless masterpiece) but Justin fantasies only came in my dreams.
And I only came in my curtained-off dining room via dudes in shitty bands with cowboy hats.
I understood things to be easier then, less complicated. Trump hadn’t been elected, paying rent was slightly accessible for someone in the service industry, and the window of time before getting my life together still seemed manageable. My self-imposed mantra of “it’ll get done later” took precedence — and I believed that shit for many years.
Addiction and depression run in my family.
Over the course of late adolescence and teendagedom, I had become the apple martini of my mother’s eye — or box of Franzia, in her case.
When my older sister left home for San Francisco, I was 16 and felt that I had lost my only friend at home, my familial reprieve. Myspace babbling and angled selfie-taking could only release so much, so I found other ways to cope.
My friends and I made new friends in Turkish Silvers and senior boys with hookups to house parties. We’d drink Keystone Lights and jungle juice through weekends of late night truth or dares and badly given blow jobs (sorry Jeff). The world hadn’t yet discovered the sparkling allure of Instagram #FOMO, but I used any late night texts to hang as an excuse to leave the house.
Curfews didn’t exist at home, but I suppose it’s difficult to parent when you’ve been passed out on the couch for three days. Though, I did binge-watch 38 episodes of Love Island a few weekends ago, so I get it now.
My family danced delicately around my mother’s addiction, mostly silent and stuffed away in cluttered cupboards filled with empty bottles of Yellow Tail.
After the first attempted intervention and messy aftermath, the slight forays into sobriety never lasted long. I never learned to formally communicate the toll it took on my own mental health — much less understand what my mother was going through, so I stopped trying.
She wasn’t a human in my eyes back then, she was Mom — the one supposed to have everything figured out. She was to have everything folded neatly in her laundry room of a brain, spin cycle on repeat, but ready to wear for the daily grind.
As I inch closer and closer to 30 (my mother’s age when she had my sister) — the comparisons build.
They ebb and flow; from wine at noon to outwardly (and sometimes poorly) keeping it all together. Accepting invites and stacking deadlines, saying yes for fear of letting others down, flailing in disguise of broken self-esteem.
Having learned people-pleasing tendencies from an early age, I’ve become numb and incapable of standing up for myself. Most of my life-altering decisions stem from other people’s opinions on what I should do, or what they would do.
Life hack: it’s easier to follow directions when you have no fucking idea what’s going on.
Adult children of alcoholics err on the side of perfectionism, which duh — doesn’t and never will exist. We tend to overly control the people in our lives and mirror our own sense of identity and well-being to the emotional goings-on of friends, partners, coworkers, etc.
Tensions with loved ones build then fall into a suffocating fog of complaints and feeling sorry for yourself — if only they would change this, then I would be able to focus on a better career path. If only they would open up more to me, then I would really have the time to flourish sexually. If only they would stop drinking less, then maybe I wouldn’t have to worry so much in social situations. If only they would understand that my silence is an armor instead of retreating further back into a safety cave of stonewalling.
Life hack: it’s easier to fix other people’s problems when you have no fucking idea how to process your own shit.
We tuck our personal traumas deep inside our purses, mingling with crumpled receipts and half-eaten granola bars as we navigate a meandering path toward #enlightenment. I made it to page 56 in Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More (my sister’s recommendation), but I haven’t mustered up the courage to scale the chapters yet.
It’s hard to heal and work through toxic patterns of ancestral trauma when rent is just around the corner and you’ve been on a waitlist for affordable therapy almost 7 months.
I don’t know many millennials who aren’t consumed by overwhelming existential dread and debt, working multiple jobs on top of creative side hustles, on top of relationships, on top of going to therapy (if they can afford it).
I sit writing this, Chopped’s Ted Allen murmuring quietly about eggplants and chicharrón dust behind me, putting off deadlines that might help scoop me from the hole I’ve done a real good job digging myself into.
I do this often. I wake up, chug a coffee, plan my sights on a day filled with productivity and sunshine, friends and deep conversation, job application and resume re-writes. But come noon and I’ve only showered, played with my dog, and eaten leftover beans with pepperoncini chips. Where did the time go?
It seems as though our entire generation laughs internally with dead eyes, in a constant scroll of memes and distraction, anything to shroud the anxiety of skyrocketing medical costs, never-ending college debts, saturated job markets, and the impending doom of climate catastrophe — or like, Tuesday.
Growing up we are told to put our heads down, work hard, go to college, find a job, make an impact. Mental health not withstanding, it all seemed pretty straightforward. And if you’re lucky, you might even find a person with above-average cunnilingus skills to spend your life with. Hoorah!
It’s work harder. Work smarter. Work longer — but not too long. Go on vacation. Keep grinding. Keep scrolling. Go to therapy. Buy the $12 cocktail that you can’t afford. Keep Juul-ing. Pay rent. Fuck more. Play games with people you love. Flirt with dudes in shitty bands with cowboy hats. Find happiness. Call your mom. Fold laundry. Keep digging for meaning in a mint flavored buzz. Do it now.
Time since my last puff: