The rest of the story

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The rest of the story

I remember the moment I got sick.

It was an icy Maine night in December of 1991, halfway through my senior year in high school. I was playing pool with my boyfriend in his parents’ garage—smoking Camel cigarettes and listening to The Doors on cassette. It was my turn to take a shot when a wave of nausea washed over me. Not long after, it progressed into what I thought was the flu—body aches, fever, fatigue, the works.

After several days in bed, my mother took me to the doctor who diagnosed me with acute gastroenteritis and handed me a prescription for antibiotics. When that didn’t work, he gave me another round.

Ups and downs

Two weeks later, I dragged myself back to school—still shaky, pale, and queasy.

It was the peak of the ski team season (the only sport I ever took to), and I couldn’t wait to get back. I loved skate skiing through the woods up and down the narrow winding trails. Alpine skiing was another story. Our team was small and required every member to race in both styles, regardless of skill level. My goal on those days was to just make it down the hill alive.

We met on the mountain on my first day back. My skis felt like led, and I could barely lift my legs as I made my way to the chairlift. I’ve never been so grateful for the long, cold trip to the top of the trail—just to be able to rest. 

A week or two later, I mustered up the energy to start racing again and even managed to place 10th at the State Championships (which was a huge feat for this awkwardly unathletic gal), but I wasn’t out of the woods…

Something still wasn’t quite right. My belly felt unsettled most of the time, with waves of intense nausea that would come out of nowhere. I’d often swig Pepto straight from the bottle and chomp on chalky antacids to get through the day. Little did I know, I was making things much worse (more on that later)…

The lie

No matter how crummy I felt, I was determined to keep living like a “normal” teenager. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to think I was sick or weak or weird—including my boyfriend, Pete (at least that’s what I’ll call him here).

Pete was a bit of a rebel who was always getting into some sort of trouble. And I seemed to be looking for trouble at that age. I started drinking alcohol when I was 13, and much-preferred parties to studying. This was a common pastime where I grew up in rural Maine, but I took it to a whole other level, especially when I hung out with Pete.

One night, Pete called me to ask if I wanted to go out with him. I was sitting on the couch with my mom, feeling sick and sorry for myself. I didn’t want to admit to him that I wasn’t up for it. In my 17-year-old mind, it wasn’t cool to be sick—so I did something I’m not very proud of. I covered the mouthpiece of the phone, and I asked my mom to tell me that I couldn’t go out.

Of course, she refused to be a pawn in my game, but I still told Pete (in a disappointed tone), “Mom said I can’t go out with you tonight.” At first, he was silent, and then replied, “I heard everything you just said.” That’s when I realized the battery on the back of the cordless phone had fallen off, leaving a gaping hole straight to the microphone. I was mortified, but I totally deserved it.

That was pretty much the end of our relationship—not so much because of my foolish lie, but because I really couldn’t keep up. This also marked the beginning of the end of my relationship with alcohol (more on that soon).

Read Part 2: Coming to a Head


  1. Amy McCarthy says:

    I am SO interested in hearing more details of your story Sharon. Thank you for sharing!

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