Here's Your Sign.
It was a freshmen year of college for both of us. The us is me and Cici. Our friendship went way back to diapers and this had been the furthest we'd ever lived apart. Three hours was too many and it had been months since we'd last seen each other.
We had planned this weekend for what felt like eons in advance. She'd come up to visit, live it up in the dorms with my roommate and I, and hit some house parties with me and my ladies... Sobriety was not an option for this adventure, and we were both going to get some much needed steam blown off. The day couldn't come soon enough!
That night we dolled ourselves up, put real pants on (by this point of the semester we'd succumbed to a sweat pants existence by day), and hit the bottle early. I remember it distinctly. We smiled big smiles, laughed big laughs, and flirted with the boys in my dorm.
Later that night we casually, and rather drunkenly, left the dorm to head off to the first house party on the agenda. She got a phone call from her long term boyfriend checking in to see if all was good, which irritated her. By the time we got to the house, she was off the phone and looking for her next drink.
There was dancing, and meeting new people, and a few rounds of shots. And then it was off to the next house. I had never been to this house before. It was a ways off campus, the windows were darkened, and there was a cover charge for men only. We walked through the door and we were immediately given a red solo cup by the bouncer and led to a plastic tote filled with "wop."
If you don't know what "wop" is, it's basically a concoction of everything but the kitchen sink to drink- different liquors, mixers, and sometimes beer could go into this vat. Unless you were the creator of the mix, it's one of those drinks you never quite know what was in it, how strong it was, or how hygienically it was made.
We took our solo cups, dipped our glasses in this giant tote bin, and drank up!
Cici wanted to explore the house more. The wop was strong, but she needed something a little stronger. The phone call with her boyfriend turned into heated text messages and a few more attempted phone calls, and she wanted to drink off her distaste with him.
The guys who lived in the house happily showed us to the basement bar. Music was blaring, everyone was dancing, and shots were enthusiastically poured. We couldn't believe the attention these men we'd never met were showing us.
Cici was getting a little out of control. It was clear she had enough to drink. I was choosing to sober up to get us home, but a couple of the guys kept egging her on to drink more. To dance a little longer. To stay with them...
I wasn't comfortable with her behavior. I knew she was ignoring what was now incessant phone calls from her boyfriend back at her school. She was too far gone to make decisions about her continued alcohol consumption. One of the guys who lived in the house told me he'd take care of her, make sure she'd get home safe...
Somehow this night had taken a bitter nose dive. It went from 0 to 100 really fast. I had never seen this side of my friend and I was starting to make some judgments in regards to her behavior. I kind of wanted to leave her stubborn backside with these boys... we'd never met... that she insisted would take great care of her... even against my better judgement.
Eventually she agreed with me it was time to go home. She had taken a phone call that seemed to sober her up. Cici and I walked back in silence while I stewed over the disaster this night had turned into. What was supposed to be us time to catch up was a wasted stupor with a bunch of random guys we'd never met.
I could tell she was embarrassed by her behavior. I kept hearing a sniffle or two as we crossed the final parking lot before my dorm building.
Once inside I started getting ready for bed, still steely that things had gotten so out of control. I could tell Cici was watching me, waiting for me to say something when her phone rang. She quietly said she'd be outside shortly and hung up the phone.
I turned to look at her thoroughly infuriated. She was going back out with one of those guys from the party!
She gathered her things and said her boyfriend had come to pick her up. He needed her to come home. He drove three hours in the middle of the night to take her home with him.
He didn't like her behavior and thought she was unsafe. He was afraid for her well being. He was afraid she would find another boyfriend.
She needed to come home.
And she walked out of the building into her boyfriends car, nine hours after she showed up.
Fast forward three years:
The creep men from the house party Cici and I spent hours drinking at had become some of the most consistent, kind, gentlemen in my life. They walked with me while I was trying to free myself from alcohol addiction and paired destructive behavior. I was grateful for our friendship that started that night so long ago.
Cici's boyfriend on the other hand, managed to isolate her, control her, fuel her mental illness, manipulate her, and ultimately cause her to abuse prescription drugs for multiple years. Eventually his behavior caused her to admit herself to a mental institution after wanting to kill herself. After years of abuse, he left her on the steps of that hospital and was married to another women shortly after.
She never tried to leave, she never tried to run, and I didn't see the recognizable signs until she called from the institution.
Sometimes things aren't always what they seem. Sometimes scenarios aren't always predictable.
I share this story with you to bring awareness to that. To encourage you to be sober minded, take care of each other, and pay attention to questionable behaviors.
Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions with someone you care about. You never know if it will save their life.
Resources for victims of intimate partner violence can be found here
Resources for friends and family identifying abuse can be found here
And for those who are wondering what happened to Cici? She is free from the grip of her ex, married to man who loves her, and in the healthiest state of mind she's experienced in her adult life. She's a survivor! And we are closer than ever.