|REM at the Rat, 1983. Photo by Laura Levine.|
My friends and I were champions of indiscretion; we were delinquent most nights, and wrecked most mornings. The hangovers were bad but the cringies -- the self-loathing, shame, and contrition that came with remembering the transgressions of the night before -- were worse. There was Tylenol and hair-of-the-dog to help with the hangovers, but the only cure for the cringies was the knowledge that the worse the cringie, the better the story, and by the time evening rolled around, we'd be back at the Rat telling tales. But, since the majority of my stories involved black out drinking and substances galore, my recall was shaky, and thus I embellished liberally.
|Cigarettes and alcohol: at the Rat, 1984 (Photo by Katy Lyle)|
There were sometimes G-rated stories that didn't require embellishment and remained worthy of telling nonetheless. REM played at the Rat when they were otherwise playing arenas - a secret show that I told everyone about -- and Michael and Bill climbed on a ledge outside of the upstairs office and serenaded the crowd on the street below as they waited in line for a never-gonna-happen chance to get in. Metallica played during a snowstorm to an audience of 20 and did a full set anyway, and at a show in Providence, the Dream Syndicate played three songs to a full house, one of which was a 45-minute version of "All Along the Watchtower." If I leave out the part about getting high with him or passing out a few hours later, talking about how John Cale dedicated a song to me would be a heart-warming tale suitable for all audiences.
|Lilli, the coolest of us all|
(Photo by Wayne Valdez)
It took a while, but I finally got sober again. I thought the anguish of retrospect would go away, but that's not what happened. It got worse; without substances to blame, I had to deal with the knowledge that I did the shit I did because I am who I am. I couldn't manage the feelings, so instead I shopped, gambled, slept around, ate and didn't eat. None of that worked, though, and after eight years clean, I started to get high again. Not surprisingly, that didn't work either. I again woke up miserable, and also unsurprisingly, I kept that five-year story to myself.
I went back to rehab in 2011, and I've been clean ever since. I seldom hang out with rock stars now, and it's been a while since I've been to an emergency room or encountered the police. I still do stupid shit, though, and I still get the cringies, but I no longer need to mute them. I've finally accepted myself for the person I am, and as a result, my life is much better. Or it sounds like it is, anyway -- I may have changed, but I still tell stories, and I'll always be an embellisher.