Quincy can't remember her first drink. But she recalls that alcohol made her feel silly, relaxed, pretty and important, and that she was soon drinking to get drunk. When her parents went out, Quincy and her buddy Ashley drank her father's beer and sometimes made themselves screwdrivers.
Quincy didn't know her father's father had been a binge drinker. Nor did she know that his death, like those of his two brothers, had been related to alcohol.
In fact, Quincy had never heard the word alcoholism until she was 12 and learned her father had collapsed from his first alcohol-related seizure. After he recovered, he started losing jobs. Enraged and despairing, her mother made unsuccessful attempts to get him to quit drinking. They separated; relatives and friends fell away. Quincy's mother lived with the children in the compound. Her father moved in with his mother in Brentwood and continued drinking.
All Quincy wanted was the impossible: to have her old life back. She drank to escape her new life. When she drank, she blacked out, but who cared? By then everybody else was doing drugs.
She and her friends never needed fake ID. Quincy says she and Ashley bribed older liquor store customers with money for an extra six-pack if they'd buy the girls vodka or Jack Daniels. They drank straight from the bottle before taking a taxi to Hot Trax, a nightclub in a seedy part of the San Fernando Valley. It didn't matter if her mother grounded her, she'd stay out until 2 a.m.
If she needed money, Quincy says she panhandled strangers at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. She stole makeup from Sav-On. She started having sex at 13 with her boyfriends. She started using drugs, and her drinking escalated.
"We were all out of control," says Quincy's mother, now remarried and living in Los Angeles. She knew Quincy was drinking and lying about her whereabouts, but she was focused obsessively on working and saving her husband. After a friend told her about AA, she took her husband to AA meetings, joined Al-Anon and shuttled Quincy and her siblings to meetings of Alateen.
"I was so guilty. I knew I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing," her mother says. "It didn't get better for a long time."
In the end, she says, Quincy saved herself.
New Year's morning, 1985, Quincy remembers coming to, alone, in a dank alley across Hollywood Boulevard from Graumans Chinese Theatre. She was 15. Her blouse was mysteriously bloodied, the odor of urine saturated the crisp, predawn air. She couldn't remember what had happened, although she did unfortunately recall part of the previous night when she had thrown up on a taxi driver. Christmas lights twinkled over the boulevard beyond. She felt like the trash strewn around her. She didn't feel lucky enough to die.
In a flash of clarity, she saw she was angry, confused, messed up and had absolutely no solution of her own. Screw it, she thought, I'll go to AA. Whatever.
Giving Up Alcohol Was Only the Beginning
In movies, the story usually ends here. But for Quincy, as for many addicts, quitting was just the beginning.
In Alateen, Quincy had been too angry and distracted by the cute guys there to absorb the basic 12-step message: Take personal responsibility, develop a spiritual life and try to help other people. It would be the same in AA. She had been able to quit drinking, she understood what they said in meetings, but life still sucked. She still thought of herself as trash.
Happy and fun one minute, she turned mean and manipulative the next. She smoked, she stole, she slept with her girlfriends' boyfriends. But they'd slept with hers, so who cared?
She watched her father's health deteriorate. Her mother sold their Encino home and moved to Woodland Hills. A friend was killed in a gang fight. She saw adults in AA take financial advantage of young people.
Screw AA, she thought. She had already dropped out of high school. She stopped going to meetings.
After eight months without meetings, a thought occurred just before she left for a family vacation in Hawaii. I haven't had a drink in almost three years. I deserve one! It won't count in Hawaii. Quincy and her sister got totally wrecked that August in Maui. Afterward, she promptly forgot about it.
Two months later, her disease caught up with her again at a wedding reception at the Hotel Bel-Air.
It was a rainy night in October, and Quincy was seated with the other young guests at a round table in a ballroom, feeling anxious and uncomfortable in her fancy dress and makeup. Large eyes ringed in black, she watched the waiter as he filled each guest's flute with Dom Perignon. When he approached, she didn't wave him off.
Quincy stared at the glass. She felt a familiar knot in her stomach, then the mental tape began to play: Go ahead. It won't hurt you. You'll feel like Marilyn Monroe.