Alex never wanted to drink. He never wanted to feel that craving addiction as your life spiraled into lies and depression.
Maybe it was a hypocritical thought to have, sitting with his friends and getting high.
But he'd seen what alcohol can do.
He was young when his Papi was going through the worst of it, but that didn't stop him from remembering. Remembering the fighting through the walls late at night, the shattered glass on the floor of the kitchen, be awoken in the middle of the night by his father telling him goodbye.
He remembered that night and forgot it at the same time.
Memories are strange that way.
He could remember the color of the shirt Papi was wearing, a bright sickly orange. He remembered the way Elena's hair tickled his nose as she held him. He remembered the dinner they'd had that night, takeout pizza because his Abuelita was stuck in the bathroom with a horrible case of the flu.
But he'd forgotten what Mami said to Papi. He forgot what he was wearing, when he'd finally gotten to sleep. He'd even forgotten what exactly his Papi had been saying to wake him up.The general memory of it was hazy, like looking through fog. There was only a sense of terror and confusion.
Seeing Schneider going through a relapse was like the final nail in the coffin.
Sure, Alex hadn't been very comfortable with drinking before. He knew he didn't like it, but he hadn't stopped himself from taking beers at parties or sipping from his Mami's wine glass on special occasions.
Having to find Schneider nonfunctional on the floor of the laundry room?
No. Just no.
He couldn't do it.
He wouldn't do it.
His friends understood, at least. Finn gave him a bit of a hard time for it, but backed off after Alex went off on him in the group chat.
It was a little strange, given that he had no qualms about smoking weed.
Then again, it was usually the other way around in society. Drinking was a normal thing, drugs were not.
Rather funny, actually, if you thought about it. Alcohol was something known to cause liver cancer and depression. Whereas marijuana was beginning to be used medically because it was beneficial in alleviating pain, anxiety, and depression.
In fact, Alex knew it helped him with anxiety.
When Mami had brought up the subject of anxiety to him and Elena, he knew exactly what she was talking about. He knew the terrified feeling and the hyperventilating and the shaky sweating.
Because he'd felt it late at night. When the memories of Papi would return. An endless cycle of what if? What if Mami hadn't been able to stop him? What if he came back and wasn't any different? What if Alex ended up like him someday?
He'd seen his friends go through it too. When his friend Jamie had been outed to his parents as trans, Alex had comforted him as Jamie shook and screamed into a pillow, scratching at his arms and chest. Finn had a paralyzing fear of raised voices, and Alex had watched him leave more than one school event due to the crowd, trembling as he walked. There'd been countless times when someone texted the group chat, asking if anyone was online. Alex always was and would talk them through it.
And getting high?
Alex had less sleepless nights of worry after Finn got him his own vape. If he felt himself starting to spiral, he’d quietly open his window and sit there, texting his friends and blowing smoke out over the city skyline.
And then Mami had found out.
Of course he’d lied.
That's what teenagers do.
How could you just, tell someone? Bare your soul and the truth, laid out for judgement? Let them into your darkest moments, watch the disappointment as they discover who you really are, see the growing loneliness in their eyes as they realize that you're growing up and changing and that you aren't sweet little Papito anymore?
You're Alex, a teenage boy trying to navigate a society against everything you are. And so, you turn to something that helps.
Perhaps it is an addiction, Alex contemplates, passing the vape to Finn. Isn't that what both Schneider and Papi had said about alcohol?
That it's turning to something that helps.
Alex never wants to drink. He never wants to feel that craving addiction as your life spiraled into lies and depression.
Perhaps he already is though.
He's lied to Mami about never smoking again.
But it helps. It stops the late night spirals. It stops the pains in his chest when Elena refuses to speak to Papi. It helps.
It can't be an addiction if the benefits outweigh the risks.