Chapter V

BIG BROTHER IS ALWAYS WATCHING

If you find yourself looking for the model of a good guy, look no further than my big brother, Raúl[1].  He’s handsome, kind, funny, supportive, and humble.  Just ask him… 

My brother is ten years my senior, which I genuinely believe is the only reason one of us never murdered the other.  We were never stuck in the same school at the same time, never hung out with the same people during our formative years, never dated each other’s friends, etc.  He was at Trinity a decade before me, and then I eventually followed in his footsteps to boarding school in Connecticut.  It was pretty nice knowing he was out there getting the world ready for me; preparing them for the magnificence that was to follow in his wake.

Raúl and I did not have too many opportunities to hang out when I was younger because of our age gap.  By the time I was generating cohesive thoughts and sentences, he was at boarding school over one thousand miles away.  Even when he was not physically there, he was always a huge presence in my life.  My family talked about him all the time.  As a small child, he seemed to be a tremendous force; some sort of superhero that went away to solve crimes and save the world.  I would sit in his room, lay on his bed, put on shirts that he left behind.  I took all of his toys[2], mostly because I was a kid and any toys in the house should belong to me, but also because I missed him without even really knowing him.  To me, he was the bigger kid who taught me to dance, tickled me, and put records on for me.  Then, one day he left.  On the days that I was not out playing or causing a ruckus somewhere, it felt like he left me behind.  Obviously, that was not the case, but for a child who is clearly the center of the universe, I took it pretty hard.

Like any younger sibling, there is a laundry list of things I hate about my older brother.  Among them:

  • For whatever reason, he is the only person in my family that was not baptized Catholic.  He just has to be different…
  • He has dimples that look like someone put pins in his chubby little cheeks.  They’re adorable.
  • His calves are magnificent[3].

  • He is usually right.

While that last one in particular pains me to admit (especially in writing), it is the truth.  His advice is usually spot-on and I never regret going to him with a problem.  I have struggled a lot throughout my life and I can always count on him to say the right thing.  It is very obnoxious, but it is also one of the reasons I love him so much.

He became the most involved in my life when I was thirteen and about to leave for boarding school.  He took me to Cheesecake Bistro and told me to ask him anything.  My first question was obviously about drinking, as I had already developed quite a taste for it.  I tried to play if off, though, as mere curiosity.  I am not sure if he bought it, but he did give me one rule: Never do it on campus.  He also applied that to smoking pot, which at the time seemed completely ridiculous to me.  He told me stories of people he knew that were thrown out of school for drinking and smoking and made me promise that I would not do the same.  According to the man himself, he left quite a reputation behind and I had big shoes to fill.  I could not go and mess it up.

While I knew he was exaggerating and not intentionally putting pressure on me, I took him very seriously.  I was genuinely terrified of boarding school; leaving everything and everyone behind was something I was not even remotely interested in doing, but I was even more afraid of saying that out loud.  I continued eating my garlic pasta while he went on, telling more stories about the pranks he and his friends pulled, the secret tunnels underneath the school[4], and who the coolest teachers were.  When he said to me, “You have to promise to keep your V-card until you’re 18,” I choked, and we moved on.

Since that lunch, I have considered him to be my best friend.  Others have come and gone in catastrophic fashion, but Raúl has always been there.  When my roommate freshman year criticized me for being Catholic, I called him.  When one of my closest friends and I stopped speaking to each other sophomore year, when I broke up with my first serious boyfriend junior year, when I found out that my ex boyfriend and my best friend were sleeping together senior year, I called him.  When college happened, I called him.  Whenever the next stupid thing happens to me, he will be my first call[5].

For a long time, one of my biggest regrets in life was that I was not there for my brother in the way that he was for me.  The only time I remember him needing me was at our mother’s funeral.  At the cemetery, he was seated next the casket, crying.  I took a rose from the floral arrangement and gave it to him.  He grabbed me so tightly that I could barely breathe and he buried his face in my neck.  Of everything that happened with my mother, that moment struck me the hardest.  Here was my big brother, the toughest guy I knew, clinging onto me – his scrawny little kid sister – desperately.  I hugged him back, understanding even then that from that moment on, it was us.

That moment has stayed with me for over twenty years.  Whether he remembers it or not, I cannot say.  In my experience, most of what happened around that time was a huge blur, and my brother and I do not talk about it.  He is a complex and stoic man, and I admire him for that.  He cares about me more than anyone ever will and while I never earned the title of his best friend[6], I know he knows that I am always here.

As I write this, he is embarking on a huge new chapter in his life and I could not be more proud.  Every day that I am around him, I learn something.  Whether it is about him or myself or housework, it always proves to be invaluable.  Whenever I stop to think about my life and my future, I always catch myself thinking, When I grow up, I want to be just like my big brother.



[1] The names in this thing are obviously fake to conceal the identities of my family and friends from crazy people admirers.  My brother chose his own.

[2] He still gives me shit for taking baths with his Voltron figurine.  It was metal and so it rusted, but V and I had a relationship that my brother simply cannot understand.  Bath buddies.  That’s real.

[3] Whenever I am walking behind him he flexes unnecessarily just to make me jealous.  It works every time.

[4] Which do not exist.  Or do they…?

[5] Unless, it has to be my lawyer, which would not surprise anyone

[6] Because that would be admittedly creepy coming from a grown man to his little sister

 © 2014 Mia Borders

I am 44 years old and in twenty days I will be clean and sober 25 years. I wasnt much for AA either, but i did try it. I loved your post. Life or Death, thats the choice I make everyday for almost 25 years. If you keep that always in your sights you will succeed. Do not diminish that accomplishment simply because its not will power, look around you... many are not making the choice to live. Be proud of yourself...one last thing.. its amazing how much clarity comes with each day of sobriety

Thanks so much. And a big congrats to you!

How hard was it to write this sobriety entry?

I don’t know if I would call it hard. It was more necessary than anything. It was very cathartic, which is what I love about writing.

On Being Sober – 1 Year Later

People quit the good stuff for various reasons.  Some do it for their health, some for their families, for their work.  Some people get angry, violent, or depressed under the influence.  I am what is affectionately known as a “black-out drunk.”  When my brain decides I’ve had enough and it’s sleepy time, my body goes rogue and keeps on keeping on.  While this led to many a fun night for my friends and strangers I encountered along the way, it’s actually pretty scary to wake up on a regular basis and not know what happened the night before.  Even scarier is how good I am at acting like I’m not blacked out.

September 11-18 of 2012 was a rough week in terms of my drinking.  Tuesdays were my night for drinking out, so I went to the bar I was frequenting at the time and had too many.  Then, I went to a nearby bar with some friends and had more.  I imagine I threw up at some point, because that always encouraged me to continue drinking.  Obviously, there is no logic behind that thought, but that’s just how I rolled.

I woke up the next morning in my jammies tucked in bed, hoping that my car wasn’t parked outside of my house.  At least once I would have liked to be responsible and cab it home, but in all my years of drinking, it never happened.  I drove myself home every single time whether I was tipsy, drunk, or completely blacked out.

A friend texted me and told me how hilarious I was the night before and encouraged me to come out again.  When we met up, I heard the ridiculously embarrassing stories of what I did.  While we unfortunately had conversations like this on a regular basis, for the first time, something in the back of my brain clicked.  She was telling me story after story of how inappropriate I had been and kept calling it “hilarious.”  I had no recollection of any of it.  Before letting this sink in too deeply, I knocked back a lot of whiskeys and again drove myself home.

I stopped drinking the next week.  Friends and family asked me why I was declining beers and shots and I played it off.  My first excuse was that I saw myself on TV the week before and my face looked fat, so I figured the easiest way to shed a few pounds was to take a break from drinking.  Although it was true that my face was super chubby, this was a lie I was telling myself – the first lie of many.

The next was that because we were going into the studio to record my next album, I wanted my voice in the best shape possible and not drinking would help.  While this is also true, it’s also bullshit.  I’ve been in the studio a dozen times and I’ve always had a drink in my hand throughout the process.

Then, I blamed the cigarettes.  Since I got to the point where I was only smoking when drinking, I said that if I quit drinking for a while, I could get a handle on not smoking and then work my way back to doing one without the other.  This too was absolute malarkey.

Once it became clear that this wasn’t as temporary as I initially made it seem, the reactions were pretty varied.  My family for the most part seemed relieved.  We have a history of alcoholism and I was definitely the most likely candidate to carry on the tradition.  My friends were all confused.  Why did I need to stop drinking?  Couldn’t I just take it easy and not drink so much?  Besides, it’s not like I’m an alcoholic or anything.  I’m way too young for that.

I’ll admit, when a friend of mine told me that she stopped drinking, my first thought was, “That’s fucking lame.”  I didn’t say that to her face, but I definitely felt that way, so I understand where my friends were coming from when I told them the same thing.  While they didn’t hesitate to tell me how lame I was, being honest about where I was coming from helped me come to terms with my issues.  In fact, it helped me so much that I decided to go public.  I posted monthly about my sobriety milestones in order to keep myself in check.  Having people across the country congratulate me and tell me their own stories helped me realize that it can actually be done.  Where I am is just the beginning and the hundreds of people that have reached out to me allow me to hold myself more accountable.

Everyone’s addiction is different, so I don’t presume to speak on anyone else’s behalf.  I will say that for me, AA isn’t the way to go right now.  I’ve read the book and see myself in some of the chapters, but can’t even begin to relate to most.  I have a support system that I can rely on and people who I can talk to who know what I’m going through, which is a huge asset that I don’t take for granted.  Also, I’m very socially awkward and talking about myself in a room full of strangers scares the bejeezus out of me.

One last thing I’ll say is that my sobriety has nothing to do with willpower.  People who don’t understand the disease comment all the time on how strong my will is, when in reality, it has nothing to with what I’m doing.  I’m not on a diet, avoiding cookies and cupcakes.  This is something that I know is life or death.  Before I stopped drinking, I was fairly certain that my death would more than likely involve alcohol.  I would either accidentally mix my arthritis pain medication with too much whiskey, drink myself into a coma, or simply drive into a pole.  I made a conscious decision to help myself live as long as possible and that’s all this is.  Plus, I enjoy a bit of mystery in my life.

P.S. Re: Willpower.  I haven’t had fast food since New Year’s Eve.  Boom.

Chapter IV

MILESTONES

My childhood outside of school was much less dramatic.  My best friend Vicki lived in the next block, so I spent most of my free time with her.  While her house was not akin to a castle and her mother reminded me constantly that they were not rich, they were well off enough that their home was leaps and bounds cooler than my house.  There was a staircase, a pool table, lofts instead of beds, paintings on the walls, multiple bathrooms, a porch swing, etc.  Plus, their house doubled as a bed and breakfast with super cool strangers from all over the world, indulging our curiosity and telling us stories from their travels.  Even then I knew that my beginnings were humble and to play at my house as opposed to hers would have been silly - not to mention embarrassing.  I know Vicki would never have believed that, but I was already so aware of my socioeconomic status compared to those around me that I prematurely carried a sense of shame[1] when it came to things like my family’s home, Grama’s Oldsmobile, and my Payless sneakers.

Vicki and her family were always good to me.  They were members of a neighborhood swimming pool and they often invited me to join them during the summer.  They didn’t realize, however, that I didn’t know how to swim.  They thought I simply was not a strong swimmer and so they kept an eye on me.  I would hang out on the steps by myself, watching Vicki and our other best friend Samantha frolicking around in the water, even occasionally venturing into the deep end.  With jealously in my heart, I would slowly make my way down the steps, making sure no one was watching too carefully as I got closer to being submerged.  When anyone glanced my way, I would quickly retreat to the top and go back to splashing myself and giggling.  Fools, I thought.  When I get under the water, I’ll swim just like a mermaid and you will all be so impressed.

I did not swim just like a mermaid.  Instead, I splashed around violently, my arms desperate to keep my head above water as my eye line quickly shifted back and forth from my flailing hands and feet underwater to Vicki’s parents and several other adults rushing to my aid above ground.  They would pull me out, make sure I hadn’t choked, and once I convinced them that I would only sit on the top step and lightly splash around, they would leave me be.  After a certain amount of time had passed and they were back to relaxing and chatting amongst themselves, I would go at it again.  This happened several times, with either Vicki’s father or mother literally having to save my life yet again.  Bless them.  Were I in their position, after the fifth time, I probably would have let Darwinism take over.

After they got tired of this routine, they enrolled me and Vicki in swimming lessons[2].  As soon as we entered the gym for the first time, I looked up at the highest platform and told Vicki that I would jump off of it by the time we finished the class.  That was obviously a long shot seeing as how I couldn’t even swim, but at least I had high hopes.  Once we got to the lessons, though, I took to the water very naturally and became a pretty solid swimmer, graduating from the class like a champ.  While I did not make it to the top diving platform, I did make it to the baby diving board and did a front flip (landing on my face) the very first time.  Since Vicki’s mom registered us in the class together, when I finished, my certificate read “Mia Briggs[3].”  Grama kept it on the fridge for years.

image

(With my partners in crime, Vicki and Samantha.  Our resident male P.I.C., Chris, is in the background doing whatever boys do…  Also, I’m in a bathing suit for no reason whatsoever.)

Another milestone brought to me by my friendship with Vicki and was the removal of my training wheels.  I saw Vicki and Samantha riding around on their two wheels, and again the green monster in my heart began to rear his ugly head.  I asked Vicki’s dad to remove my training wheels, assured that I could ride without them.  Obviously, I proved myself wrong, crashing immediately and removing a large piece of flesh from my left knee[4].  Blood be damned, I got back on the bike.  Vicki’s dad held the back of my seat with one hand while I situated my feet.  I slowly started to pedal down the driveway.  Soon, Vicki and Samantha were cheering me on and I realized Vicki’s dad wasn’t holding on to the bike anymore.  I quickly freaked out and gave myself a matching skinned knee on the right side, but like the champ I was, I eventually showed that purple Huffy who was boss and made it my bitch everyday after that.  Obviously, it still gets me amped thinking about it.

Even now, I ride my bike regularly, although now it’s mounted to a trainer in my living room.  I don’t understand why people ride around outside when they could be watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in an air-conditioned room.

Some people have heard those landmark stories of my childhood and feel bad that those experiences were not shared with my own family.  Sure, my dad could have taught me to swim and ride a bike, but the man had a job, people.  He worked out of town to mail home the bacon[5], and Grama was not a great option for any pastime that was not Bridge, Pokeno, or watching Wheel of Fortune.  That said, come at me with a deck of cards or some Hangman.  You will get housed Grama-style.

P.S. I find it to be of utmost importance to note that my first White Man Crush was on Samantha’s father.  He was an artist and a bachelor and he never really seemed to do much with his days, so when we were hanging out at their apartment, there was always plenty of free time to be spent with him.  He appeared to really be making the most of that thing called Adulthood, which made him even more attractive.  He had beautiful eyes and an Australian accent, making him like my own personal Hugh Grant[6].  I sometimes still get the giggles when I see him.

If you’re reading this…  Hey, Jack.



[1] And with it, a sense of guilt regarding this shame, like any good Catholic.

[2] Vicki didn’t need the lessons, but they insisted that she could always get better.  I imagine, though, that they just didn’t want me to be alone.  Nice folks.  Do people still say “folks?”

[3] Several years later, one of my cousins had his appendix taken out.  His sister and I took it upon ourselves to nurse him back to health.  He called me Nurse Briggs for years.  Now that I think about it, he still does sometimes.

[4] 1 pair of bloody pants = 1 pissed off Grama

[5] Which I didn’t come to understand for years, partially leading to a hugely dramatic family blowout.

[6] Yes, I know Hugh Grant is British, not Australian, but you try to explain the difference to a child.

© 2013 Mia Borders

Mia Borders - Forget My Name
41 plays

THE EVOLUTION OF A SONG

Part 3 - The studio cut

For my latest album, I was fortunate enough to have Anders Osborne produce. He loved the demos I made, but really brought them to life in the studio along with my incredible band (Rob Lee - drums, Jesse Morrow - bass, Takeshi Shimmura - guitar). Our engineer, Warren Riker, is even more amazing than his résumé says. Google him. Amazeballs…

Recorded at Dockside Studio in Maurice, LA.

21 plays

THE EVOLUTION OF A SONG

Part 2 - The demo

With this particular song, I finished an instrumental demo before I had any lyrics in mind. As I listened to it over and over again, the lyrics came to me. I was annoyed with someone in my life, so I used that relationship, heightened the drama, and wrote the lyrics for “Forget My Name.”

The instrumentation is all performed by me, with the help of some fairly decent studio magic, if I do say so myself.

27 plays

THE EVOLUTION OF A SONG

Part 1 - The musical idea


This is a recording from my phone I took during a soundcheck before a show in Lafayette, LA. I came up with the guitar lick that would eventually become my song “Forget My Name.”

is this the real Mia Borders, or a fan?

It’s the real me. I’d be a little creeped out if it were a fan posting this stuff… ;0)

Dockside Studio, Maurice, LA