So many of my relationships have been built on the shaky, trembling ground of booze, baby.
I started going to clubs at a really young age. In fact, I think I started drinking and partying around the same time I started hooking up with people (not shocking, as alcohol is the big, bad sister of the reckless hookup).
My first stab at love was at 18 years old with someone I met at a college party in southern California.
I was drunk off a cheap, plastic bottle of tequila (gag) when I saw a blonde head with pale blue eyes, Angelina-Jolie lips and a black hoodie. She was dancing with a lit cigarette and just had that glow.
I said, "Hi, my name is Zara."
And she replied, "Hi, I have some absinthe from my trip to Europe. Do you want some?"
Like two drunken teenagers, we found a romantic spot to sit and share secrets as we passed a bottle of absinthe back and forth. It was freezing cold, and I was wearing practically nothing, so she put her arm around me to warm me up.
And suddenly, I felt it all: sexual heat, butterflies, vulnerability, connection and passion.
The more drunk I became, the bigger my feelings swelled until they got so gigantic, they swallowed me whole.
At about 2 am, we kissed. I felt this strange shift inside myself the moment her lips grazed mine. Nothing had ever felt so real in my entire life.
I had heard people talk about the electricity that can exist between two people, but I deemed it all flowery bullshit. But now, I felt an electricity surge through my body.
Love was real, and it was happening to me... while I clutched a bottle of imported absinthe.
The next morning, I woke up with a hangover so severe, it felt like someone had sucked all the water out of my body. I felt like a withering plant in a pre-war apartment with the radiator turned up too high.
Quickly, vulnerability set in. I felt sick with worry about my kissing session with this girl.
I mean, it had been fireworks, right? It had been explosive, right? I couldn't remember exactly what she looked like, but I remembered the way she made me feel.
My fear screamed loudly in my hypersensitive ears. What if SHE didn't have the same experience? I felt my spit thicken, and I wanted to vomit. What if this mega-crush was unrequited?
I prayed the comforter would protect me from the inevitable sting of rejection from a girl I didn't know, but who I was certain I loved.
That melodramatic, drunken little scene was exactly how our relationship panned out for the next six months, without ever growing into anything more. We were too wasted to realize we were replaying the same movie over and over again. (We all know how drunk people like to repeat themselves.)
This was all because we started our relationship wasted. Every single time I saw her, we would party like we were going to the electric chair.
Oh, tequila is our drink, babe! Oh, let's do shots because we're so drunk and in love and so crazy and wild for each other.
Let's peel off our clothes and twist our bodies together beneath the cheap sheets in your dorm room and have sex we can only remember in blurry flashes the next day. Let's wake up feeling the dreaded waves of anxiety as toxins leave our frail, young bodies.
But later, I'll need to clutch your body until you can't breath because I'm scared of the world when I'm sober. And when I'm hungover, that fear is debilitating and paralyzing.
I'll need a ton of reassurance that I'm good because I feel really bad about myself after I'm drinking. And you don't feel well when you're hungover, so you'll get rightfully annoyed with me. Then, we'll fight because I'm being needy, and you can't meet my needs.
We'll fight and fight because neither one of us is in a rational, balanced state of mind. And when two people are all nerves, anxiety and feeling akin to death, how can they communicate properly?
But then, we'll get drunk together once again and feel those intense feelings, because booze can make you feel like you're falling in love with a stranger.
Booze can make you believe someone you've never had a sober experience with is your soulmate. It puts a filter over reality and unlocks all your repressed feelings and releases emotions not rooted in reality.
And then, one dark, hungover morning, you realize the fantasy your drunken self has created is toxic in reality.
You start to sober up and wonder if you and your partner's tempestuous dynamic is all the drinking. You're starting to fight all the time — not just when you're hungover, but when you're drunk, too. Drunk bliss stops working after a while.
So, you both decide to spend some sober time together — only the feelings don't seem so intense when you're sober.
And the sex isn't so explosive, either.
And while you can remember it the next morning, the memories aren't thrilling, blurry vignettes anymore. It's like you're suddenly looking under a harsh hospital light.
Plus, you aren't feeling so vulnerable and needy anymore because you're not always dying of a hangover. Your autonomy is coming back.
And after a few weeks, it finally hits you: You've never been sober together, and maybe the feelings you felt — the ones that felt so life-changing — weren't that real after all.
They were simply a byproduct of booze. You craved love so badly, and you projected love on the first warm body you saw. And of course, the liquor made you believe it was real.
Since I was 18, I've had a few relationships follow this destructive pattern.
I mean, it's tempting, isn't it? You want to drink when you first meet someone because first dates are even worse when you're raw and sober.
The next thing you know, you're feeling warm and tingly inside because you took some fireball shots together, and then you're making out on the dance floor like real lovers. Cut to six months later, and you're in a relationship.
Until one day, you start crying because you realize you're knee-deep with someone you don't actually know.
That's why it's so important to start a relationship in a coherent state of mind. Drunk feelings aren't real feelings, and you need to make sure you have the same incredible fire with this person in the unflattering light of reality.
If you can feel the winds shift when you kiss while sober, then that kiss actually means something — something big.
Yes, it's rare to feel these huge feelings without the added help of drugs or booze, but when you do, they're sustainable and can last. And believe it or not, they're even more life-changing when they're real.
Booze might make you feel a lot, but it also dulls your senses. And to feel love with all of your senses is an experience like nothing else.
Only then, if you do get wasted with your partner after you've already established your feelings sober, you'll be able to tell the difference between booze fights and authentic fights.
At the end of the day, authenticity is the most important thing in the world. And being confident in the love you have is a high that propels you further into the sky — more than any drink could.
The best part? There's no crash, no comedown and no hangover.