This is one of the hardest letters I have ever had to write – how can we possibly break up after 40 years together? My life has involved changing countries, changing jobs, even changing husbands and friends but never changing you – you were always there as my constant companion.
We met when I was still a teenager – you gave me the courage I needed to get through college and to make and sustain relationships. We had some wonderful times together – I flirted with drugs but stayed faithful to you. You were the best – and made me feel special.
You gave me confidence – I was still “me” but just an amplified version. You helped me soothe the pain when things were not so good – why suffer with difficult emotions when you were there to erase them?
As I entered my twenties, there were a few warning signs – do you remember that time I got so hammered I passed out in the bath and my flatmate had to ring the fire brigade to knock the door down? That was a great story to tell – especially the bit when I woke up in hospital with a shrink by my bedside. How we laughed at that one!
You were there when I met my first husband who also loved a drink – as did all our friends. I deserted you briefly when I became pregnant with my son but I still remember how much I missed you and how happy I was when we were re-united to toast the baby’s arrival.
You never prevented me from succeeding in my career – surrounded by heavy drinking colleagues, we all believed in “work hard, play hard” and anyone missing the weekly drinking session was viewed with great suspicion and written off as “boring”.
After more than 20 happy years together, trouble came when I married for the second time. For some inexplicable reason my second husband hated you.
He was jealous and resentful of the hold you had over me and I realised that I would have to choose. Much to your fury I chose him.
He made me see that I was lost in you and that you could even kill me. I went through breast cancer but you convinced me you were innocent and I needed you even more to dull the fear of dying.
There followed a decade of trying to “moderate”. The thought of losing you completely was anathema to me but surely we could all live together if you and I were to “cool” our relationship.
This “ménage a trois” worked for a while. For months at a time we would all get along fine. Then you would suddenly exert your power and make sure that we had a crazy time together. Blackouts, injuries and terrible hangovers would follow and I would hate myself for giving in to you. You had become controlling and just wouldn’t let me go. The push and pull was becoming too much to bear.
I came to the jumping off place.
Blackout followed blackout while my husband watched helplessly. Sometimes I could easily drink a couple of bottles of wine and feel nothing at all. Other times I would feel quite “drunk” after just one glass. I finally realised this could not go on – there would be no going back if I continued on this path.
So on May 23rd 2015 I made my decision. I told you it was over. My heart was heavy but you were ruining my life. That was a whole year ago so I know it’s possible to live without you.
How you struggled at first – every day you harped on and on at me. I had no peace. You told me I would never survive a party or social event with you.
Evenings at home without you beside me were endless – painful and pointless. Socialising was difficult. I could not even get to sleep without you and lay awake for hours wondering if I had done the right thing. Without you to encourage me I felt depressed, angry and resentful of everyone still drinking.
You told me I would never cope with the bad times without you – after all what experience did I have of dealing with my emotions?
How I missed the “buzz” – that beautiful high that came after a few glasses of wine (especially on an empty stomach). Never mind that after the high I would sometimes come crashing down and end up in tears.
But I hung on in there – and very slowly it got better. Your voice became fainter, my friends stuck with me and of course my long-suffering husband was thrilled.
I now realise that during all those years of trying to “moderate,” our relationship was actually as strong as ever – your hold on me was ever present. You would allow me to “cool it” for a while but then come storming back with a vengeance, causing havoc in my life.
You were right, it was hard –and sometimes it still is. Looking back on my year of sobriety I still remember the dismal birthday, Christmas and New Year “celebrations” – how could I celebrate without you beside me? But I am learning – and Year Two is going to be easier now that your power over me has diminished and I have experienced the joy of living without you.
So thanks for the memories – I will never forget you and often smile as I think back to those crazy times we had together – but it’s time for me to try a new life now – and for me to continue to live without you …