As you know, we go back a very long way. I first met you when I was four or five years old when my dad gave me a small glass of watered down wine at the dinner table. He said it was good to grow up knowing how to handle and appreciate alcohol.
Then, when I was about 10, he would give me sips of his rum and cokes at the many parties we attended or held. A life of travelling abroad with a generous expense account meant the booze was always flowing.
I remember the brunches – with Black Velvets, Screw Drivers and Bloody Mary’s. The nightly shakers of Martinis, followed by wine at dinner and many whiskies afterwards. Drinking was sophisticated, stylish and frankly splendid – we never drank plonk. And it was one of the things I shared with Dad – his little accomplice in filling up his wine glass while mom wasn’t looking.
But then you, together with your cousin cigarettes, took him from me when I was 23. After that, I really discovered the joys of getting ‘trashed’ and countless nights of oblivion ensued. And it was fun. Until one day in New York city, when I was on my own and got myself into such a scrape – you know what I’m referring to.
I had no control over the blackouts – or when I would drink too much. Suddenly, there would be a turning point of an evening and I would no longer know what I was doing or saying. Until the next day, if someone happened to tell me. I would tell myself that it wouldn’t happen again, that I wouldn’t drink to the point of no return, but of course it happened over and over again in both private and professional settings.
Fortunately, only one boss ever got a true inkling of it and I was told that my potential would be limited because of it. But shortly thereafter she left, and I managed to keep my secret – and my job.
So why am I writing you this Dear John letter? Because I’m at a turning point. I’m starting to drink more and more, at the same time as I’m in recovery from a bout of adrenal failure, which also led to depression and anxiety and ultimately to Type 2 diabetes. I’m on two kinds of anti-depressants, diabetes medication, countless supplements for my adrenals and sleeping pills.
And all that might not be so terrible if I didn’t still have to work, and work hard, but I do. You see, with all my partying over the years, and travelling around the world to party with far flung friends, I haven’t yet saved enough for retirement, and I turn 61 this year. There is no way I could get a job so I have to work at building my business for the next 5 years so that it can start becoming self-sustaining and give me some supplemental income if, and when, I do retire.
And I’m tired. The years of drinking and losing sleep because of it have taken their toll and my energy levels are low. Who knows – I may be harbouring some horrible disease after all these years and saving for retirement will become moot. But in the meantime I have to turn myself and my business around.
And I want to. I don’t want to leave this life because of a drink-related illness, floating away on a sea of alcohol. I know there is more inside me than that. At this age, I’m supposed to be starting Act Three – and I would like it to be a time when I really start enjoying myself for real. Not just enjoying my wine. I’m scared, you see. I’m scared that I will end up like my beautiful father, so intelligent, so handsome, so full of promise and potential, but gone by 54, with his finances dwindling. So far I’ve made it to nearly 61, but I know the clock is ticking.
So I think, no I know, it’s time to say goodbye. Goodbye Chardonnay (which has practically been my middle name), goodbye gorgeous reds, goodbye wonderful whisky, and cheeky champagne. I know that while the first few sips are fabulous, there is nothing for me at the bottom of a bottle. There is nothing down there, try as I might to find something. Only more of the same. Like a bad lover, you will never give me what I really need, and in fact could end up costing me my life.
It will take me a while to get over you, but with the help of friends and family, and my own courage and determination, not just day by day but minute by minute, I can, and I WILL get there.