I met you in respectable circumstances, was introduced to you in fact by very respectable people. My parents, my role models, leaders in the church of my youth.
The many versions of you: Wine, a constant feature at our dinner table. Sherry: my parents’ companion as they caught up on each other’s day in the kitchen and prepared the family meal. In church, as we celebrated the most holy Sacrament you were there. Every Sunday. It was not complete without you, Wine. Muskadel to be exact.The blood of Christ.
So what could be wrong with me inviting you into MY life as I blossomed into adulthood? Cream liqueur, with ice cream sometimes but increasingly ‘neat’. Punch at res parties … Introducing you to, and sharing you with, my friends. I knew you. I knew you well. Sparkling wine, you had been a part of every celebration and family function that I had experienced, growing up. It felt good to share my life’s moments with you. I was cool. Life was happening. It was all good.
Yeah sure I stumbled, stuttered, blacked out, vomited – but that was all part of the fun. I was getting to know you, learn how to be with you – the rules of the game, as it were. This was a lifetime thing we were doing here. I could not imagine life without you. I thought about you all the time. As I left work, I could not get to you fast enough. At home. Just you and me. If there was a function that took me out of my comfort zone, you were there to ease things up. Increasingly, some functions were just not worth going to if you were not going to be there.
I should’ve paid attention when I started losing stuff … my memory … money. I would wake up the morning after to check my bank account and I would have no idea how I had spent so much. Were you stealing from me? My friends … those who hung around, because I lost some precious people too, would just laugh and tell me not to overreact: being with you came with some awkward moments, but at least we weren’t doing drugs right? Of course!
But I kept losing stuff… My self respect, my self assurance – I was always wondering if the next person could smell you on my breath. But I couldn’t ask. Wait a minute, when did our “thing” become a secret?
I remember convincing myself that I was OK: I didn’t have a hip flask. I went to work daily. My children always had food, hugs, shelter and a damn fine education. I was not anything like “those” people. I didn’t party anymore, I was cool. I was making a contribution, abiding by the law. In retrospect, these are the things that made my relationship with you my secret, more dangerous. Nobody ever got worried enough about our association because nobody really knew just how deep it had become.
Then you took the greatest thing away from me. My parents. A drunk driver slammed his truck into them and killed them instantly. He had probably also convinced himself of something: he was cool. He was not one of “those people”…
That’s when our relationship should’ve ended. But, like the driver, I still thought I had this in hand. In fact, it was him, not you that killed my parents. Him, not alcohol. Deluded and so deeply into you and me, wasn’t I? So I carried on with you. Grief-stricken and angry. Vodka. Whiskey. With the boys. Climbing the career ladder. Travelling. Feeling nothing. Just living for myself. For my booze. Any booze. And lots. I had become the thief.
I was throwing it away as my blood pressure, gastric system and inflammation markers started to tell the story of distress that my doctors could not perceive. You and me were stealing away at my vitality, my opportunity for healing. I was hiding, I was lying. Nobody knew, except my young, trusting, loving children. And even they didn’t understand.
Then my day of reckoning came. One (the usual) Sunday afternoon dash just before the liquor store closed, I did what a caring mother does. Parked my car. Told my clever 5-year old to wait for Mommy and count to 100. Remotely locked the car and dashed across a busy road into the liquor store: caring? Really? I had lost even more of myself. For you… Quickly, anything, quickly…
Moments later, I emerged from the liquor store. Stash in hand. My son was standing at the verge of the bustling main road. Intending to follow me. A taxi driver had stopped his car. Stopped my son from crossing and was screaming blue murder at me. You and me were caught red-handed. A friendship, love affair gone bad, Bonnie & Clyde style. It was not only my son. At home, my beautiful vibrant daughter was increasingly growing quiet. Observing. Focusing elsewhere. Learning to guilt-trip me when she did care. She was realising that her voice was not audible to me. She was realising that her mom was “sick”, guilty and manipulable.
So, my friend, my companion, my comfort. The tide has turned. Times were once good, top-of-the-world popping stuff but I am drawing the line. I have lost enough. I am orphaned. I am also blessed with perspective and the ability to reflect. I lost it for a while, so caught up in the romance and sophistication of Wine, but you and me are no longer good together. Ours is no longer a honeymoon.
I am hurt. I am hurting too and my pain is multiplied, amplified by the hurt that I have inflicted on my children and that they continue to inflict on themselves and on others. Today and into the future. I started out with positive role models but that’s not what I am now. They are starting with a negative role model, what chance do they stand? Yes, I am a Contributor. I am a Giver. But no more of myself to you. Thank you for the good times.Thank you for sharing the dark side also. Enough to push me back into the light, the possible, the messy, the real. I am finding myself again – no frills, no pizzazz, no life-&-soul of the party, just good, loving, present, conscious, generous me. Just enough. Just in time.