This is the letter I wrote to alcohol shortly after I vowed to quit drinking for a year. I'd come to recognize that alcohol was like a bad boyfriend and we were in a seriously co-dependent dysfunctional relationship. Today, when people ask me how to quit drinking, I often recommend writing a really honest letter to alcohol. I also recommend writing all the reasons for you to quit drinking and then all the reasons to keep drinking. Trust me, the list to quit will always be longer.
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When we first met, I was 15. It started innocently enough. A can of beer, a pleasing buzz. It wasn’t long before I realized you’d make a useful companion. After all, I wasn’t pretty enough, funny enough or outgoing enough to live the life I thought I should. That made being "me" such hard work. I was grateful for your ability to help me become all those things I needed to be. You drowned my insecurities. Temporarily, sure. But also, when it mattered most – like parties, school dances, that sort of thing. The hangovers started then, too. Pounding headaches, nausea … a few regrets. Maybe that was your nice way of warning me that you have a dark side. But I didn’t believe you.
I figured, eventually, I’d outgrow you when I reached adulthood.
Through my twenties, you were never far from reach. In university, I’d binge on you every weekend. I was fun party girl now! We were really tight back then. Remember all the good times? Hmmm, it's a bit fuzzy for me too. I graduated from school and started my adult life. Got married, got a real job, owned a home. It was time for our relationship to evolve into something more mature. A glass of wine after work was so very refined. You told me I deserved it. The working life was hard. I agreed with you. It was your way of showing how much you cared.
I figured, eventually, I’d outgrow you when I became a mother.
By my early thirties, I was a mother to three beautiful sons. Wow. What a gift these precious human beings were to me and my husband. I loved them more than anything I’ve ever loved in my life. But, motherhood was hard. You understood that. That’s why we kept in touch. I deserved that glass of wine, maybe two or three. A whole bottle? Sure, why not? It’s not like I did it every night. Just when I really needed it. Come to think of it, marriage was hard work, too. You came to my rescue when I felt sadness or frustration. You helped me fight the boredom that sometimes came with the everyday routine of being a wife and mom. Though I’ll admit – you never let me forget your dark side. It was darker now. The hangovers were worse, and accompanied by feelings of depression, regret, self-loathing. But we were in this together, right? Even still, I’d try to push you away. Tell you, never again! I’m done drinking. You always came back. Did you know that I actually started hating you by then? But I needed you. Is this what they mean by co-dependency?
I figured, eventually, I’d outgrow you when life got easier.
In my forties, you were still hanging around. I let you, but I was growing tired of your bullshit games. Drawing me in with your promise of good times then pounding me over the head and punching me in the stomach the next day. I was starting to see you for who you really are. Around this time, my marriage ended. My kids hit their teen years. I didn’t care about being the life of the party anymore. Who the hell was I, anyways?
I wasn’t sure.
You're not to blame for my struggles. All I’m saying is, you weren’t helping me figure my shit out. You were in the way. To be honest, you had always been in the way. So, I tried to control your influence on my life. I wasn’t ready to push you away completely; we’d take a break and pledge to meet once in a while under my strict conditions. But you always wanted more of me. I’d give in.
I realized, eventually, I’d never outgrow you.
That’s why, at the age of 46, I've broken up with you for good. It finally became clear that I don't need to be an alcoholic to accept I have a drinking problem. It's enough to know that I don't want another hangover. That I've blathered through too many inauthentic conversations. Had my share of relationships propped up by shared bottles of wine. And, that I've called far too many ubers to retrieve my kids because I've drank too much wine.
I realized, eventually, I had to choose me over you.
Now, I choose to face every moment with clarity: the awkward, the fearful, the joyful, the sad. I choose to be fully present for my kids and be the role model they deserve to have in a society that is increasingly in search of the next great Buzz. I choose early morning runs over pounding headaches and bloodshot eyes. I choose to get to know the real me, buried under layers of old patterns and behaviours that don't serve me. I choose to hold on to my power and see how strong I can grow without allowing you to diminish it.
I don't want your false promise of happiness and belonging anymore. I know it's a lie. I want what's real.
I realize, finally, that by giving you up, I'm not losing anything.
I’m gaining everything.