Saying farewell to something you love is often associated with sadness and longing. People are particularly hard to leave or let go. But what about the destructive things in our lives? Why are these so hard to release?
I learned about the concept of writing a goodbye letter to alcohol only recently, but it’s brilliantly simple and makes perfect sense. We write farewell letters (or if we’re really lazy, goodbye texts) to people whom we need to let go, why not substances?
Though I’m coming up on a year of sobriety, it’s never too late to say goodbye. Here’s my bidding adieu to something I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with for years and years:
You’ve been in my life for a very long time. So long that the details are fuzzy, but that’s understandable. I believe we started our relationship when I was a sophomore in high school, about 30 years ago. Wine coolers were our first date. Sickly sweet and stomachache-inducing, and oh so deliciously wrong. I moved on to other types of drinks, but it’s tough to forget that fruit punch flavor and syrupy after taste.
We had a pretty good relationship for a while. You were there for me when I needed to relax, when I wanted to breathe a sigh of relief after a long day, or get a little silly with friends. You were reliable for that sweet, buzzy feeling that started in my feet and hands and quickly moved to my face. I could count on you to take my worries away, temporarily, and to make me feel normal, social, and part of the crowd that I’d always felt a bit outside of. You made me feel like I was a fun person – just look at me being goofy! I let my hair down when I was with you, and that felt good.
But over time, I came to rely on you too much. I hoarded you in my refrigerator and wine chiller. I bought small bottles and big bottles of all varieties, loving the feeling of having a LOT of you around so that I’d never run out. And of course, I always ran out because the more of you I had, the more I wanted. There were never enough bottles of you, despite my detailed planning and carefully curated inventory.
Our relationship became one-sided, where I needed you more than you needed me, but you were always there on the store shelves, ready and willing. You made me feel like you wanted me too, that our affection for each other was mutual, but it was really just me who was the needy one. I always came crawling back, sometimes literally, for more of you.
And then you took my brother from me and from our family. You doubled-down on him for years, always offering him two drinks at a time to everyone else’s one, and that accelerated his dependence on you and your toxic effects on his body. You were a contradiction. You made it so that he needed you inside him every second of every day to survive, while you literally ate him alive. In the end, he would have a seizure if he didn’t have you, but his liver couldn’t process you any longer, so you flooded his bloodstream, shut down his organs, and killed him.
After my brother died, still I didn’t say goodbye to you right away. There was something inside me that said you wouldn’t do that to ME. I was immune from your shitty effects. I could still function with a hangover. I had a great career, had never been in trouble with the law, had even been more creative sometimes with your help. Occasionally I used bad judgment under your influence, but so what? I chose some bad boyfriends along the way, most of whom were angry and verbally abusive, some were chronic cheaters and manipulators. One was a shitstorm of all that. But I didn’t believe that had anything to do with YOU. I thought I was just unlucky in love.
After almost 12 months without you, I see that YOU were the root cause of my bad decisions. While the way I grew up and my family history of alcoholism drove me to you, you created all the havoc. You broke me down instead of building me up. I chose to let people into my life who were awful, just awful, because you made me believe I didn’t deserve more. All of the things I thought you did for me were really the opposite of what I needed. I used you as a way to help me, but you were only there to destroy me.
Without you in my life, I finally have peace. Luckily, I didn’t let you take me down and I’m not entirely sure how I was able to evade your bullshitty promises long enough to see you for who you really are, but I thank God every single fucking day that I did. I’ve managed to keep you away and that feels amazing.
Most days, I don’t even think about you. I imagine you’re very, very far down a deep well with no ladder to climb out and come calling. You’re so far away that I can barely even remember what you look and taste like. But I know you’re there. I would be foolish to think you’re not just beyond my sight line, quietly waiting for a moment of weakness so that you can be right back in my wine chiller, cold and inviting, ready for me to pour you into an oversized wine glass and start chugging.
That’s why it’s so important for me to tell you not just goodbye and good riddance, but FUCK OFF FOREVER & DIE A PAINFUL DEATH, just like the death you dealt my brother. It feels good to say it, and to know in my heart that you were never a friend to me, and you never will be.
A most sincere goodbye,