You have been the one constant in my life. From my earliest memories you were always there, firstly in the life of my parents on a daily basis and once I looked old enough to get served in mine. You were a factor in the choices that I made and with the friends and partners that I chose. I have never known a time when you weren’t important to someone close to me or to me.
I always viewed you as a Jekyll and Hyde character, sometimes making those close to me more affectionate and then at other times causing anger and violence. I spent much of my childhood fearful of you and the effect and power that you seemed to have. Those involved with you seemed to prioritise you over everyone else. But you were who people I knew chose to help them in times of good and bad and so I learned the same message and the same way of being.
When I joined the dance with you, you appeared benign even helpful. You gave me confidence, made me bigger, louder and funnier than the person I felt I was. You were my side-kick in all my adventures whether here at home or overseas. You helped me forget difficult memories and emotions and smoothed over the rough edges in my life.
I partied with you for almost twenty years never questioning your influence, even though during those times I worked as a nurse on a ward where you had done serious damage to other people and they were dying because of you. They wanted to choose you over anything and everything else. But I still didn’t see it.
But then I wanted to have children and people were telling me that you were bad for me and so I scaled back our dalliance, joining you only for short but stupendously large blow outs. I resented that I couldn’t have you in my life as much as you had been in the past. We had to separate for two short periods while I cared for my unborn babies but I still stole the odd clandestine night, missing you badly.
Once the children arrived life with you became much more difficult and I had to make choices against you, limiting our time together or the intensity of our time together. This is when I began to realise that our relationship was problematic and was having a serious impact on my other now important relationships.
I began to bargain with you, set myself limits about how often and how long and I tried to stay away from you. Plus our time together had changed. Before it was mostly fun and I enjoyed our time together whereas now this seemed to have gone and had been replaced by something darker. I was more out of control in our time together and this scared me. You seemed to have taken the upper hand in the relationship and were more insistent and controlling.
I was also trying to give up other relationships that had served me well up until that point but that I could no longer ignore was damaging. But that relationship was also linked to my time with you and so when I stopped this relationship with nicotine I knew I had to stay away from you too, at least until I had got over that one and could spend time with you and not miss them.
You grew angry at my withdrawal and would harp incessantly in my ear until I would relent and come back to you but the next day I would hate you and hate myself for giving in. This pull and push has gone on for 5 years and now I am sick of you, sick of the way you make me feel and think about myself, sick of the stupid things I say and do when with you and I don’t enjoy your company any more.
So I have decided to say good bye. I have decided to try and live my life without you. You were furious when I made this decision and upped your rhetoric about how useless I was and how I would never survive a party or a difficult time without you. But I held steadfast and it has been over three months.
You were right, it was hard and at times still is, but I know I have made the right decision. I have experienced the joy of living without you and your voice has grown fainter and your power has lessened. Other people still think you are important and want to spend time with you and that is fine. This decision is about me and no one else and has been one of the hardest I have ever had to make but I feel stronger and more confident in myself and my life without you.
I have fond memories of you in the beginning but we can’t recreate those early days and I know that we never will. What was once benign is now very much malignant and I must move on. It is time to forge a new path without you.
I can take no credit for this brilliant idea, which rightly goes to Veronica Valli when she talked about the goodbye letter in her book ‘Why You Drink and How to Stop: Journey to Freedom’.
Edited to add: 01/08/17 An alumni of my London ‘How to Quit Drinking’ workshop in 2015 (sober over 2 years!!) and now friend Janet in South Africa contacted me to share they have launched a Goodbye To Letter website where my letter has now been added here with this message:
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Whether it’s addiction, toxic relationships or bad habits, getting it ‘off your chest’ is a step closer to healing.