It's not you, really. It's me.
We've been together a long time now. Remember when we first met? I was 14. You were sloe gin. My best friend Anne and I tried you while my mom was out for the night. We giggled and took tiny sips and talked about how funny we felt. Then we laid down on my mom's bed and watched Saturday Night Live on the tiny t.v. in her room. I'll never forget how you made me feel that night.
In high school we got to know each other a little better. My friends and I would buy 3.2 beer at the gas stations, sending in the most "mature looking" in our group. The feeling of victory was exhilarating when the mature one would walk casually and slowly out of the gas station, the case of Miller Lite or Budweiser gleaming in her hands. We'd drive to some secluded neighborhood and start drinking our ill-gotten gains before heading out to the party or movie that was scheduled for that night.
My worst night with you was at a cast party for the play "The Diary Of Anne Frank". I had played Anne's sister, Margot, and on the last night of the play, the girl who played Anne and I smacked heads during a scene. I remember she and I literally convulsing with laughter while the audience sat and watched us in annoyed silence. At that point in time, I wanted the stage to open up and swallow me. I was mortified, humiliated, ashamed.
There was a cast party that night, at one of the senior's houses. I don't remember what incarnation you appeared as before me, but I do know that it was the first time I had ever blacked out. Apparently I had been fine at first; funny, silly, making people laugh. But then I changed. I remember making out with one of the less-attractive boys from the cast. I remember he looked like Geddy Lee from Rush and even through my Mr. Magoo beer goggles I saw that what I was doing was wrong. But you gave me something..was it liquid courage? Nah. There was nothing courageous about what you gave me. You dumbed me down, is what you did. You put my brains to bed and took over my body, until I was nothing more than a jerky, stumbling marionette.
I don't remember who drove me home that night, but I do remember getting my ass handed to me the next day. My mom was furious. You see, my grandpa, her dad, knew you really well. Like, super well. He was a great guy, a man who served his country in WWII, worked as an appliance salesman for Sears in order to raise his family. But he was an alcoholic. A raging one, from what my mom says. His relationship with you ravaged his family, and my mom never really got over that. She hated you, and would rarely drink. I felt and saw her grief as she laid into me. I remember I told her that I was worried about nuclear war, and that's why I drank so much the night before. Yes, I seriously said that.
We went to college together. On the very first day, the day I had moved into my dorm, met my new friends and started putting up my R.E.M. and Cure posters, you lured me to my first ever college kegger. I woke up the next morning and could only vaguely recall what I'd done the night before. Luckily for me, that was the year I met the first love of my life, and I abandoned you for him. He and I would hang out with you every once in a while, but never ever to the extent that I'd hung out with you before.
Our relationship was cool for the next few years. I'd see you at parties or while out with my boyfriend, but never let you get the best of me.
And then the boyfriend and I broke up. It happened when I left college to become a flight attendant. Tom, the boyfriend, left too. He joined the Navy and was shipped off to Hawaii. He and I tried so hard to keep our relationship going. I still have the bundles of letters from him somewhere. But I was lonely without him. So I turned to you again.
This time, this era I call my Roaring 20's, is a blur. When it started, I was a newbie flight attendant, first living in Detroit, then moving back home to Minnesota. The layovers were epic. I remember dinners out with the rest of the crew, going to the gay bars in Detroit with my roommates Patrick and Michael, flying with headaches and running to the tiny bathrooms on the planes to hurl after takeoff. Yes, it was a dignified time.
During that time, you and I were inseparable. I still hadn't become the type of girl who would crave you, need you at all hours of the day. I was responsible. Kept you on the down low. I'd eagerly await nighttime, the next crew dinner or night out on the town. But when we did get together, more often than not it was like that damn cast party all over again. I had learned to function with hangovers, learned how to bat my eyes and get free drinks from bartenders and creepy guys.
By the time this Roaring 20's era peaked, I had fallen head over heels with the second love of my life, and had long since quit the flying biz. I was a makeup girl at a department store downtown, living with some other makeup girls. By this time I had no idea what I wanted out of my life. I was lost. My days were spent matching foundations, lining lips and scoring free samples from all of the other makeup counters. The nights were always, always with you. Andy, the second love of my life, and I would go out with all of our friends, play darts and eat free peanuts and drink and drink and drink. We'd spend the next days holed up in his room, one or both of us eventually surfacing to work. And then it started all over again.
I had already met Big Daddy during this time, and eventually I ended up with him. Andy was leaving for grad school and begged me to come with him. But there was something so steady and safe and secure with Big Daddy. Although what he and I shared was nowhere near as intense and white-hot as whatever it was that Andy and I had, I was drawn to him. I let Andy go and got on with the rest of my life.
You and I pretty much broke up at this point. I thought it was for good. Big Daddy and I found out I was preggers, and at that point I had already bid you adieu. I think part of me knew what was going on inside of me, and I simply stopped. No big decision making, no drama. Just stopped. You weren't even a blip on my radar screen. I moved on with my life. I had found what I was supposed to be doing, and there was no room for you.
And I didn't see you again until Big Daddy started acting twitchy.
My ex-mother in law and I would sit down with you, as I poured my heart out to her and tried to figure out what was going on with my marriage. That was when I first saw you as wine, and I loved you. It was the grown up version of you. Big Daddy was actually excited when I showed an interest in buying nice wines and uncorking it after the kids went to sleep. Maybe he thought that the party loving fun girl was still alive in me somewhere, buried beneath the mom jeans and the bags under my eyes.
But, as you know, it wasn't enough. He left. And while I sifted through the remains of my life, I found solace and comfort in you. My lonely, child-free weekends became "our time". I'd have a bottle ready on Friday night, and we'd sit back together, watch t.v. and you'd console me while I wept. Eventually, I started reaching out and in no time made a batch of new friends, good friends who lifted me up and no longer were my kid-free weekends quiet. I had a new crew to hang out with, some of whom liked you as much as I did. Some who didn't, but put up with me regardless.
And then, things got bad. Big Daddy stopped paying support and my world went black. As I scrambled to stay afloat, you took a back seat. I couldn't afford school lunches, there was no way I could afford you. I dated someone with some money, and looked forward to being with you again on those dates. My best friend opened her home and her liquor cabinet to me on the weekends the kids were away, and for some reason the second I felt you coursing through my veins, all was alright for a while. Until the next day.
You are an illusionist. You blur edges, you soften sharp corners. You make it seem like things are just fine, like everything is going to be fine and dandy. You placate. You numb. You deaden.
And that brings us to the present, my friend. I'm worried that you are becoming a crutch for me. I see behaviors starting that I don't like. You have my best friend wrapped up in your clutches and I won't let you take her down. I won't let you take me down.
When you're with me, I lose something.
I want it back.
So you see, booze, it's time. Time to take a break. Will I see you again someday? Maybe. Perhaps if I get to the point in my life when I no longer feel the need to lean on something, on someone to get me through these rough patches that have been plaguing me and my family. But you know what?
When I am through these patches, when life is once again flowing smoothly and evenly...I bet I won't need you at all.
And I'm not stupid. I know life will never be "perfect". But I am thankful that I'm smart enough to know...to know when to stop.
This thing that you and I have, this dysfunctional relationship...it's no good. I'm so grateful that I have the intelligence to see that if we continue, it won't end well. So many others have seen it through with you, through til the bitter end and they've lost everything. I don't want that. I'm breaking up with you now before it gets that bad. Before you take over.
When I talked to my best friend about you the other day, I cried. She and I were both thinking, but didn't dare say, the same thing.
"How can we survive without you? How can there be parties and girl's nights and weekends at the cabin without you as the main attraction? How can we have school carnival meetings and silent auction meetings and not have you there to get things rolling? How can we survive without you?"
But I know better than that. The real question should be...how can we survive with you?
I don't know that we can. At least not survive in the way the we deserve. The way that our families deserve to have us. My kids need ME, they don't need you. They don't need a mom who greets them with purple teeth and a merlot mustache when they come home from Big Daddy's house. They don't need a mom who has a headache or who is too tired to go on a bike ride.
They need me. And that's what they're getting.
So goodbye, for now, my smoky smooth friend.
I hope we can still be friends.