I wrote this post on my website back in 2017, in a flurry of emotional release via my keyboard. I was struck then by the similarities between how I felt about alcohol, and my experience within an abusive relationship. Nearly two years later, and the similarities still send shivers down my spine. I am so grateful to have had the lessons both these experiences taught me, but am very glad that both are now part of my past
We’ve known each other a long time, haven’t we? You’re in one of my earliest, most frightening memories, although I didn’t know you were there at the time. I don’t think I will ever forget the sight of my beloved Nana in such a bewildering rage. I remember the fear as she threw my lunch across the room while my aunty hid me behind the sofa. I was only three or four at the time. You’d think that this memory would have made enough of an impact on me that I would run a mile when you tried to enter my life. Sadly, I didn’t.
You were so seductive to the insecure 16-year-old I used to be. You made me feel lighter in those early days. You made me feel like I could talk to the boys I fancied. When I was with you, I felt sexy, fun, popular, desired, and free. The exact opposite of how I felt when I was sober.
You told me that I was more than enough, as long as I had you at my side. I only saw you once or twice a week in the early days. We dated casually. It wasn’t yet the full-blown affair it would turn into, but I eagerly awaited the days when we would meet.
You made everything a little more exciting, and I loved you for it.
You helped me find my tribe a few years later. With them, I learned to love you even more. Our relationship became more passionate, more intense, and I needed you a little more each time we met. I started finding myself doing things I wouldn’t do without you. You encouraged a recklessness in me that I hadn’t realized existed. When we hung out with your friends, the drugs, life got crazy. I started to crave you more and more.
When my life fell apart, you were there. You soothed me and showed me the way to the oblivion I so desperately needed. You helped me find a way out of myself.
Thanks to you, I was able to retreat from the pain I was causing myself on a daily basis. You helped me find even more ways to hide—the sex, drugs, and rock n roll lifestyle was a welcome pit for me to fall into. In the moments I got scared that I was sinking beyond my ability to return, you assured me I was ok, that together we would climb back out when I was ok again. You promised me you would help me be ok.
Our love deepened, or at least, my need for you did. I am not sure now that you ever really loved me, although you assured me you did. I needed you, I often couldn’t get through my days without you. Whatever happened in my life, you were always there to help me to celebrate the good times, to soothe the bad, and muddle through the mediocre. You helped me choose my friends. If they didn’t love you as much as I did, I couldn’t be friends with them. I couldn’t spend time with them without you. And although there was much else in my life that I loved and was precious to me, I always had to consider you in most of my plans.
Occasionally, I would ponder if our relationship was a healthy one.
I sometimes had moments of clarity when I saw just how much you controlled my life, and didn’t like it. You always managed to reassure me that I was wrong and that our love was good and healthy and totally normal. But of course, you would say that, wouldn’t you?
I made a new friend. One that showed me a new way I could live. A friend that showed me a way to relax using my breath, not wine. A friend that showed me a way to deal with my emotions, not run away from them. A friend that told me I was strong, beautiful, powerful, and that I could be so much more than I was.
This friend showed me some of the flaws in our relationship. The way that all my problems seemed not to end, but to begin with you. The fact that I couldn’t experience friendship without you. The way you told me you cured my insomnia, but your “cure” kept me awake till 2 AM till the bottle was empty.
When I started to realize that something was very wrong, you protested. You tried to manipulate me, to beg, to maintain your grip on my life. You told me I would be nothing without you, showed me all the ways my life would be less without you.
But I had found another love, one who truly cared for me and wanted the best for me. Thanks to this new love, I was changing, and you couldn’t come along with me on this journey. I was going on a journey to myself, to the ME you had always kept from me. I left behind a lot of baggage when I started on this path, and you are part of that.
I don’t regret our relationship. If there is one thing I have learned in the years since we broke up it is that regret is pointless and harmful.
Everything that happened in our relationship contributed to who I am now, and I bloody love who I am now, so how could I regret anything?
Being with you showed me what I don’t want in my life anymore. I learned I am no longer prepared to tolerate. By showing me who I don’t want to be, you showed me who I do want to be. And for that I am grateful.
I was lost in love with you for such a long time. I thought I had lost myself forever, but I hadn’t. I needed to be lost so that I could really find myself. I needed to love you so I could leave you.
I honestly used to think I couldn’t be happy without you in my life, but I want you to know how wrong I was. While life is far from perfect, I have never felt happier than I do now, happier in my own skin, comfortable in who I am. Life still feels a bit shitty quite often, there’s a lot of shitty stuff going on out there, but I can deal with it so much better now I have self-respect. You nearly took that from me forever, but I have it back, and you will never have it again.
When we meet, as we often will, I will acknowledge you, but I will not be spending any time with you. I hope you can respect that, and leave me alone.
This post originally appeared on Balance and Breathe. It has been reprinted with permission.