(NB: when my mum was in rehab recently, one thing she had to do was write a letter to alcohol. Both my stepdad and I agreed to write letters of our own. This is mine)
I’m not going to lie. We’ve had some good times together, like all those parties at E’s house, or going backstage with Space. We’ve had some bad times, like Chris Butt’s party in Year 11, or the HARM party in my first year of uni where I passed out. I remember when I was a kid and you were part of a mysterious world to which I wanted the key. I wanted to get to know you better, in the hope that it would make other people like me.
Right now, though, I fucking hate you.
You’re an arsehole, alcohol. You’re a bad influence. You’re cruel. You’re deceitful and evil. You’re a false friend, a snake in the grass. You’re hateful and you make people ill and jealous. You kill. You turn the honest into liars and manipulators. You’re noxious and obnoxious. You’re petty, the queen of pain, rotten to the core. You’re Super High School Level Despair. You take and take and take and you’re so ungrateful to the people who depend on you. Vodka, whiskey, wine, you have different names, but it’s always the same old lies. You exterminate, you turn skin yellow and red, make eyes bloodshot and remove their sparkle and zest for life. In Manchester, you’re everywhere. You’re watching over homeless people and students and teens and football fans and middle-aged women in crap jobs. You’re the life and soul of the party and you’re going to make everyone join in, whether they like it or not, and you whisper in people’s ears that you’re their only friend and the only one they can trust.
You know why I hate you right now? Because of what you did to my mother.
You turned one of the bravest, kindest, most talented and creative and generally amazing people I’ve ever known into a mess. You sapped her creativity and you made her lie and hide bottles and spend most of her time in bed. My mother was never deceitful until you showed up. You’ve caused friction in our family, you’ve made me and my brother and my stepdad go out of our minds with worry because we’re all in over our heads. When she was lonely in Chester, you pretended to be her only friend. First wine, then whiskey. She doesn’t even like that stuff. Even after she’d gone into rehab for the first time, you wouldn’t leave. Like the cat in the song, you came back and you just wouldn’t stay away, and no-one had any idea what was going on. You’re good at hiding yourself, or you like to think you are, anyway. I’ve been worried sick about what you’re doing to her because I’ve already lost one parent and I can’t bear the thought of losing another. You preyed on someone who was unhappy and vulnerable and who needed real friends and real support, not a monster in a bottle. If my dad was alive, he’d be furious with you for what you’ve done to her. You are no substitute for him or Richard or me or Jack or anyone else.
That September weekend I spent in Cambridge will stay with me forever. I hated going to the Co-Op to buy more whiskey and being stared at by customers. I hated begging Mum to eat (two days later, she collapsed and had to be taken to hospital). I hated being angry and crying into my stepbrother’s teddy and ordering Mum to ‘get in the fucking shower’. I hated myself for not hiding the bottles or pouring you down the sink, even though I knew that was the last thing I should be doing. I was nine years old again, and helpless. And all the while, you were in the background, thinking, “You’ll never get rid of me.”
I’ve never liked being drunk, and after seeing Mum in possibly the worst state she’s been in since Dad died, I feel even more out of sorts around drunk people. I hate the expectation on me to get pissed, even though I’m on Venlafaxine and my tolerance is rubbish anyway. “What’s the matter?” you say. “Come on, you miserable git. Join in. Have fun. Live a little.”
But this isn’t about me. It’s about my mum and what you did to her. There’s a Tori Amos line that sums up how I feel about Mum right now: “Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again.” I’ve got my mum back now, hopefully for good, and if you want her back, you’ll have to go through us. She’s not going down without a fight this time. I have to thank you, actually, alcohol, for bringing us closer together and for making Mum realise who her friends are. Clue: none of them are you.
Alcohol, you bastard, I’m through.