Letter to Me, Aged 14
You are full of confidence and assertiveness, passion and motivation. You know exactly who you are and where you are going; there isn’t a doubt in your mind that life is bountiful and it is yours for the taking. You’ve got friends who you value, there always seems to be a boy in the background, and you work reasonably hard at school, although luckily you manage to coast through anyway without too much effort. Life is a breeze.
Next week you are going to get drunk. Your friend’s parents are away on holiday and together, you will raid the spirits supply in the antique, wooden cabinet in the lounge. There will be a couple of boys there and you will all think that you are so grown up and sophisticated, even at the tender age of fourteen. As your body begins to absorb the alcohol, you will feel a surge of adrenaline and a sudden confidence boost. You will flirt a little more than you would’ve done ordinarily, you’ll become boisterous and slightly aggressive towards your friend. She will come to the conclusion that you are someone to be wary of; your sudden mood change will frighten her, and over the course of the next few weeks you will drift apart.
You will begin to socialise with other people who enjoy getting drunk and you will continue to spend your weekends drinking until you knock yourself out. It won’t be a passing fancy, all this booze. Without realising it, you will get sucked in to a trap and it will take over twenty years before you realise what has happened to you, and finally find the strength to escape.
In that time, you will get married and have a baby who you will love more than anything you have ever loved before, and without whom, you would no doubt have sunk lower and lower in to the mire that you will find yourself in. You will get divorced and this will push you over the edge, forcing you through a rickety barrier that was keeping you from falling too far. You won’t understand how your marriage failed, and your ex husband will do nothing to help build a solid foundation on which you can base your separated family upon. He won’t even tell you why he left.
This is the worst time – if only you could see then what I can see now, and put down the bottle. But you really feel as though you need it, that life has become so painful that you can’t get through the night without it, that you can’t stop yourself from falling over the edge completely unless you numb the agony with more and more alcohol. You carry on, unaware that as you pinball between awful situations, it is the booze that is creating the longevity of the pain. You will maintain a certain status quo, most importantly you will keep your daughter’s life on an even keel and, for the most part, you will keep your drinking hidden from her. You will hold down jobs and have your own house, but you will always be hitting way below your potential during these years. You keep your head above water, but only just, and you could have done so much more with your time.
But after several years, thoughts begin to stir in your mind; you will begin to wonder if you are out of control with regards to the alcohol you consume, and you will start to walk down a path that will eventually lead you to sobriety. When you are thirty five, you will meet someone who you wished that you’d met years ago; this man will motivate you to stop drinking and help you believe that you are far better than you ever thought you were. You will have a beautiful baby girl with him, and this time, you will act differently. Because you have left the booze behind, you’ll have more energy and patience, you will be kinder and more thoughtful. You will throw everything that you can at building a happy life for yourself and your family. You will understand that alcohol robbed you of many things but you won’t feel sorry for yourself because of it. You will use your experiences to try and help other people see what you know to be true; that there is nothing to be gained from drinking, and everything to be had from living your life clean and well, without addiction.