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Ah, there you are!
Good God, how I have missed you. So many times I have thought about holding you once more. You were my closest friend for so long. You were there for me every time I needed you for so many years. Nobody understood the bond that we had. I tried to explain to them, but they got angry. They did not listen. Oh, how I loved you so. You were all I needed. I was not myself without you there helping me to cope.
I have thought back to all the good times we had together, all the parties when I was younger with you by my side. We always had such fun. I was full of confidence when we were together. Dancing until the early hours of the morning, dreading the thought of leaving you, not wanting to go home, although I did get into trouble too many times with you. Remember the fights after the pub closed? Spending the weekend in police cells a couple of times, or that time I fell from the top of the stairs at the railway bridge all the way to the bottom. What a mess I was in, limping home with bloodied knees and swollen face, but you were there to laugh it off with me and take away the pain. I thought back to the holidays with the kids, relaxing together by the pool, or winding down in the evening on the balcony, whilst the children slept. I couldn't have imagined a holiday without you. I have shared so much of my life with you, meeting up in a bar after work, or curled up on the sofa at night. If I had a bad day at work, I'd stop by and pick you up. You made me relax and helped me laugh at myself. I knew I could rely on you to cheer me up and make it all better. Always, you were there for me.
I had no friends left, they had tried to talk me round, telling me to give you up, that I had a beautiful family and didn't need you. Eventually they stopped answering my calls and texts, avoided me in the street. I told myself "Who needs friends like that anyway?" I had you, and you never judged me.
My wife hated you. She told the kids about you and me, and they begged me not to keep breaking their mummy's heart, to leave you alone and stay with them. I wanted to so much, but I just couldn't. I loved them dearly, but I couldn't survive without you. I couldn't see why I couldn't have them, and you, in my life.
I needed you. You were there to make it better for me when I lost my job. To tell me it wasn't my fault, they didn't deserve me and anyway, the job was rubbish. You were with me that horrible, wet, miserable night on the way home from my parents' house when I crashed the car into the old window factory on the outskirts of town. I had a terrible row with them about you, of course. They all thought I had learned my lesson after that crash and would finish with you for good. I promised them I had accepted that you were no good for me and swore that we were finished. A few weeks later, I met you again and told myself that it wasn't your fault. It was nothing to do with you. It was just me driving erratically through anger on the dark, wet roads.
You were there for me when my wife threw me out last year, when she realised how serious things were with you and me. She knew about you. She had known you meant a lot to me from the day I met her but she thought she could come between us. I repeatedly swore blind that it was her and the kids I loved, not you. I swore that I would end it with you. It wasn't that easy though, you were always on my mind no matter how hard I tried to forget you. She couldn't understand me or how I could not let you go. I desperately tried to explain, even begging that I would finish with you, but she had heard it too many times now. You came and wrapped me in your warm embrace, whispered that everything would be all right. We just had to stick together for a little bit longer until things sorted themselves out.
Through those cold winter nights trying to sleep in my parents' draughty loft, gulping back the tears as I thought of all I had lost, I still had you keeping me warm and telling me I could sort it all out, tomorrow. How could I let you go when I had nothing else left anyway? My confidence, pride and the very essence of the person I used to be had gone, along with everything else in my life except you. You were there always.
You have been gone from my life for 19 months now. From that night when I lay on the hospital bed, hair matted and sticky with dried blood after another bad fall. The doctor told me if I didn't stop, I would not see my 40th birthday. I remember the chills this sent through my body, my stomach churning with fear. We were finally finished, there was no choice this time, except death. The hard reality hit me like a cold slap in the face. You were never my friend but lured me into believing that I needed you. Made me think that without you, people wouldn't like me enough, that I couldn't cope. I believed that I was nothing without you, just an empty shell, useless without your backup. You stole everything from me: my job, my family, my home, my pride. Any enjoyment I ever had in life was blackened by your presence. I would not let you take my life.
I realised in the days that followed that I hated you; that I had always known that you were trying to destroy me and I had been too weak to admit this to myself and fight against you. I missed you every day, despite what I knew you had taken from me. I missed the warmth of you sliding down my throat and feeling you flow through my body, relaxing all my muscles and dulling out the reality of life. But now I want to feel the reality of life; to experience every day sober and be thankful that I have my family back and to know how precious they are. I have my pride and my confidence back and you cannot take them from me again.
Here you are again, hidden at the back of my wardrobe!
I thought we had found all traces of you and got rid of you from our home. Of course I am sorely tempted to indulge in your toxin once again. To have that feeling of coming home, the warmth of you like a blanket wrapped round my shoulders. The urge is almost overwhelming. I tell myself that I could just have the one; that one little drink won't do any harm. But you and I both know that's not true and one leads to many more, until I'm tumbling down that road of reckless self-destruction once again. Goodbye old friend. Our long, deadly friendship is over.
I said goodbye to you before, and I meant it. I am stronger now, complete, without you.