Dear alcohol,

I almost died for you.

An incomplete list of things I lost through loving you includes many years, feeling in my left arm, a fully functional liver, a burning slew of codependent lovers, the trust and admiration of my parents, my wallet (countless times), a thousand meals unmatched by the stomach-settling powers of Pepto Bismol Extra Strength, my lucky lighter, my objectively prestigious post-grad job, every cent I earned at my objectively prestigious post-grad job, hours but often days spent in a blackout haze, my ability to not be nauseated by the scent of any juice that can be used as a mixer (which is all of them), my sense of self, and, for so long, hope.

On my eighteenth birthday, the first night we spent together, you granted my wish: to be beautiful. With you I felt confident, sexy, and much taller than four-foot-ten. My clinical awkwardness and the persistent feeling that I was never meant to exist—gone. You set my skin on fire; you turned me on. I have tried getting high a thousand different ways since that night, but nothing beats the first drink. You rendered me powerless.

I have had you every way possible—in a lush hotel room, on the floor of an unfinished bathroom stall, in my childhood bedroom—but nothing ever mattered except for the fact that we were together. I never wanted to share you; I wanted you all to myself. You were my little secret, and I lied for you until my tongue was raw.

It has been nine months since we last got together. I planned to kill myself that night, but instead I left you. I still bump into you everywhere—at the grocery store, gas stations, holiday parties—and my friends still adore you—but it gets a little easier to ignore you as the months go by. So forget you ever saw me at my best. Rock bottom is a house of mirrors and I am no longer creating myself in your image.

You are not my savior but the ghost in my rearview mirror. You are a bloody apparition on my bedroom floor. You are memories I never had the chance to make and the lover that could not give without taking.

You took everything from me.

My life is a lot simpler without you. Some might even call it boring. But I have found serenity and there is not a single fucking thing worth giving it up over.

So long as there is life, there are second chances.

Just not for you.

Rot in Hell,

Isabel Rae McKenzie

Sober since 10/24/2019


Isabel Rae McKenzie is an essayist and occasional poet based in Chicago. Sober, she primarily writes about alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. Her work has appeared at Plough Quarterly, Paintbucket, and Q/A Poetry.

image: Megan Ní