Keep your enemies close, they say. I certainly did. Problem is though, that for a long time I thought this enemy of mine was my harmless, but more to the point, super fun buddy. Many of the most hilarious moments and events of my life have been with my enemy at my side and God knows we’ve had a barrel of laughs – too many to remember and, indeed, countless I genuinely can’t. It’s just that it took me a long time to really listen when the warning bells started to chime. At first they were barely audible, but with time they became more persistent, louder. But who wants to listen when you’re having fun?
It’s actually really hard to pinpoint when the problems started for real, but my enemy was my close companion for best part of a decade. Before that, we would occasionally get together and although the fun we had would often descend into chaos, it was just being silly and wild together, no harm done. Sure, this was always the only friend with whom I lost control and the irony wasn’t and isn’t lost on me – in all other areas I’m a complete control freak. Still, I shrugged it off as I witnessed other people being the same sometimes when they hung out with my enemy, and so because it was only from time to time that we got together I paid little notice to it. No notice at all, if I’m honest. We had heaps of fun together when I was in my teens and twenties.
As I entered my thirties and went through a thoroughly shitty time, my enemy was immediately there to catch me. How could I possibly have known it wasn’t with good intentions? It felt like a much needed hug at the time and I appreciated it. Now, with that lovely thing called hindsight, I know of course that I got through aforementioned shitty time in spite of, not because of, my enemy. By the time I came out on the other side of the crap that was going on, I had returned to my happy and content self, so rather than soothe me, comfort me and be there for me in tough times, my enemy just added sparkle to an already great situation. Now I was happy again and had found my strength we were ready to just hang out and have fun together again, like in the old times. Well, that’s what I thought because that’s what it felt like.
Hey, what a great week I’ve had, in a fantastic mood, so many things to be grateful for, who you’re gonna call? My enemy was always at hand to celebrate this wonderful life with me and it was glorious – for a debrief at the end of the day, by the river on a beautiful summer’s evening, to celebrate Friday (or Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday all over again). There was nothing we wouldn’t celebrate and we’d always have a reason – great day, it’s the weekend, oh help me figure this thing out, here’s this thing I want to discuss, payday, birthday, Christmas day, any fucking day.
As years passed by, the nagging feeling that I was being sabotaged crept up on me little by little but I had come to love my enemy so much that I just wasn’t in a place where I could admit it. How can you admit something you’re blind to partly because it’s the last thing you want to see? I sensed something was constantly blocking my path and I felt held back but I never equated the two. Again, that’s probably because I didn’t want to. I preferred to blame everything else, anything but the real issue. When I look back on it, it was almost like living in an abusive relationship with me not only standing by an abusive partner but defending them too. And it went on for a long time.
Situations where I should have sparkled and shone became instances where I at times only functioned to a mediocre degree. Just enough to keep my nose above the surface, but rarely more than that. The fact that I should, could and probably would have done so much better and reached so much higher was something I for the longest time put down to other factors, usually the circumstances. Yes, I had it in me to write but it’s just not the time, you know, work and motherhood gets in the way. I don’t know that I would have collected the Nobel Prize for Literature by now had I not developed a drink problem or been an alcoholic – I doubt it – but I do know my shot at getting published might have been only as unrealistic as it might be for anyone with a creative streak. And I know my drinking has meant I never even explored where my creative streak may have taken me, never mind grand prizes or general praise. I know my drinking has meant and still means this will remain a big, fat WHAT IF until I get sober. But there we are – I had an excuse ready at all times because perhaps it was too scary and too painful to have to admit that my super fun buddy was actually out to seriously hurt me. Destroy me by way of gradually nudging me towards my own drawn out suicide, yet making me think that they were still my friend and the one I could always rely on for a bit of shimmery, happy, warm buzz.
I’m not saying that I would have changed the world. I’m not even saying I would have been great. I’m saying I just don’t know what COULD have been. But perhaps there is time.
Friends, and even family, began to gently question our relationship, whether it was good for me or at least if it wasn’t a little too much. Fuck, that annoyed me so much. I got defensive. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but when I get defensive it’s usually because it hits a nerve, that there is an echo of truth that I don’t want to listen to. I got angry because I was eyeball deep in denial and just not ready (not even much further down the line when I deep down knew they were right) to acknowledge and admit to myself (let alone anyone else) that I was in trouble, that my lovely friend around whom my world had come to revolve wished me so much harm. My response to worried friends was to isolate myself and hide how much I hung out with my enemy.
No, no. I didn’t have time to do great things. Or, more to the point, even fulfill my potential – if I even had any! Point is, this way I was never going to find out anyway. I was a mother first and foremost and sure, being a single mum did present a somewhat stressful existence, that I can’t deny. Even without an enemy trying to trip you up that can be pretty tough. Don’t get me wrong – nothing gives me more joy than my son, but even my love for him wasn’t enough to understand, or enough to WANT to understand, that what was holding me back and dragging me under was my best friend and right before my eyes too. Always circumstances to blame! I spent the best part of my thirties on autopilot. Managed to be a mother. Managed to be a daughter, a sister, an auntie and a friend. Managed to have a job and pay the bills. But nothing more than that. And I wasn’t great at any of it.
Beyond being blessed with a beautiful and amazing son, a fantastic family and awesome friends, I’ve also had every chance to pursue my passion and give my dreams to become an author my very best shot, opportunity after opportunity to do so put before me on a silver platter. I’ve been so blessed and yet I’ve kept throwing it all away, so undeserving of all these chances I was given. Each time I made a dog’s dinner of it. Actually, that’s not true because to say I made a dog’s dinner of it would imply I messed it up and failed. I didn’t fail per se, because to fail you have to try in the first place and I just didn’t. Again, friends questioned why I didn’t go for it and once again they’d occasionally express concern about my relationship with my enemy but I always batted it away and refused to take my blinkers off. I didn’t want to! With time however, it became harder and harder to close my eyes to something I was increasingly forced to see.
I don’t know that I’ve ever had real enemies as such, so perhaps that’s why it seemed so unlikely and was so hard for me to realise, but I did once have a frenemy so I figured perhaps some relationships do drain you a little but you take the good with the bad. Thing is though, unlike my frenemy who just disliked me but felt no real need to kill me (as far as I know anyway), my enemy was 100% out to bring about my untimely demise.
When I think about it, it wasn’t all denial on my part. I witnessed my enemy be a wonderful acquaintance to so many people, appreciated and a very welcome guest. I witnessed how great it could be, and how healthy. And most of all fun! I wanted that too and I am still to this day jealous that we never could and never can. With us, as time went by, the fun all but disappeared. Sure, many good times had been had, crazy fun and brilliant memories created along the way and endless laughter, but it became unhealthy and destructive. That still makes me angry. Why couldn’t our relationship have been like that? There’s a part of me, perhaps it’s that small part of my mind that my enemy still has some power over, that sometimes wishes there might be a way for us to start over and find a new way but I know that can never happen.
It was so evil. God, it makes me angry. I feel cheated! What a calculated, twisted monster. It was orchestrated to perfection, I can see that now. First offering a little comfort, then my loyal, sweet companion, and once I was sucked in and drawn under it became a terrifying malevolent force set to destroy me. Towards the end, my enemy almost didn’t even bother to hide it. It was always very cleverly done though, I’ll give them that – I was allowed to feel good and be on top when we were together, but when we were apart I was both mentally and physically in a state that at best amounted to maybe 10% of the person I might have been and the things I might have achieved if this fucking beast hadn’t set its sights on me and dug its claws into me.
It was as though a heavy, wet blanket had been thrown over my personality, my spirit, my energy, my mind, my whole being and indeed my life. My enemy took the edge off me, reduced me to a lethargic state but I just didn’t have the courage to consider that it might be deliberate. Perhaps we were a little reckless together, this I had always known, but it still felt so good so much of the time. When we were together I buzzed, laughed and felt joy just like always before but when we’d (very briefly) be apart there was no fire in me to push. And when I buzzed in my enemy’s company we were too busy together for me to direct the temporary energy towards writing. All my passion, fire and ambition I naively used up on my enemy. The problem was when we weren’t together – what little was left was barely enough for me to function and keep my life in some semblance of order, let alone put in the hard graft needed to pursue anything worthwhile.
I wonder what I would have written by now. What that first book might have been. Perhaps, had my enemy not tried so hard to kill me there could have been several by now? I’ve certainly started on numerous projects, countless ideas that fizzled out along with the fire in me that my enemy so cruelly put out. A somewhat half baked second draft is still more or less there, but now I’m almost scared to touch it. I’ve sort of lost my belief in it. In some ways that draft is a love story, a story of loss and forgiveness and the human heart’s capacity to love.
But then I suppose this is a love story too, of sorts. I collected my first chip last night. The chip to say I’ve been sober 24 hours. It’s actually a week but I was feeling too shy in the other two meetings where they were handed out. I got a hug and applause, several people telling me “well done”. And in some ways it felt like I’d just won the Nobel Prize.