A Letter to the Monster

By Quin Severo

Do not lie to me when you’ve been drinking. 
Do not pick up the phone when I call you if you've been drinking.
Do not call me when you've been drinking.
Do not text me when you've been drinking.
Do not respond to my texts when you've been drinking.

Every time you do this it sets me back and messes me up and makes me feel crazy and as though somehow I'm responsible for this when none of this is my fault; the quality of your life has nothing to do with me or my physical absence from your life.

I'm always here for you and everyone else in my life, and you're there for me solely when it's convenient for you, which I am done with. I am over relationships where I put in a significant amount more than the other person— it is exhausting, draining, painful, and takes a toll on my mental health. I will always love you, but I absolutely refuse to sit here and watch you drink yourself to death.  

I will not wake up tomorrow and call you to tell you it’s okay. 
Or the next day. Or the next day. Or the next day.

Read this through as many times as you like, because I mean what I say.  Read it now, and read it tomorrow to remind yourself of what I am saying, what you will forget if you’re drunk— you're the monster you turn into when you’re drunk.  

You’re the monster who told my little sibling you didn't love them. You’re the monster who I genuinely believed might come into my room one night and kill me with a kitchen knife a after doing the dishes. You’re the monster who drunk drove myself, my siblings, and my friends more times than I care to recall, endangering countless lives on a plethora of different occasions. You’re the monster who embarrassed me in front of my friends, making me feel as though my family, home, and self were things to be ashamed of. You’re the monster who doesn't remember the innumerable exchanges we’ve had, both good and bad— the times I cried and begged you to stop, or the times I opened up to you regarding things you’d forget the the day after. You’re the monster who made me fear the smell of liquor, going out, and social drinking. You’re the monster who traumatized me and my siblings, but I was the sole child who came out of it ‘stronger’. You’re the monster who fought my siblings and I each night with slurred and nonsensical arguments you used with the intention of riling us up. You’re the monster others saw only on rare occasion, because they went to bed early nightly leaving us to fend for ourselves— leaving me to protect, shield, and care for my siblings. You’re the monster with whom I battled night after night, the one who would take my backpack and my books and force me to go to bed because it was “too late” to be doing homework.  

All kids are afraid of monsters, but usually the kind with sharp teeth or matted fur— the ones who live under beds and in closets.  But I grew up fearing a different kind of monster— one who came out of hiding at night, who reeked of alcohol and moved in slow motion. One who carried itself with clumsy sluggishness, who uttered English words so slurred they couldn’t be made out. One who stole from me, one who terrorized my dreams, one who hurt people I loved dearly; the most terrifying part about this monster— it’s you. It’s someone who I love with all of my heart, someone who is kind, beautiful, and funny. I struggled for the entirety of my life to separate the monster from you— to understand that this monster, worse than any in a scary movie or Halloween costume, wasn’t you. In this context, I mean a sober you, not the you reading this right now. If you are drunk and reading this, you are the monster I am referring to— the monster I hate from the core of my being, fear with the deepest depths of my being. You’re the monster who did the sliver of things I mentioned above and more. Over the years and years I lived with the monster, I learned that you, my mother, are not the monster. And when you go to rehab and stop drinking, the monster stays away. It goes into hiding. I grew up seeing the monster nearly every night, and I am thankful that I see it much less often now. But when I do, it comes back more terrifying than I remember it; I forget the sounds of its snarls, the odor that seeps from it’s mouth, the hateful words that come out sounding like gibberish. I forget the aftermath and the trauma that accompanies seeing, hearing, smelling, or talking to the monster— I forget the way these interactions cloud my mind and fog my day, the way they make an impact more powerful than you can imagine.  

Growing up, it didn’t make sense to me— there was “day-you” and “night-you”. I could confess my wrongdoings to “night-you” because they wouldn’t get mad at me for what I’d done, and, even if they did, it wouldn’t come up again.    

You've made me feel abandoned and betrayed on a million occasions, and it makes no sense why I’ve stuck by you.  

Being my family by blood does not justify your actions, nor does it hold me accountable for them, and it most certainly does not obligate me to stay in your life. I’m trying to grow up and take care of me, and I'm trying my best to let go of the worry I carry with me constantly. Loving you is like carrying a backpack full of rocks 24/7. It is as though the weight of the pressure and expectations you put on me is glued to my body, slowly suffocating me and wearing down my bones, to the point where it might break or even kill me.  

You don’t understand the ways in which you’ve hurt me. You don’t understand the ways in which you’ve hurt my siblings. You don’t understand the ways in which you’ve hurt your other family, friends, and every human on this earth who struggles with the responsibility of loving an addict. You don’t understand because you’re selfish. Addiction is a selfish disease, I’ve been told. You could never take a sip of alcohol again for the rest of your life from this moment on, and you would still have no trace of a clue of how much pain you’ve caused in your life. Each day, it is a choice for me to wake up and forgive you. I choose love over hate, forgiveness over grudges. When I wake up, I’m doing more than choosing to forgive you for your most recent relapse, or for the last year of them. I’m choosing to forgive you for each moment you made comments to my friends which made my cheeks burn with embarrassment and my heart beat with nervousness. I’m choosing to forgive you for all of the ugly thoughts you planted in my head. I’m choosing to forgive you for the countless times you laid a drunk finger on me— the reason why I hate to be touched by anyone. I’m choosing to forgive you for the ways in which your actions impacted our family and your marriage. I’m choosing to forgive you for all of the tears the monster made me shed, each nasty word it uttered at me, and all of the nights I walked it up the stairs and tucked it into bed.  

So, when you’re sober, read this. And don’t reach out to me, because I don’t want to hear from you. I live far away now— this is my new home. I have friends you don’t know and I do things you don’t know about. You don’t get to tell me what to do, when to be home, who I can’t hang out with, or what I can to wear, anymore. I am Quin— I am an adult and I am a student and I am proud. I am lovable and I am enough, despite being raised to think otherwise— to think of myself as worthless, unimportant, and not enough. My most important realization is that I deserve to take care of myself.  

I will struggle with these feelings for the rest of my life, in every platonic or romantic relationship I engage in, until the day I die. Your actions affected us each in different ways, the trauma manifesting inside of each of us in various forms. It’s sad to me that our family fits the textbook description of an alcoholic family— each of us fits the role of one of the “parts” which makes up a family who struggles with addiction. 

I deserve to wake up in the morning and be concerned with my own problems: What do I have to do today? What is causing me to worry? What am I going to have for lunch today? Why am I sad? For my entire life, I grew up without the knowledge or belief that I had the right to ask myself these questions, that valuing myself and my worth was not narcissistic but healthy, that taking care of myself did not make me selfish. I woke up every day and thought: Is she okay? Is she going to hurt herself? Is she going to make it home tonight? Is she drunk? Is she sad? I know she's lonely, but is she going to be okay? Is she sad enough to take her own life? What can I do to help? Is she using drugs? She has no one to talk to and has a difficult time opening up— if she was struggling, would anybody even know? How are things going for her? Is she going to get sick again? What can I do to alleviate her stress? Is she using again? Would she be honest if she was? 

In all of this, I found no time to wonder about myself— to contemplate my happiness, needs, or worth because I was worried about you, all of the time. But in the last six months, I’ve been working incredibly hard to realize I am not responsible for any of you, or responsible for insuring the happiness or health of our entire family. In fact, it is the responsibility of yourself to ascertain my sanity and stability, because I am your daughter— because you brought me into this world. But, for a long time, you haven't taken responsibility for my well-being, and it’s too late to change that; myself and my siblings have already grown up too fast, and there’s no way to turn back the clock. It has taken a long time for me to understand that just because you don’t act responsibly doesn't mean my siblings are my responsibility. I had no choice in bringing them into this world, nor did I choose to be brought into it. For me to feel as though they are my responsibility is absolutely absurd, and the amount of work I have done for them that you don’t even remotely realize is astounding. But, I digress: you are not my responsibility, I should be yours. What I am trying to say is you do not realize the emotional, heavy, and dark weight of worry, fear, and anxiety that I carry with me always, everywhere I go, because I fear greatly for all of you— because it is in my nature to take it upon myself to make a sad person happy, to make a sick person well, to make a bad person good. I am a fixer, to my own fault. The worst part is accepting that each of you, in your own way, is a danger to yourself. Beyond worrying about your happiness, I worry about your safety. Each member of this family is at an emotional peak all of the time, which can be extremely explosive and have catastrophic results. I have to learn to live with the knowledge that, God forbid something does happen to one of you, I am not at fault, and I have done everything in my power to prevent it.

Anyway, my goal coming into college was to stop being a fixer— to avoid befriending people who require fixing and to accept that I can’t fix the people I love, no matter how much I love them, because a) people must fix themselves and b) my trying to hold other peoples’ lives together enables them to continue their destructive behavior. On my end, this kind of relationship is exhausting and self-destructive with little reward.  

In short, I want you to know where I stand and how I feel. I want you to try to grasp just the tip of the iceberg of pain you have caused me. I want you to understand the ways in which you are holding me back, and your actions that are continuing to drag me down. I want you to understand my personal goals and the ways in which you are standing in the way of them. I want you to do for me what you do for those you love— love them. Love me enough to respect me. Respect me enough to refrain from calling when you’ve been drinking. Respect me enough to be honest with me. Respect me enough to stop planting nasty thoughts, blames, and ideas in my head. Respect me enough to decide whether or not you are going to be a constructive force in my life, and respect me enough to stay out of my life if you're not. 

I love you. 



  1. the execution of this is incredible. i know people very close to me that can relate, and the tone, word, choice, everything about is so remarkable and respectable. i don't want to sound like i'm doing too much analyzing of what i'm sure is an emotional and personal piece, but i wanted to let you know it definitely touched someone. power to you, quin.