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AITA for ghosting my adopted cousin and our entire town?

Polygon readers, weigh in

Bilbo Baggins at his party in Hobbiton Image: New Line Cinema

The popular subreddit “Am I the Asshole?” is, as mods put it, “a catharsis for the frustrated moral philosopher in all of us, and a place to finally find out if you were wrong in an argument that’s been bothering you.” Unfortunately, the community strictly bans any posts involving walking out on loved ones. So, without a better place to post it, Polygon has allowed one anonymous user to publish their AITA here on the site. Judge accordingly.

It’s my (128m) first time posting, and I require advice before I get caught in a tricky social situation. I’m feeling regret over walking out on my former life, including my cousin (50m), who I was pretty close to, so I figured I would ask here. Keep in mind I have no kids and never married, and most of my journey in life was completely unexpected.

Growing up, people did not leave my hometown. You stuck around, worked the work, got a pint on the way home, and that was basically it. Instead of doing that I decided to take a job in another country, which was basically unheard of. Long story short, a local celebrity — he’d get top billing at the town-wide Midsummer-eve party every year — looped me in with a squad of refugees trying to overthrow the ruler of their ancestral home, and I became their runner. Terrifying, but … a thrill of a lifetime lol. Eventually I came home to retire early because we got their mountain back, they paid me a lot of money, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go. No one at home really had a problem but everyone still thought I was kind of a weird guy.

I will be forthright and say I didn’t have to worry about money when I came home, so I spent most of my time helping people around town (and working on my memoir). I had friends, some people hated me (mostly my nosy older cousins, who’ve always been mad that I inherited our grandparents’ house). I also took in my kid cousin after his parents died in a deeply fucked boating accident. He wasn’t like my *son* or something but the whole thing was tragic and I felt like I should teach him everything I knew. Money I made went to him, I shared my war stories with him and his friends, and we were all really close. We have the same birthday and we always celebrated together.

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My problem was that I came home an addict. There is bad shit, and then there is bad shit. I was never too fucked up that I couldn’t manage my job or responsibilities but I also couldn’t quit. My precious shit ate away at me, but it felt like the only way to just blend in and get by in the kind of small town where you get noticed everywhere you go. I liked what my cousin and I had but you miss that kind of freedom I guess? So I decided the only way to quit might be to completely walk out on my life the way I did when I first left.

But instead of telling people I was going to leave like a normal person I just did it. On my cousin’s and my birthday in September (this was 17 years ago) people in my neighborhood decided to throw a block party. Everyone was having fun — my party-loving ex-coworker even came in to do fireworks — but my precious was pulling me the other way. I felt thin. Or sort of stretched? Like butter scraped over too much bread. I was still the “old me,” telling stories and even giving a little thank you speech, but after my thank yous I vanished. Literally, gone. I went back to my house, grabbed my sword and mithril coat, and walked out. I didn’t tell my cousin, who was old enough to take care of himself. The only reason I’m alive to talk about this is because my wise old weed buddy caught me and demanded I hand over the goods. He knew what was sucking my soul away. I knew I needed a holiday.

I haven’t seen my cousin since. We never talked about everything I was dealing with because I didn’t think I could really be honest about it. I left him our house, most of the money, and wound up living in the mountains with a bunch of New Age devotees who want nothing to do with mankind. I was able to kick my habit, and I even wrote everything down in a book (unpublished), but it’s all come at the cost of whatever people think of me now. I don’t really know because I didn’t expect I should return, and honestly, I meant not to.

I don’t know if I can blame my old job and addiction for completely ghosting on my life afterward. This didn’t come out of nowhere but i wasn’t sure what to do and it helped. I’m definitely a different person now.

Anyway it seems like my cousin has found out where I am and is coming to visit with three of his friends. He’s definitely going to want to talk to me about what happened. AITA?

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