Sunday, June 12, 2016

Family connections - Managing the behavior of others

I am in a good place just enjoying the weekend how I imagine most people do.  I had an interesting conversation with my sister yesterday.  She has called me regularly over the years and I have made efforts to visit her and her family regularly.  Yesterday there was some real honesty about what she has lived with all these years. She even talked about visiting me here. 

Our conversations have been mostly one sided her telling me problems she is having at work or sometimes with the kids. She is usually driving someplace and just fitting me in where it is convenient for her and I am sure feeling like she is maintaining her outreach program.  These days it usually takes two or three calls for us to catch up with each other.  Mostly because she calls at 7am or after midnight.

She hasn't been here to see me since my divorce when I was thirty.  My efforts to see her and her family was my desperate need to belong somewhere. My last big effort was for my nieces college graduation when I had taken a week off work to drive nine hours to show my support.  I was called the night before and told by my sister not to come.  It was really going to be only family.

This was devastating for me at the time because I was still lost and searching for a way out of my depression.  I thought it was caused by not having a support system and in my mind I thought I should try once again to connect to my own family instead of trying to find a substitute family.

When I was rejected I thought okay enough I am going to have to be whole alone. Depend only on myself to find my way out of the blackness. It really felt good to not want that connection and to be free to just let that idea go for good this time.  My happiness does not depend on another or in this case does not depend on my family loving me or wanting me.

The truth about that particular rejection was centered around addiction. This is what my sister has lived with since she married her husband. First his parents with prescription medications and more recently his sister who's life has been destroyed by her own addiction.  In the end when I was uninvited it was because if I came then the addicted sister had to be invited too. 

My niece confided in me later that it wasn't the aunt's behavior that she worried about it was the way her own father acted when the aunt was around.  She said he is totally crazy trying to control her and worrying about her.  He ruins every family event because something isn't going the way he thinks it should. 

The addiction always gets center stage because we give it to it.  My niece said she would never have a big wedding because the stress of dealing with the family would be too much. My brother-in-law has been the real problem in the family and this is why my sister has been very selective about what she has told me over the years.

She has lived a life of doing whatever needs to be done to keep from setting him off. When has managed around him and is angry outburst. Even the kids have tried to help their mother manage around him. He has worn her out and they all feel she needs to be rescued my nephew told me he felt he couldn't have his own life because his mother needed him to be a father to his little brother and a protector to his mother. 

I told him his mother would be really sad to think he felt he couldn't have his own life because she needed protection and his brother needed a father. 

The kids have moved on the last of them moving out a month ago. My sister told me yesterday that he has run everyone off and that she has her own plans for freedom. I think now that she has raised the kids she wants to find some happiness and peace. 

Their lives have been forever changed mostly by one person and this person was not the addicted. The kids have learned things about relationships that are totally unhealthy.  They have learned that you have to manage people to keep the peace mostly in a passive aggressive way. When all else fails you can flee but ultimately this leaves a big whole that needs to be healed.

I am sorry my sister has lived with this situation we both have had a hard times in our lives.  It is too bad that we couldn't help each or even confide in each other.  We  have been alone and left to our own abilities to find our way out. Realizing that it isn't the addiction that destroys us it is our reaction to it and our fear of making the wrong that keeps us from finding freedom. 

I have left my expectations for being a real part of my family behind.  If it does work out that would be nice but if it doesn't I will be okay too. I have found the peace I have been searching for so long. I have finally let go of thinking anyone or even life for that matter owes me anything.

We are all doing our best and we must all find our own to peace.  


  1. Amazing how the addicted one can control the whole show. Fear is such a big lever. Great post.

  2. There are times that I believe that my need to control the situation to make me feel comfortable did far more damage than the addict/alcoholic in the the house. But then I remember that I could not know what I did not know and try to cut myself some slack. Thank you for your post.