If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be witnessing my sister’s alcoholism and her shutting me out of her life, I would asked them if they had been smoking crack. My sister and I had grown to be very close over the years. We would spend countless hours on the phone discussing our lives, problems, and hashing out life. We have always lived apart from each other and the phone was frequently glued to our ears several times a day. When I was told my ill husband and most likely wouldn’t make it out of surgery, I held it together until I called her crying and asking how in the world was I going to handle being a widow and single mother? I was there for her when she gave birth, was afraid to be a mother and encouraged her all she had to do was love him. We went through our mother’s mental illness together and witnessed countless nervous breakdowns and putting her life back together the best we could each time. I listened to her endlessly when her husband got a DUI, fired from his job and was scared for their future. Growing up we fought a lot as siblings do, but somewhere along they way we bonded like glue. She was there when I had a miscarriage. And for the birth of my son later on. She listened to me for countless hours on my struggles with my sick spouse. She was there during his 12 hour surgery and never left my side. She was the first one I called after I had found my husband dead and the ambulance had been called. She was there for me when I got my heart broke by a narcissistic boyfriend after my husband died. I listened to her 30 years ago when she was debating on going away and getting married to the man she was dating or staying single. She should have stayed single. I didn’t think it was a good choice. She did and got married and moved away. The outcome of that decision led to her alcoholism and demise. It ended up being a marriage hammered with domestic abuse like I have never experienced. I listened to her talk about her crazy Wysteria Lane neighbors. She listened to me for hours on end of my issues with my ADHD/ODD son and our struggles.
We were like peas in a pod; peas and carrots; peanut butter and jelly; grilled cheese and tomato soup. One couldn’t be without the other. Even though we were different, we had our way of meshing. After friends would meet us they would always, always comment on how different we were and surprised we were sisters. She loved makeup and I hated it. She would wear jeans in 100 degree weather because of her knobby knees and I would wear shorts and tank tops because I was too hot. Shorts, tank tops, flip flops and no make up suited me best. I can’t recall a time seeing her without makeup in her adult life. She is always wearing her hair down and styled. Mine is not styled and up in a ponytail. She has always been the skinny one and I have been the overweight one. She has always had acrylic nails. I tried them once and they didn’t last. I am too much of a tomboy. I love the farm and simple life but she doesn’t. She speaks softly and my voice carries. I am mentally strong and she is not and she would come to hate me for it later. I just didn’t know how much.
Watching The Fall
Somewhere along the way my sister became an alcoholic. A serious alcoholic. The kind that drinks and drive. The kind that blacks out. The kind that spews venom from her mouth to hurt innocent people. My sweet, innocent sister, how different she had become. The kind that got beaten and raped by her husband. The kind that let her son beat on her when he followed his father’s path. The kind that I had the pleasure of accidentally listening to one night of her sobs for an hour because she forgot to hang up and I couldn’t tear myself away. She ended up treating me just as my bi-polar mother did growing up: mean, abusive, telling me she didn’t think I was a good mother, she didn’t want me anywhere near her, that I was being controlled by my boyfriend, that she wasn’t going to be a bad mother like me. She would call me many nights, drunk and sitting in a parking lot because she didn’t want to go home, cryiung telling me how she isn’t strong like me. I tell her I will teach you, just please come live with me and you will heal and find peace.
For a year I saw a therapist on how to handle dealing with an alcoholic. I didn’t have the courage yet to stop talking to her as I felt like I was abandoning her if I didn’t pick up the phone. We are all we have left as our parents have passed away and we don’t have much family. Every time I saw her phone number, I was powerless over the dance of the alcoholic and I didn’t like myself by the time I hung up. Mean words has been spoken I wasn’t very proud of. She is angry and going for the jugular with me. Who best to know your weak spots but for your sisters? For years, I listened to countless stories of abuse by her husband. I finally convinced her to send me pictures of the abuse in case something happened. What I saw was so horrible I cried for hours over each photo. I called the police myself. I drove up to help her and am told the same thing. Each. And. Every. Time. Unless they hear from the victim, I have no rights. I talked to police, who were trained in domestic abuse that decided to not press charges. I was told to write the governor and have the case opened as she needed help. Seriously? I shouted for joy when I learned her therapist called the authorities and CPS got involved and was floored when the case was later dropped. As this story goes on, I feel like I am going to be seeing her on the news one night and this story is becoming very much as we see on the news, just like Nicole Simpson. I am in shock at what I am witnessing. I also realize one thing: I am powerless. I cry for hours over each photo of abuse I am sent, yet there is nothing I can do? I can’t comprehend this and I think the laws need to change in this country when such abuse is being witnessed by law enforcement, hospital staff and family members. Sometimes, a person needs protection from themselves when they are so far gone emotionally. Why, why, why is abuse allowed to go this far? And we wonder why women are killed by their domestic partners. Because it is allowed to by the system.
Blank faces. That is what we are both to each other now for different reasons. We both have different feelings regarding our relationship now. I am sure it’s been hard for both of us in our own way. I am told that the alcoholic doesn’t realize the damage they cause to others which is hard for me to comprehend. At this point, I am so emotionally damaged at what I have seen, heard and wonder what is going on at any given moment, that I now realize I need to take steps to protect myself emotionally. I listen to the song by Disturbed, “The Sound of Silence” and for some reason it brings feelings of such intense emotion each time I listen to it. There are times I have had to go home and get under the covers after I listen to it. For some reason, it reminds me of her every. single. time. Maybe it reminds me of the picture below of what we have become. We are both silenced and left with no mouths to speak. I realize I am not in a good place right now and I need to save myself.
How I Kept My Sanity
For a year I saw a therapist on how to handle dealing with an alcoholic. I didn’t have the courage yet to stop talking to her as I felt the pull of the dance each time she called. Maybe this time she will listen. Maybe this time I can convince her to live with me. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. It took a long time to realize maybe is never going to come. Eventually my therapist recommended a support group for me as we had reached the end of the coping skills she could teach me. It was during attending this support group that I gained the strength to change my phone number.
I still have a hard time coping. One night, I self medicate and truly don’t care if I wake up the next day. When I did wake up, I realize I need to make some changes myself. Her rejection of me is what hurts the most, as when your manic depressive mother has rejected you from an early age, rejection is forever etched in the back of your mind and you are sensitive to rejection from the simplest things in life, such as being left off an e-mail, not invited to a group event, not being asked to lunch or being left out of a conversation. You forever see things in a different light.
I realize I need to stop self-medicating myself in order to deal with the pain, or I am going to end up an alcoholic just as her. There is a point of crossing the line when you enjoy a few drinks with friends or at home to unwind and binge drinking to avoid pain. For the first time in my life, I open my eyes and see how in the past few months I have done this and I need to stop. I see the changes in my body and my mind and I don’t like it. In an odd way, I feel since I can’t understand what she has been through unless I drink in order to feel what she is feeling.
This is how I have spent a lot of my time in the last six months as I have no mental energy to deal with anything. I have overcome so much in the past few years and I didn’t see this coming. I don’t want to lose her and have told her this. But I tell myself maybe is never coming and I need to get on with my life. When I was visiting my aunt at Easter she told me one thing that finally made sense to me: “You can’t make her want to get help” and I realize this is what I have been doing these past few years. I keep attending my meetings and keep connecting with like minded people during this difficult process. I have called my sponsor in tears bring me back to reality.
Now, in order to cope, I tell myself what I can do Just For Today. Sometimes, it’s Just For This Minute. Just For This Second. This is one saying that has brought me back to reality. So For Today, I will bike ride, enjoy the sunshine, write, take a bath and just think about today. Stay in the present moment. I think that is the only thing we can do for ourselves.
What about you? What are you doing to cope with Just Today? What challenges are you facing with an alcoholic in your life and how are you dealing with it? I would love to hear.