How will I respond today – as a child or an adult?

24 Dec 2015

I have been reflecting on how we often revert to childhood roles when dealing with our childhood families; take my sister (no, please, take her... as far away from me as possible – and she is not even living in the same country as me!) Even as I typed that last sentence, my heart started pounding...

You see, my sister, Nicky, is an alcoholic, but we were never allowed to talk about this reality. When she is out of action after overindulging, typically at Christmas, we are told that she is 'ill'. If we challenge this, Mum becomes (understandably) very protective and so the myth persists. What I have been struggling with most recently has been the continuation of this myth that Nicky is 'ill'. Also the apparent injustice of being 'told off' by Mum for not being "supportive"...

I know in my head that alcoholism is a dreadful illness. But in my heart I am grieving for my beautiful, talented, caring, witty sister whom I rarely see; and I am raging against the manipulative, scheming, lying, devious, drunk woman who has taken her place and who insists on doing her 'poor me' act, and I am not allowed to say all that. It's not fair! See, I have reverted to being a child...

I have successfully avoided facing up to my feelings for so long that they are buried very deep, which has been fine...sort of... well, it was fine... until earlier this year when they started surfacing. On one notable occasion I completely lost it, shouting and screaming, and throwing (yes, throwing) chairs around the room and a few weeks later I had another melt-down. I have never, ever behaved like that before, so it came as a considerable shock to us all.

For almost 30 years Christmas has been dominated by Nicky, whether present or absent... will she be there? Will she be sober? what crisis will we have to deal with if she is drunk? Our family myth about Christmas is that we have a fantastic time together; the reality for over twenty years has been picking Nicky up off the floor at 9am completely drunk, and sitting round waiting for her to sober up as Mum won't "do" Christmas without her...

We can place too great an importance on maintaining family roles and traditions. We can fall into the trap of clinging onto such traditions. And of course, no-one wants to hurt anyone's feelings, so people (often the mums) pay the price for keeping the show on the road, when that show has passed its sell-by date and no longer brings the joy it once did.

I know rationally that I cannot change the situation, all I can change is my response... so how on earth do I respond as an adult, when my heart is reacting like that of a child?

Any tips very gratefully received!


A Moodscope member.

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