Letting go of my sister’s story

So much about my previous sobriety attempts have been about my sister.

In February of last year, we staged an intervention for her. A consultant was engaged and three months of planning ensued. A plot was developed, letters were written, savings/retirement accounts were prepped for withdrawals.

The morning of the intervention, my sister walked into my parents house, looked around at the circle of family waiting for her, and said: “No thank you.”

She walked out. And that was that. We have rarely spoken since that day.

Did we wait too long? Should we have tried other, more subtle attempts before staging an intervention? Does it even matter?

Today, I am pursuing sobriety for myself. When I listen at meetings, I am listening for myself. When I read the sober blogs, I am reading for myself.

When I pray though, I pray for both of us.

It’s probably what I should have done before. Instead I was “like an actor who wants to run the whole show … If only my arrangements would stay put, if only people would do as I wish the show would be great.”

Below is the letter I wrote to my sister. It was meant to be read aloud to her at the intervention. Maybe someday it will reach the intended audience.

My sister, I love you so much. You are the person I have known longest on this Earth. You were my first friend, my first babysitter, my first reliable teenaged driver and my college confidant. As adults we were always close, but after I had my first baby, you truly became more than my sister and became my best friend.

… I learned from you how to be a good mother – both how to care for my son physically, but also how to love him.

One day I watched as you changed his diaper, put his onsie back on him and then, with complete ease and naturalness, caressed his face and kissed him. He looked up at you and gave you a huge smile. Watching you with him blew my mind. Until then, I thought of motherhood as caretaking. I knew to change diapers and feed him. But until I watched you love on him – and watched you as you loved and nurtured your own young children – I didn’t know how to put mothering love into action.

Over the next six years or so we were very close. We talked two, three times a day. Slowly, however, as your drinking increased and the pill use became more prominent, the phone calls became more and more alarming. We had dozens of late-night phone calls where you were drunk and stoned. Many times you said very disturbing things, often about your husband and things he said to you during his own drinking.

Three years ago, while we were all together at the beach house, I walked up to the kitchen to find you drunk and stoned, your eyes were huge and black. You were stuffing food in your face, making a terrible mess and not caring. You were mumbling and talking gibberish. You broke a glass bowl and I had to clean it up. I knew that this terrible, scary scene was what your kids witnessed at your home.

We come from a long line of alcoholics. We are born with a certain genetic makeup and no matter what our intentions or how strong we are or how aware we are of the disease, it does not seem that we can avoid it.

We either become an alcoholic or we marry one. Watching you that night, I realized you had done both. 

The last time we had any sort of honest conversation was about a year ago when I asked you to stop drinking because you were so unavailable to me. You responded, “I’m available to you before 5 p.m.”

I want more of you than that. Your kids need more of you than that. And, most importantly, you deserve a better life than the one you are living.

I miss you so much. I will do everything in my power to help you overcome this disease and reclaim yourself, and become the sister who showed me how to love my own baby.

We worked with (the counselor) Bill for months to bring us to this moment. We have taken the time to find the program that is best for you. We have worked out all the details and tried very hard to create the support you need to recover.

Last fall I was sitting at an orthodontist’s office reading Real Simple magazine. There was an article written by a 40-something-year-old woman in which she complained about getting old.  She wrote that she called her older sister and asked her “can we still get away with v-necks, or are our old necks too chicken-like?” The sister replied, “The time has come to scarf it up.”

I read that article and immediately thought of you and how I want to grow old with you and talk about our necks. I want to talk with you about our children. I want to go on vacations with you. I want to go back to Hawaii and laugh knowingly about how we are too smart in our old age to ever again follow my husband across a volcano field. I want to go with you and Mom back to that town in Italy and stay in the old convent we found and go to mass in beautiful Italian churches.

I want my sister back. I miss her so much and this disease has taken her from me. Please help bring her back to me.


4 thoughts on “Letting go of my sister’s story

  1. I’m sorry this is so hard.
    You are right. You can only focus on keeping yourself well. I hope your sister sees your example some day and asks you for help. Or her kids realize they have a sober aunt to turn to.
    Or that she find a way out of the horror of addiction on her own.

    I’m sure she wishes that as well.

    Take care of yourself. I will say a prayer for your sister.

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