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Posted by: Ella | 2010/11/15

My Brother''s Other Sister

I''ve been using the above phrase for the last 11 months when I refer to my sister. Its a very long, very sad story but the bottomline is that my sister is an alcoholic. She will fight tooth and nail (literally ..) when she is called this and I pretty much have moved on with my life and to be honest, my life is way less complicated and way less stressful without her than with her. She lives abroad with her husband and their daughter. Their child is my 2 children''s only cousin. And she has no other cousins than my two children.
My kids and I went to visit them over Christmas - and as you know, it costs a pretty penny to go abroad but I had some money to cover the expenses and I wanted to spend it on a White Xmas for my children who really appreciated and enjoyed the holiday. That is apart from the drinking, fighting, swearing, cursing, threats and physical harm they had to endure. I''ve known for quite some time (lets just say roughly around 10 years) that my sister had a problem with booze but I never knew to what extent until we experienced it first hand over a period of about 21 days last December. It was terrible, to say the least. Some people under the influence become actually more pleasant than what they are in real life and some become absolute demons. She is the latter. I could handle it to some extent as I chose to remove myself from her presence when she was intoxicated and took my kids with me. The moment the liquor hits her stomach she becomes a completely different, horrible person. Whether it is before 08:00 some mornings or whether its after 20:00 in the evening. Mostly it was possible to avoid a confrontation but when it seems now in retrospect that the more I tried to ignore her and avoid a confrontation, the more determined she became to provoke me into saying something. Usually I do but I just did not want to cause a scene and I did not want to spoil our holiday.
On old year''s eve, she has been drinking since around 7 in the morning and by late evening she was so intoxicated that she barely could stand up straight. Her little one was petrified of her and clung to me like a little monkey. Which of course aggrivated the situation as I am ''corrupting'' her child. It was the most surreal and traumatic experience I''ve had in a while to be witness to it. My son (10) had his birthday the day before which was also spoiled by my sisters inability to stop and think about others. When my son came to me, fearful and teary and told me that he is scared she is going to hurt me, I asked him why he says so. He answered that he overheard her speaking to her husband in the kitchen and she said she was going to stab me with a knife. They apparently got me a set of knifes as a Christmas gift but I did not accept it on Christmas day as they pretended all were well and my reasoning always, always have been one of: don''t give or take gifts if you don''t mean it or if your heart is not in the right place. She wanted to stab me with those knifes.
We decided to lay low, keep out of her way and I kept my two kids close. By midnight, she started verbally abusing me and I still kept quiet and avoided eye contact. But believe me, at that stage I was ready to punch the living day lights out of her because she pretty much ruined our holiday and I''ve had enough of staying mum for the sake of peace. I looked up at her and that was all she needed. She came towards me and wanted to physically attack me. Anyway, to cut a long story short - I could remove myself from the situation without incident and it also did not help trying to talk to her as it was impossible to try and reason with her. The next morning, still intoxicated she informed me that my kids and I are no longer welcome in their house and should leave immediately. Which we did. Not much money left to spend on accommodation, food, travel etc and we had 3 days left in the country before our return flight to SA. My kids and I have spoken about this a lot and in depth and as I said earlier, I feel absolutely nothing when I think of her. Nothing. She has not attempted to contact me or apologise or make amends in any way and I can honestly say that it does not bother me. I do however think that this must be eating her alive - or maybe not. My heart breaks for my children and her child though as they probably never will have contact. I don''t even know if they ever will move back to SA and I can just hope their little one will grow up knowing what''s right and what''s wrong and will be OK. My sister''s husband and I always use to get on very well. Had a lot of respect for him and he used to offload towards me about my sister when things got too much and I always came up for her, telling him to love her, to try and support her, try get her to - when she was sober, however short lived, join the AA. If for no one else, but for their daughter. That night he did nothing, nothing to prevent any of this happening. In fact I wonder if there is not some kind of bargaining going on between them. He KNOWS she has a problem with alcohol and she knows he pretty much does whatever he wants to. So he provides the booze and she provides the space for him to venture outside their marriage.
I dont really want advise - just wanted to after 11 months, put it ''out there'' and finally close this chapter.
PS - our parents both passed away and we only have a brother left. Him and I do speak but we live far apart and she contacts him only when its convenient for her. Just glad my parents don''t have to experience this.
In closing: I wish her well - honestly. I wish her peace and I wish her sobriety to face whatever demon needs to be faced. And if she stands in front of me one day, looking me in the eyes, asking for my forgiveness, apologising to my children re the hurtfull, terrible things she had said to their faces about me and them - that day I will forgive her - unconditionally. But until then, she will remain my brother''s other sister and a footnote in my past.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Good grief ! What a long story !
There's no point, as you've discovered in arguing with an alcoholic about whether or not they are alcoholic. But until they face facts and admit to themselves and others that they are damagingly dependent on over-use of alcohol, it is not practical for anyone to help them.
You can, and probably should, remain out of contact with her unless and until she has got proper treatment and got this alcoholism under control. It's very sad that her husband apparently tolerates this and seems to have done nothing realistic to press her into thee assessment and treatment she so obviously needs. And I'd be more worried about their child, growing up with such a seriously alcoholic mother. Depending on the extent of the potential risk to the child, you may want to consider whether the child welfare authorities ought to have been informed to check on her.
Otherwise, your decision to suspend your relationship with her makes excellent sense, won't harm you or her. Hope she eventually sees the light and takes her own problem and the problems this causes for others, seriously.

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2
Our users say:
Posted by: understanding | 2010/11/16

there is no need to have no contact with your brother in law...the odd phone call / skpye to catch up on the child can be done then ....when they are old enough you can phone/skype them to keep in touch. Forgive your sister now and move on. No need to carry unforgiveness for years to come.

Reply to understanding
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010/11/16

Good grief ! What a long story !
There's no point, as you've discovered in arguing with an alcoholic about whether or not they are alcoholic. But until they face facts and admit to themselves and others that they are damagingly dependent on over-use of alcohol, it is not practical for anyone to help them.
You can, and probably should, remain out of contact with her unless and until she has got proper treatment and got this alcoholism under control. It's very sad that her husband apparently tolerates this and seems to have done nothing realistic to press her into thee assessment and treatment she so obviously needs. And I'd be more worried about their child, growing up with such a seriously alcoholic mother. Depending on the extent of the potential risk to the child, you may want to consider whether the child welfare authorities ought to have been informed to check on her.
Otherwise, your decision to suspend your relationship with her makes excellent sense, won't harm you or her. Hope she eventually sees the light and takes her own problem and the problems this causes for others, seriously.

Reply to cybershrink

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