We’ve officially entered the holiday season and let me be the first to say that I hate this time of year. Holidays are the time when you are supposed to focus on and look forward to spending time with family and with the passing of my dad two years ago, holidays for me will never be the same.
Thanksgiving was my dad’s favorite holiday; he would cook a complete meal from main course, to side dishes and dessert and everything was made from scratch. He would start a couple days in advance getting everything ready and the day of would get up early in the morning to cook the turkey and have everything done for the afternoon mealtime. It was a day where at some point people would be coming in and out of my parent’s place, there would be lots of good food, laughter and of course card playing.
The first year my dad passed, we were all still numb and wanted nothing to do with the holiday; I just wanted the day to be over. This year, the big dinner took place at my baby sister’s house and while I was better prepared to deal with Thanksgiving and my dad not being here, what I could not deal with was being around my sister so I didn’t go. Let me provide a little backstory to help put this in context…
I am the middle child of five. I lost my brother to alcoholism 8 years ago, and I have three other sisters: two older which I have good relationships with and then there is my youngest sister. She has 10 years of recovery from a crack cocaine addiction and let’s just say that it’s been a rough ten years between us. I’ve written before about how her addiction destroyed our once close relationship and how even after recovery, we’ve struggled with our relationship. We’ve tried over the years to work things out and had gotten to a point where we were civil to each other for quite a while, but a recent incident completely shattered that fragile truce we had with each other and as I write this, we no longer have a relationship.
I think during the holidays there is this sense that you’re supposed to be with your family; that all is forgiven in the “spirit of the holidays” and you’re expected to get along. It creates a false sense of togetherness that doesn’t come from a genuine place and for me that’s not what the holidays are about and I don’t want any part of that.
“Let me make something clear: the issues between my younger sister and I are just between us.”
I don’t let my issues spill into her relationship with my daughter; they love each other very much and have a great relationship. As a matter of fact, she went to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving and had a really good time! My other sisters have a good relationship with her as well: she is very close to my oldest sister now and I’m grateful that she has her to lean on because I think that helps to keep her focused.
I think there was a belief and hope on both of our parts that once my sister achieved recovery that somehow our relationship would get back to where it was but that has not happened. I think a lot of families feel this way. We hope and pray with everything we have that our loved ones who suffer from the disease of addiction will somehow make it to recovery and once they do, everything will get better. Sometimes that happens, but if it doesn’t we have to find a way to be okay and that is what I’m finally doing.
For a very long time now, I have felt guilty that I just can’t seem to get past everything that has happened between my sister and I; I’ve tried I really have but I just can’t seem to do it and after this latest incident between us I can honestly say I don’t feel any more guilt. I love my sister very much and I am so very proud of her for getting to and staying in long term recovery, but I don’t like my sister, we don’t get along and the holidays are not going to change that.
It’s best for both of us this way; is it ideal, no but it is what it is. I know there are some people who hate that phrase, but the older I’ve gotten the more I embrace this way of thinking. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to make a situation better, you can’t force it, you can’t change it, it just is and I am finally okay with that being the case between my sister and me. We love each other, we just don’t like each other and that’s okay!
I want other families who may be in similar situations to know that it’s important to be honest with each other about the way you feel and not force something if it’s not there. It does no good for anyone and it’s not fair either. We all have enough things to deal with and work through without the added pressure of the holidays, so be true to your feelings because in the end that is the only thing you can control.
Nadine Herring is the owner of Virtually Nadine, a virtual assistant company that provides online administrative support and social media management to addiction specialists and social service organizations. I specialize in working with this undervalued and overworked field to help them deal with the time consuming process of running an organization.