My sister doesn’t like me writing about her, but she also doesn’t like talking about the one thing I often need to talk about, something that keeps on affecting my life quite painfully, so I’m choosing to talk about it here today, because I need to, because my heart is hurting a lot and I don’t have a voice for it anywhere else.
I absolutely, 100%, love my sister with all my heart, mind, and soul and I know deep within her the same is true as well. Yet, there is one thing I don’t like about her presently and that is a behavior our mother instilled in us long ago that I have done a lot of work to break free from, but she hasn’t yet and that is codependency.
For a long period of my life, my codependency led me into one unhealthy relationship after another with people I allowed to control my life, frequently at my own expense. How many times I allowed that to negatively affect my relationship with my sister and her family is countless. Thankfully, I finally woke up to this about ten years ago and realized how much I had become just like my mother. I have worked hard though to change this by not allowing anyone in my life anymore who is toxic like my mother, who uses fear and control tactics to make others do what they want, and I do my best now not to be that way with others either. Sadly, my sister still allows my long-deceased mother to control her on a regular basis, especially where I am involved, because of how her husband feels about me.
While I’ve done as much as I can to eradicate my addictive past through amends both written and in action, for whatever his reasons, my sister’s husband has been unable to come to a place of full forgiveness and acceptance of me and made it almost downright impossible for me to have any type of healthy relationship with my sister and her kids. While I don’t expect him to ever have to like me, I do at least know in the evangelical Christian world he lives in that I am worthy and deserving of forgiveness and acceptance, but I have never been given that. How that affects me in my relationship with my sister and her codependency with him is this.
I haven’t been allowed to stay at their home for years and presently am not even allowed to be in their house if her husband is home. My days are limited on how long I can come for a visit, which is never more than once a year, and when I’m there, I’m not even allowed to have time with my youngest nephew alone because of her husband’s irrational fears that all gay people are pedophiles. I often find myself on the defensive there, walking on egg shells, trying to be perfect, and when I make a mistake, any mistake, it’s verbally pointed out a number of times to me. Any promises made surrounding my visits seem to get repeatedly broken or changed when there as well. And even on my sister’s once a year visit alone to me, they’re often compromised too with her limiting her days to see me and her regularly receiving texts and phone calls from her husband that negatively affect what little time I get with her during those trips.
Countless friends, therapists, spiritual teachers, and the like have all asked me over the years why I continue to subject myself to this. The truth? I feel guilty about my own past behaviors of addiction that once affected her family greatly, so I carry this guilt, and in doing so, I’ve realized I’m leaving one bit of codependency still active within me by accepting whatever crumbs I get from them, telling myself I deserve to be treated this way because of how long I treated them in the same way. But continuing to live in this way is causing me too much pain now, especially when I see how many of my friends have some pretty awesome relationships with their siblings, talking to them multiple times a week, some even daily, having visits and vacations several times a year with them where they are welcomed with opened arms and love, where there are no special rules, regulations, or conditions surrounding their time together. So, I have to do the one thing that Al-Anon says to do when someone you love is living in a toxic addiction and affecting you negatively and that’s to detach with love. To do that, I end by declaring the following once and for all:
I am a good brother and a loving brother and a good uncle and a loving uncle who deserves to no longer be held to any of his past iniquities. God has forgiven me for them, now I must fully forgive myself for them as well by detaching with love to someone I love dearly who doesn’t clearly see how their addiction is painfully affecting others, just like I once didn’t. Sometimes it’s painful steps like this that need to happen for an addict of any caliper to finally wake up and see the truth. I pray my sister does one day and ultimately releases my mother and all my mother’s toxic behaviors once and for all. Whether that ever translates into a better relationship with my sister isn’t what matters the most for me, as what matters the most is my sister’s happiness, something that I know will never come to fruition so long as she continues to lead a codependent life.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson