Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Letter To My Sister

Dear Little Sister,

Middle Sister has recently informed me of your latest drama. Once again, you have no job, no money, no food and are spending your days in your pajamas waiting for the eviction notice you know is inevitable.

Instead of being actively engaged in the pursuit of employment and housing, you are schlepping around your apartment complaining of feeling sick. No surprise. That's what happens when your body isn't getting the drugs it's used to ingesting. Such is the sorry state of a junkie.

You told Niece that your family hates you and that they are too judgmental. Only one of those accusations is correct. I don't hate you, but I most certainly have passed judgment on you. Your actions over the past several years have been pathetic and despicable. There has been much to judge.

For many years, Little Sister, you have been an addict. Because it is the nature of addiction, you have lied to everyone around you including those who loved you most. You have not only been a user of drugs, but a user of people. You will always be able to find drugs, Little Sister, but you will not always be able to find people who are willing to help you. Eventually they grow tired of giving you money, being lied to, listening to excuses and bailing you out of disaster after self-created disaster. They grow weary in their hearts of watching you self-destruct despite their many attempts at helping you.

When you stole prescription drugs from my home, it was the last straw for me. My husband and I had opened our home to you and offered you a new start. You had assured me that you were ready to begin a new drug free chapter in your life and I believed you. Within days, you repaid us for our offers of a place to live and help finding a job by stealing from us. After years of watching you make poor choice after poor choice and seeing the trail of burned bridges and human destruction you'd left behind, I was finished.

Our mother wouldn't, or wasn't able to turn you away. As she repeatedly gave you shelter both physically and emotionally, you used and abused her at every turn. She was the one person in your life who wasn't willing to give up just yet and you did nothing but take advantage of her and abuse her motherly compassion.

You certainly knew how to work the system, I'll give you that. Not only do I not understand the mind of an addict, I don't understand how a person can manipulate and connive with such ease. How did you escape going to jail when you were caught red-handed writing prescriptions for yourself on a prescription pad from the doctor for whom you worked? He'd given you the ultimatum of rehab or jail and you spent one hour at rehab. How many times have you evaded rehab now? Five...six? It's been too difficult to keep track.

While you were a minor, Mother had the chance to help you, but you did a fabulous job of convincing her that you didn't belong in that awful place with those messed up people and that you weren't one of them. She didn't have the fortitude to keep you in rehab long enough for them to help you and now it's too late. You are a thirty-four year old woman who is penniless, homeless and friendless. No one can force you to get help now. No one can make you clean up. Unfortunately, you have pissed away every opportunity you've ever been given and spit in every helping hand offered you.

You have done things I cannot imagine. They are the things I see on television shows and movies that turn my stomach. They are the degrading and pathetic acts of miserable junkies who live only to score their next fix. You have never once that I've known of, accepted responsibility for your actions. It's always been someone else's fault. Someone else made you do it. Someone else, someone else. Never you.

So yes, Little Sister, I judge you. I know where you come from and I know the opportunities you've been given and then thrown away. I know firsthand that your childhood was far from ideal, but it's bullshit to keep using that as an excuse. There comes a point when you must realize that you are no longer subject to the whim and will of your abusers and that you have choices to be made about which direction to take in life. You have chosen not to move forward. You are not even stagnant. You are humanity in decay.

There are pictures of you from your childhood that are heartbreaking to look at now; pictures of a sweet, cherubic and devilish child, full to the brim with loving adulation from her parents. Do you remember your first words? They weren't the typical first words of a child. They were, "I pitty." Translated as, "I'm pretty." You must have heard, "You're so pretty," a thousand times a day for the first few years of your life. Dad was in love with you and Mom referred to you as her "Miracle Baby." Sure, as was typical of Dad, once you hit puberty, he emotionally abandoned you as he did the rest of us, but you had a fierce and loyal ally and guardian in our mother. That is something that the rest of us grew up without. I consider you having had an advantage over us.

Regardless...whatever the perceived issues were that inspired you to make the brilliant decision not to finish high school, right down to the decision that ingesting drugs would be a swell idea, are not ones that the rest of us didn't have or that the rest of the world hasn't had and worse. The difference is that you had so many opportunities to right yourself and didn't take them. You had a mother who would do anything in the world for you and you abused her. Middle Sister has given you thousands of dollars over the years and attempted to be a confidant and friend and you have repeatedly taken advantage of her good heart and compassion. I have paid bills for you, given you places to live and helped you find jobs. In return, you have lied to me, stolen from me and abused my trust.

I have the odd and (to my husband) disconcerting ability to be able to break things down and compartmentalize them. I know that you are my sister and I have compassion for you, but I also know that you're an addict and I cannot knowingly expose my family to your lifestyle. Being "family" is not an automatic pass to use and abuse people simply because you share the same DNA.

Every now and then, those compartments break down a little and I have momentary flashes of fear. I fear hearing the phone ring one day and picking it up to hear Middle Sister's voice on the phone telling me that you are gone. Not the "gone" you are now, but the real and terrifying final version. When I think about it, I want to take you by your emaciated shoulders and shake you and tell you how selfish you are and and how your choices have affected us and that if you die, it will be the end of so many things.

It will be the end of a life so full of potential. It will be the end of a sweet, funny and bubbly girl who had a world of possibilities at her feet. It will be the end of The Colclasure Sisters. As scattered and tattered as we may be, we are a group united by secrets, fears, laughter, shared memories and love. It will be the end of our mother as we know her because since the day you were born, you have been perfect and flawless in her eyes.

It makes me angry and sad to think about because I know that if you die, a little piece of me dies with you. I don't hate you, Little Sister, but I don't know who you are anymore to love you either. Maybe the real Little Sister is still inside of you somewhere, or maybe she has already left in order to save herself. In either case, I miss the girl who walks like me, laughs like me and who was always a willing party in my wicked and warped sense of humor.

I would be forever grateful to have her back.




Wendy said...

Good post. It would be foolhardy to think this will change her behavior, but maybe some part of her will spark to it. Also, there is a book you should read called ComeBack, by Claire and Mia Fontaine. Although it is about a mother and a daughter, and how the daughter's addiction led them through hell and back, it is still full of applicable lessons for everyone who is dealing with a drug addict or just some serious craziness.

Amy said...

Wendy: I wrote this without any expectation that she would ever see it. It was more of a cathartic exercise and an effort to get past the anger and into a place of acceptance. I've kept her in a compartment without dealing with her for awhile and after a recent conversation with one of my other sisters, the opportunity presented itself to ponder things a bit and to express what I haven't allowed myself to previously.

Aunt Juicebox said...

My youngest brother still lives with our parents, and I've washed my hands of him as well. He's not on drugs, but he is an alcoholic, and my mother is caring for his two children, and allows him to let his girlfriends move into their house. Recently, it sort of exploded all over again, over a vehicle that I let my mom use, and she let my brother's girlfriend use it. So pretty much at this point, I just don't even want to speak to any of them. There's only so much a person can take in the name of "family".

@eloh said...

As I read, I was connecting so deeply...but couldn't understand why I could feel your words so deeply...

this isn't necessarily about drug addiction but the toll that rotten behavior takes on those families.

When one sister can do nothing but watch and pray for another... every time you reach out the hand is bitten...and it is so hard not to reach out.

Kathy G said...

I used to work with teens who'd been through recovery and were sober. Over the years I talked to them and many of their counselors. Over and over again I heard that [name of drug] made them feel whole. They fell in love with it. I don't understand, but I'm not an addict.

The best thing you can do is go to an Al-Anon meeting. It's for people who've been affected by the disease of alcoholism, but I suspect your sister has abused booze a time or two in her life. You won't learn how to fix HER, but I guarantee if you learn to work the 12 Steps for yourself you'll find real serenity.

Email me if I can answer any questions for you.

Amy said...

Aunt J: I hear you. I know people who keep up the battle cry of, "But...they're FAMILY," and it makes me cringe. Why do people continue to allow such mistreatment from someone just because they are related? I don't get it, but most people don't get my idea of family either.

@eloh: I'm truly touched that you connected with this post. You're right. Any behavior that affects the family so negatively most likely takes a similar toll. This is sadly one of those areas where so many of us find we have so much in common.

Kathy: Thank you so much for your caring commet. I've actually attendend Al Anon meetings to deal with my father's crapola. I personally don't care for the religious aspect of it, but found that much of it was helpful. My serenity comes from learning to accept that life just "is" and that I am helpless to change most of it, but what I can change, I attempt. In this case, I know that there is nothing I can do except be there for her if and when she comes out on the other side.

Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

I have two siblings who this post could be written about. One is still on the teeter totter that is addiction but my sister found her way out. She still tells me that one of the best things she heard after being clean for awhile was when I told her,"I finally have a sister."

I do not understand addicts but the enablers in their lives also baffle me and in some ways make me angrier. My dad thinks he is my brother's ally and support...but he is just being strung along and trying to make the rest of us feel like crap for not going along for the ride.

Glynis said...

A very sad post, your emotions came through loud and clear.

Inga K said...

Dang it! You made me cry again. It's like you gave a voice to my thoughts. Thank you dear sister.

Amy said...

To Everyone: Thanks so much for the comments and for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Unfortunately,this issue and others similiar to it affect so many of our lives. I often wonder how I will handle it if one of my children ever faces addiction and hope fervently that I will have the strength to get them help at the earliest possible moment.

Again, thank you all for your empathy and for sharing this with me.

Shayna Hume said...

I am the oldest of three girls in my family. My youngest sister (age 19) has been living a lifestyle similar to that of your youngest sister. I am recently married and my husband, middle sister, and mother have all faced and felt the same abuse you write about in this letter, my middle sister and mother dealing with the same as yours. Today my youngest sister checked herself into a 30 day rehab and wants things to change before she is middle aged and faces the same situation a your sister and as many of our other family members have. I was googling how to write a letter to a sister in rehab when this came up and I identified greatly with it. I hope and pray this decision she has made for change takes root and prevents the worst written above. Thank you for this letter.

brimfulbelly said...

Amy. Thank you. I found myself dancing between your words almost anticipating what was coming next because I feel like I am you and never before have I read anything that so accurately touched my soul in regards to my little sister (who is currently in jail due to bad choices related to drugs). Thank you for your beautiful writing. I will read this over and over in the months to come to remember Im not the only one that has these frustrating feelings. Thank you doesnt seem like enough, but thank you. Best to you and little sister.

Amy said...


It was quite shocking to see your comment today, as I haven't blogged in quite some time, and this post is a few years old. How touched I am, though, at your comment. Sometimes knowing that we are not alone gives us comfort, so please know that are most certainly not alone. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment, and I'll keep you and your sister in my thoughts.