Thursday, April 23, 2009

Buying A Birthday Card

My sister's birthday is on Sunday. Yesterday I was at the grocery store and saw birthday cards, and remembered that I needed to pick one and get it off in the mail. But I had a strange, and somewhat disheartening, realization as I was picking out cards.

I always have a hard time picking out cards for people to begin with. I am always hunting for that "perfect" card, the one that represents the relationship I have with that person. For my husband, its funny and sarcastic. For my brother its quirky. For my aunt its over-the-top sappy. But for my sister, its always a hard call. Last year I found one that compared flat-screen TV's to flat chests - that was my pick, since there is a running joke about my sister's flat chest between us. However I did feel it was a little shallow.

But there is always an issue with buying a "sister to sister" birthday card. Most of the cards talk about being inseparable, having a one-of-a-kind bond, always being there for eachother... It makes me sad to read through those cards because I don't have that relationship with her. Don't get me wrong, she is my go-to person for certain things, but overall we just don't have that type of relationship. We were close when we were little, but were never "best friends" the way a lot of sisters are. Being 4 years older, when I hit junior high and high school, though still living under the same roof, I was into my own thing and I saw her as a nuisance, so we just did our own things and didn't pay much attention to eachother. At the point I finally decided I wanted a real relationship with my sister, she was into her own thing, and was beginning to enter the partying scene. I even opted to appoint my best friend as my maid of honor over my sister, because she was so uninvested in me that she actually wanted to skip out on my wedding altogether to go to the river with her friends. It makes me sad that I felt I had a closer relationship with my best friend than my sister, but it was what it was.

So there was no possible way I could pick a card that talked about all the good times and how close we were/are. We have had our moments of closeness, but on a whole, I feel like her addiction only widened an already existing gap between the two of us. In fact, I even feel like my husband has a closer relationship with his sister - and he's a man. That sister-to-sister bond just isn't that strong between us. And when I think about all the moments she missed, all the hurt her addiction did to our relationship, it makes me sad, and it makes card shopping rather tough. I am not going to pick a card that is a lie. I am not going to try and play up what our relationship "is" based on what it "should be."

I wonder often what things would be like if she hadn't chosen the life she chose and wasted so many years being so wrapped up in her own life, drugs, and subsequent problems. Would we be closer? Would we have those Hallmark-worthy memories? Would we have that closeness people expect sisters to have? Would we talk on a more regular basis? I don't know, but somehow I do think things would be a little better. But I guess I can't dwell on the unknowns.

Our relationship is improving slowly. Sure, she doesn't return my phone calls, and can be a total mess, but so can I. We aren't the type that talk everyday - or even every 2 weeks - but we know that if the other needs us, they are there in their own way. There is a relationship, its just not all that close or all that conventional. But its us, and I will take what I can get...even if its not what a Hallmark card says it should be.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Emotional Exhaustion

If there is one thing dealing with an addict is, its emotionally exhausting. There are the ups, the downs, the drama, the chaos, the worry, the fear, the tears, the small triumphs, the loss of trust, the slow regaining of trust, the re-loss of trust, the broken relationships, the personal hurts, the guilt, the shame, the embarrassment, the denial, the acceptance, the anger, the pity... I could go on and on, but you get the point.

So the reason its been hard for me to sit and write about this lately isn't because there is any lack of things to say, its because I was too emotionally taxed to sit down and do it. I will set the record straight and say that there hasn't been any major crisis, but there have been enough bumps in the road to keep me otherwise emotionally occupied.

Early this year, she suffered a pretty major heartbreak, and in a pretty cruel way. (Out of respect for her and others involved, I won't elaborate on that.) This threw her into a tailspin and it lead to poor, impulsive choices that ended up costing her some pretty serious consequences. Thankfully, miraculously, she is safe and sound, but it was harrowing for her, and thusly for us too. While there was a lot of fear I felt, there was also a lot of anger.

The whole incident really began when she was here visiting for Christmas. To drown out the hurt, frustration, and anxiety, she took too much of a bad medication (that was prescribed by a doctor who had no idea she had been on it before with the same negative effects on her mental clarity), and it muddled up her thinking. It went from the sedative back to a brief relapse on the heroin.

When I found out, like most of the time when I find out she has relapsed, I was angry and felt violated. I didn't know the whole timeline at first, and thought she had used heroin while she was in my house. After she had lived here twice before and was around my kids while she was high and/or drunk, I made it very clear that she would not be allowed around my kids again if she used around them. I felt like she had broken the one and only "make it or break it" ground rule, and I was so angry I could barely stand it. Once I learned more facts, it lessened a bit, but I was still angry and embarrassed that themeds made her a zombie wierdo on Christmas, in front of all sorts of relatives, and in my home around my kids. She should have known not to take them - she, and all the rest of us, know they make her certifiably insane - but she chose to anyway. I know that desperate people do desperate things, but she KNEW they would do that. She knew.

When we visited her in February, I was still very angry. I knew all the facts by then, but I still felt like my boundaries had been violated. I was ready to lay down the ultimatum; no more contact with my children until she got her act together. Left with no other leverage, I was prepared to do what I had to do. As much as I knew it would break her heart to be cut off from her neices and nephew, I was at the point I knew no other way to communicate how serious I was that my boundaries weren't to be violated, and I was not going to allow a user around my kids, even if it was their own auntie, my own sister.

When all was said and done, I didn't go through with laying down the ultimatum. While still upset about the Christmas spectacle and aftermath, I couldn't argue with the fact that she did what she had to do, got herself clean again, and was getting her life back in order (somewhat).

But, just when that issue was being put to bed, there was some drama that went down with her roommates while we were in southern California. Before we went down there, I told my parents I didn't want the trip to be focused on my sister the entire time. Of course, most of it was. Why would I expect anything different? The straw that broke the camel's back for me though was that my parents and sister were almost 2 hours late for dinner as a result. Which wouldn't have bothered me, except they kept calling saying, "We'll be there in 20 minutes." 45 minutes would go by. "We'll be there in 15 minutes." Another 35 would go by. By the time they finally showed up, Jeremy and I had decided to go ahead and eat and feed the kids, and it was way past the kids' bedtime, but they were still up. I sat in the corner scowling as my parents and sister ate dinner at 9:15PM, listening to them continue to talk about the roommate issue. Sometimes, I just need everyone to give it a rest! I was angry that, much to my frustration, though not to my surprise, the vacation was, yes, turning out to be all about her; in action and in word. And it wasn't supposed to be. It was supposed to be about my kids and the magic of their first trip to Disneyland. But once again, the focus got turned to her, and we got put on the back burner.

I will touch on this more in another entry, but one thing I consistently have a hard time with is feeling like my brother and I get the short end of the parental attention stick. I am married with 3 kids and a life of my own, I don't require much from them anymore, but let's face it, when you want some attention from your parents, you expect to get it, no matter how old you are. To feel like I have to compete for my parent's attention, and wind up feeling like I get their "leftovers," if you understand what I mean, well, it just gets under my skin and becomes quite tiresome.

So all these incidents and emotions have been circling around and around, and it has exhausted me. Its not that I'm not used to it all by now - I most definitely am - but I guess I just expect that I will finally get some relief from all this one day. But that day has yet to come.