Reacting Rather Than Acting

Living with family is proving to be what I expected and more. I knew my sister was a trigger for me, and in distant contact I was able to handle her in very very small doses. So when I decided to move back home with her, I knew I was in for a huge challenge. What I didn’t know was that the challenge wasn’t going to be just “relating” to and “tolerating” her. It was also going to include the physical sensations of tension and anxiety. I live upstairs and when I go downstairs to use the kitchen, laundry room, or bathroom, 95% of the time she is there. I literally cringe if I either hear her downstairs or hear her coming. I leave as soon as she enters the same room. If she asks me a question I answer very short and leave and I never make eye contact.

When she asked if I was mad at her, I told her I wasn’t, and that I didn’t like talking. Thing is there’s more to it, but I don’t have the right words yet to describe why. The words I do have now are quite direct and if I told her, she would take it personally and deny the reality of my feelings.

For the most part, I doubt she can understand what I am going through. The last time I tried to explain it to her she kept denying it. “But you seem fine” does not equal understanding or even attempting to understand what I am going through. My situation is too uncomfortable for her and she tries to mentally smooth it over so she doesn’t have to see or deal with it. I don’t need that so I just don’t say anything now.

A lot (most) of the words that come out her mouth and her tone trigger intensely. There always seems to be an undertone of criticism, judgment, and negating your experience. She makes excuses rather than taking responsibility for her actions, but then again, most of my family does.

Anyhow, I called my ACA sponsor because I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed with these “interactions” with her. I can tell there is a small amount of progress because I don’t beat myself up so much for feeling like a horrible daughter or a horrible sister for being so distant with family. I do feel like a bitch though. In talking with my sponsor I did get some insight that puts things into some perspective.

I remembered that I am “reacting rather than acting” as many ACA’s do. I have just started my journey in recovery and so it makes sense that I’m just not at that place yet where I can be around my family and not be affected. It’s like I’m an alcoholic that just started recovery and expecting to be able to hang out at the bar and not want a drink. So by ACA standards, I am having emotional relapses. My sponsor mentioned that many ACA’s describe their family experience as “Guerrilla family tactics” – you rush in, stay a short time, and rush out. I guess I’ll know I’ve made progress when I can do that, because I’m not even there yet.

Having this perspective gives me more to work with. I want to be able to tell my sister “Listen, I love you but I just can’t be around you right now. It is difficult for me to be around you and I am working on it but it’s going to take a long time.” Her response would be something like ‘That’s fucked up. We’re sisters, we have to get along.” I wouldn’t blame her really. It does sound pretty crass. But her reaction is pretty insensitive as well considering my emotional state. So I don’t think I’m going to say anything just yet. Oh and the whole “we’re related so we have to get a long” thing doesn’t work for me. I don’t believe that at all. I feel like that kind of thinking only gives family license to treat each other like shit. Well, in my family anyway.

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