Dave is my brother-in-law.
Straight from the get-go things were always a bit awkward between us. I used to chalk it up to a chemistry thing. I’m not so sure about that, though. I have a feeling that my sister told him about our sexual acting out and the general dysfunction of our relationship. And I don’t hold that against her at all. It’s just the facts.
Additionally, Dave, much like myself, has a very strong personality. I also know that he has some “history” that he came to the marriage with, but I have no idea what it is (and, today, I don’t want to know).
So when he married into the family and within a short time tried to help and take things into his own hands, he ended up creating MAJOR family politics and rifts between the siblings where there were none before.
Today, I know without a doubt that he did it from the goodness of his heart and was trying to help out. I don’t think he realized the extent of the dysfunction and just what sort of chain of events he was triggering.
Regardless, at the time (before I came into recovery) I took it personally, and got extremely angry. Things escalated. We both said and did things we shouldn’t have. After some time it came to the point where I basically told him to stay out of my life and not to bother me.
It took a few years until I was able to calm down enough to be able to see beyond myself. And even when I did I was still holding onto the hurt of what was said and done, that I couldn’t get myself to forgive either one of us. It didn’t help that things had deteriorated between Brenda (my sister, Dave’s wife) and myself.
And then I started therapy and came into recovery. I disconnected from my “family of origin” as much as I could. I so badly wanted to make a life for myself outside of the chaos of family dysfunction.
It’s almost 3 years since then. I’ve grown an enormous amount. One of the pivotal changes that occurred was me moving out of my parents’ house. I was able to remove myself from the tumult of my family’s life. This included being able to compartmentalize, to curb interaction with those that I wasn’t ready to deal with. I didn’t have to see Brenda and Dave when they came over to visit. I didn’t have to hear about the tumultuous family discussions. I was able to minimize my interactions with Brenda and Dave.
When I first came into AA and I heard step 9, there were those people that sprang to my mind immediately, both Brenda and Dave among them. These were people that I absolutely could not forgive them or myself for what had transpired. The thought was overwhelming and humiliating. Robin (my first AA sponsor) kept telling me to not worry about it, to not think of it at all. She told me that when I was up to it, it would come.
I am, however, and addict. And, as such, platitudes (or what I perceived as one) didn’t work for me. I worried about it. A lot.
When I got to step 8 in SA (Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all), they were, obviously, on that list. I didn’t start with them. I just wasn’t ready. Toward the end of November of last year I reached out to Brenda asking her if I could make something for her Alex’s third birthday. (I made mini cupcakes in the end.) Once that happened we texted a bit here and there.
On December 13, 2013, I took the plunge. I sent Brenda a text asking her if I could speak with her. We spoke. Since then I’ve been going over here and there, making treats for them for Shabbos and birthday cakes. Needless to say, as things improved between us, things improved between Dave and me too.
Recently I’ve been feeling more and more ready to make my amends call with Dave. It’s been sitting on my heart and mind. One of my biggest concerns was that he may start his circular thought process and that I’d get caught up in it. But, I was willing to give it my best shot.
And so, last Tuesday I finally did it. Aside from it going well, I also was able to recognize the moment the conversation turned in a direction that I wasn’t comfortable with. I made sure to be open, honest, and upfront. I was able to keep my part of the conversation going in the right direction. And it worked!
It’s funny. I half expected an elated feeling, some sort of feeling of relief or freedom. But it wasn’t like that. It was more like checking off something on a list. I was grateful it was done but there was no major sense of accomplishment. It was at that moment that I knew that I had serenity. There was no major reaction to the call going well, simply because I was in a good mind space before. I am ok with who I am and knew why I was doing what I was doing. My amends was not based on Dave’s reaction to my effort to make things right. I was doing this for me, because I needed to make those amends. I was ready to accept his reaction, whatever it was, because this was about me keeping my side of the street clean. It made no difference if he was going to keep his side clean or not.
Things went so well with that call that I decided to make another amends call right then! But that’s for another time.
As always, have a serene, sober day,