Ask Katie: Why Won’t My Cousin Talk To Me?

for The Fix:

Dear Katie,

I’m three months out of rehab and things are mostly going well. I’m seeing a therapist that was recommended by the hospital where I got treatment and I go to meetings and work with a sponsor. I did some messed up things when I was drinking and using–-drove when I shouldn’t have, lied about where I was and, more than anything, lied about if or how much I had been drinking and using. I know that I hurt my family and friends with those lies and I feel terrible about it. Still, they’ve mostly been kind to me since I got out of treatment and they have all told me that they’re just happy that I’m sober. I know I will owe them amends when I get to that step, but it doesn’t seem like an immediate need.

The exception is my cousin. She and I have always been super close, we’re only a few months apart in age, we grew up near each other, we’re more like sisters or friends than cousins. Honestly, she’s the person I would have expected to be the most understanding and forgiving out of everyone. We used to laugh at the grudge-holding capabilities of the rest of our family! Since I got out of rehab, she treats me like a completely different person. It’s obvious she doesn’t want to talk to me, she won’t let me be alone with her son–-my three-year-old nephew–-and glares at me anytime I play or interact with him. I could understand this if I had been around him drunk a lot or, worse, something bad had happened to him while he was in my care, but that’s not the case. My cousin was only living in our hometown for the last two months of my drinking/using, and I barely saw her or my nephew. She’s not usually melodramatic but it really feels like she’s being ridiculous now. I know I need to talk to her but what do I say? I know starting off by telling her how stupid and frustrating it is that she’s making this about her, but that’s all I want to do.

From,

J

Dear J,

One of the most disappointing realities of life is that if all you want to do is tell someone “how stupid and frustrating” they are being, it’s probably a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad idea to tell someone what you think of their behavior–-it can be a valuable part of communication. But if you have that “all I want to do” urge, the I cannot possibly rest until I inform this person of what a complete ass they’re being feeling, it’s almost always a bad idea. I don’t know about you, but I find this incredibly disappointing. I thrive on righteous anger. When I have been wronged (or think I’ve been wronged), it can consume me. I want to set the record straight immediately, let everyone know exactly what I think. If I don’t? It aggressively nags at me, like I think it’s aggressively nagging at you, J (continued)…

 

Regular Fix contributor Katie MacBride is not an expert or a mental health or medical professional; she is a sober person offering her experiences and advice about sobriety.

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