does doing what’s right matter?

from my inbox:

JK: “I have a sister who is three years younger. She is very funny and charming and extroverted; I am very intense and introverted … She is very popular and social. I am, ummmm, not that.

I went to college; she became a blue-collar worker. She married at 21; I married at 31. Although we are different, we are friends and quite close. Her life is not as stable as my life. She and her husband do not make as much money … they do not have good financial skills, lots of phones being shut off, credit card debt, and they actually just left their house one day and moved somewhere else, I’m sure it ended up in foreclosure.

My parents continue to support her and her children financially, and they try to hide it from me … I just found out tonight that my dad is paying for her vacation (we actually canceled our trip because we felt that we didn’t have the extra money this year). Financially, they do absolutely nothing for our family, and I am not exaggerating. They have paid for nothing for me ever in my life since I went to college at 18 (which they did not pay for).

I’m a little in shock and so upset, and I want to drink because it sucks, and why the hell am I even trying to do anything right because it doesn’t even matter. My sister has done some of the stupidest shit in her life, and she continues to get bailed out!… I’m not going to drink, but I’m pissed that guzzling wine is my first thought. Then, I wonder, does doing what’s right matter? I guess I want some type of reward. Like here’s a vacation for consistently making good choices. I don’t even know what I want actually. Some type of sign that I’m doing what’s right.

me: “OK, you can delete this message from me after you read it and you can hate me. but here goes.

There is no ‘fair’ with siblings. Interpersonal relationships are complicated and there is no score card of ‘you get this and she gets that’. If your parents give your sister stuff it’s because (a) she’s a fuck-up and they’re worried about her and the grandkids, and (b) they feel guilty that she’s a fuck-up, like that they believe they did something wrong by her.

Nothing to do with you. someone gets a promotion, you don’t, nothing to do with you. someone gets money, you don’t, nothing to do with you.

You don’t want their fucking money because it would come with strings and expectations and depends and implied criticism and control. if you were your sister, I’d be suggesting that you turn down their money and take care of yourself.  which is what you’re doing.  you are taking care of you and what your sister does or doesn’t do has nothing to do with you and your husband. this is your family now. your family is the little cool one you built around you.

you don’t email your father and say ‘what about me’. you feel sorry for your sister. she’s a fuck up and everyone knows it. including her. she’s probably super jealous of you. even if she’s loud and you’re not. you have your shit together. AND you’re sober 🙂 you fucking rock.

is that enough swearing? love 🙂 and hugs, me

JK: “I cried when I read this message; I’m going to print it out and carry it with me and read it all the time. You absolutely nailed it; are you sure that you don’t know me in person? I want to say more, but I don’t know how to say the words. Thank you; I felt validated, yet I also understood how it’s not about me. Also, on a drinking note — totally not drinking.”


What do you think? Do you think i was too harsh? What would you say to JK?


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • Great advice, Belle. Really, you are so amazing at getting straight to the heart of an issue (and showing us the bigger picture). I will just say that I have a similar situation to JK, and I too have felt resentful towards my sister who is always getting bailed out of situations she’s gotten herself into, and seems to always be getting handouts (free vacations, a new TV, furniture, the list goes on)… while I have struggled on my own and without the help she’s gotten. The “rewards” for me aren’t vacations or new TVs; they are subtle, but maybe over time they are much greater… things like knowing my parents are grateful that they don’t have to worry about me like they do with my sister, and knowing that I alone have gotten myself through some huge challenges (not that we shouldn’t also ask for help when we need it — but it’s empowering to know that you can count on yourself, even more so when you’re not drinking!), and the freedom of knowing you can live your life without fear of strings or judgement (like people thinking/saying, “Where did she get those new clothes? I just loaned her money for her rent last month, and now she’s out spending money on clothes?!”) And good for you for choosing not to drink over this, JK! 🙂

  • Belle,
    You said it perfectly. My parents gave my brother a lot of money too.
    I am over it, but sure wished I had that wisdom a few years ago!
    I am on day 201!
    Peace and Hugs!

  • Hi Belle and JK,

    I’m the fucked up sister in my family. Until 2 yrs ago when I told my mom to keep the money… If rather have her spend time with my daughter than give me money, judging me and pulling my “strings” because she and my dad kept giving me money every year (without me asking… I never ever ask… Ever) They “gifted” my sister and I the money… We never talk about it together in a direct comparitive way. I don’t know how much they have given her.

    My sister is awesome… She’s always had it all figured out. Made all the right decisions, money and Marriage. I was jealous of her or hurt that I wasn’t as good as she is, I thought they liked her more. I used to call her the perfect sister… Never to her face ofcourse. But some how our friendship has grown beyond my imagination. And she has encourage me to break my parental bondage. She was very discrete and didn’t day anythibg directly to me. She just emcouaged me away from their grip. I didn’t even realize it at first. When I moved to s new place 2 hours away she said… I think it’s good for you to some distance between you and mom and dad. It surprised me at the time but she was right.

    After 8 yrs living away at 43 years old… I finally figured out that there were strings attached. But now I’m free. I make my own decisions. I do my own thing. And I don’t feel obligated to put up with their demands on my life. It is fucking liberating. I’m not over feeling anxious about knowing they are judging me from a distance and it smarts alittle that I don’t feel close to them like I used to… But my life is easier. And I love that.

    So don’t give up on the fucked up sister she might just pull it together one day.

    Not drinking today either since 3/18/15

  • I can so relate to this. My brother and sister have been sucking my dad dry for years – they think he is the bank of Boston. I have never asked for or taken a penny from him. Lived my life the way you are supposed to – responsibly, saved money, didn’t buy things I couldn’t afford, etc… For a while I was very bitter about this – but I have found that you just have to let it go – or it will eat you up. My gain, their loss. All I know is that when my dad dies they are going to be in dire straights, and I will be doing just fine..thank you very much. Good luck.

  • One of the best life lessons I ever learnt was when someone just sat in front of me held up their hand in my tirade and said “Where does it say life and the world and people and companies and governments etc. have to be fair?” Silence…. “Well?”…. Me finally “Nowhere(?)” (with a questioning inflection). “Indeed, life is shit… deal with it” Good lesson

  • Not your extreme and my sister did finally get her shit together but I lived that life too, drinking included….About a year ago my mother did apologize to me. Too little to late, but she is my mother and I do love her, I just don’t like her….BUT not drinking helped me to realize her frailties and to be a bit more understanding. We are so responsible in all other areas of our lives so taking charge of our drinking is like the supreme gift to ourselves!!!! day 321 🙂

  • JK, it sucks but you can’t change what your parents or sibling do or how they are… the resentment will only hurt you in the long run and it will hurt you a lot. You are better than that and probably have a lot of respect from your parents for being able to pay your own and way and being responsible financially. Your ‘reward’ isn’t financial but you’ll get it one day – whether its knowing you’re doing the right things and feeling proud of yourself, or something out of the blue x

  • I’ve been really missing your blog posts Belle so lovely to read this one. I know you’re busy with your writing project too. Love to you on Day 263. Yay!

  • Dear God, I am the parent in that situation. My youngest, even though she is sort of a fuck up, never asks me for anything. She and her boyfriend struggle and when I offer some help, she turns me down. The eldest, while the one that ‘turned out’, is also the one with the grand kids. She has lost her career and never has any money for rent, groceries, gas and on it goes. She asks me for help all the time and I do for the sake of the grandchildren. I fear that the other one will discover how much help her sister has gotten and will be angry.

  • I think your comments offered incredible insight.

    Of course parents worry all the time about their kids, no matter what age they are.
    And we are all children in some ways, I was sitting with JK in the child camp, the “damn that’s not fair” …

    And your view is that of the adult, the parent, objective, pragmatic, clear and true.

    I hope that I could say what you said…

    Thanks Belle, the universal wolfslayer mamma….

  • Wise words as always Belle! Nearing day 180 – yippeeeee. I hope to email you later in the week with my thoughts on this. I continue to love your blog. Keep up the good work xxxxxx

  • Was feeling really bummed for the last few weeks (secretly, not acting out on it trying to stay positive about all the stuff that’s been coming my way), and finally decided just last night after some long hard thinking, my new motto is “Expect Nothing”. At first I thought it might be a bit negative or harsh, but it’s really not. I’m not saying good things don’t happen to us who are fighting for the better cause and staying sober, but if it can help me to mentally deal with life’s ups and downs i’m gonna see how it works out……kind of like “expectations end in frustration”, i guess but without determining the outcome, leaving the door open for Blessings~

  • I could have written was JK wrote, I understand totally, I have a sister like that, nobody said life was fair, I try to remember that because it’s easier if you don’t ask/need/want it to be fair. Thank you Belle, you made me feel better also.