Surviving Family Vacation Conflict

14 July 2017 Written by 

Recently I survived a vacation with my sisters. This vacation that was supposed to be a fun get away, but it soon turned into a recovery practice drill for me. This is how I survived.

It was supposed to include only my sisters, but my sister, Margaret had invited her friend, Mallory at the last minute. While everyone else seemed excited about the upcoming week-long get together at a resort, I was already feeling the rising anxiety in my gut. Reluctantly, I agreed to attend this family event. I talked to my sponsor about some strategies I could use. She and I agreed it was going to be stormy and it was best if I went without expectations.

The Players

Monica, the younger sister, has a difficult personality. She feels others should profit from the constant “sharing” of her opinion and perspective. To me it feels like an unprovoked snake bite when she wants to “share.” It is often a cutting sarcastic remark cloaked in passive aggressiveness. The recipient is left feeling incompetent or stunned wondering what just happened.  Why did they deserve such an attack?  What makes it even harder to grasp is that Monica pretends as though it was all just part of a simple conversation. She ignores the wound and moves onto other subjects. Everyone else in the room is left speechless.

Margaret, the older sister, is a classic codependent. She is kind to all. She won't give her opinion or stand up for herself. EVER. She doesn't argue with anyone and tries to keep everyone happy. This looks lovely on the surface, but deep down, she is frustrated and angry. Because has no idea how to let others know what she really wants.

Mallory was the invited guest of Margaret.  Why would anyone come to a sister's vacation when you are not a sister? Turns out her life was a complete mess. She just wanted a vacation from facing all the consequences of trying to control her own family. Margaret felt sorry for Mallory and brought her along.

Day 1 The Storm Begins To Grow

From the beginning, Mallory and Monica clashed. They were both controllers and argued over everything from where everyone would sleep to where the snacks should be kept. They bickered in a friendly tone at first, but I could feel the underlying frustration. My stomach hurt as I listened to the snide remarks going back and forth. I lived with a husband who abused alcohol for 30 years. I was quite familiar with walking on eggshells. In my own recovery, I learned when I felt like this, addiction was usually in the room.  What made my head spin was the fact that no one was drinking! Still I could feel the effects of the disease of addiction in the room. I needed to get into my recovery armor and do what was best for me. I thought of the slogan, "Do the next right thing," but what was that?

Day 2 The Snake Appears

Because Mallory and Monica bantered back and forth, I thought I was safe. I was not. Over lunch I was sharing my new favorite fitness tip when Monica interrupted, “I heard that too, but I don’t feel the need to tell everyone about it.” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. The viper had struck. I calmed myself down by repeating, “How important is it?” and “Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.” I replied, “I was simply sharing from my own experience. There is nothing wrong with that.” Monica simply pretended I had said nothing and continued to eat her salad.

Day 3 Are We Having Fun Yet

This vacation quickly turned into a recovery workout for me. Friend Mallory announced suddenly she was heading home unexpectedly. Monica and her constant barbs had worn her out. That left just us three sisters. As soon as Mallory left the hotel, baby sister Monica tore into Margaret about inviting someone who wasn't part of the family. Margaret tried to defend herself, but Monica felt more than justified for blaming ALL of the tension on Margaret. They fell into a silent anger. I struggled not to let Monica’s roller coaster mood swings determine my day. I was happy when Monica announced she was going on hike by herself. Margaret and I decided to go kayaking on a nearby lake. The peace and quiet of nature enabled me to breathe and find serenity again. What was the next right thing to do?

I Rescue Myself

Paddling around the lake I remembered, no one knows the following about me:

  • What you are thinking
  • What you are feeling
  • What you want

Perhaps there was a way I could share what I was feeling with Monica so she wouldn’t feel attacked. I reminded myself about the great things I loved about Monica. She was more than just a grumbling unhappy woman. She could be a lot of fun. I tried to keep this positive image of her in my mind as I planned what to do. Later that evening after we had all been outside I knew this was the best time to speak.  I quietly shared my own strength, hope, and experience with my sisters as we all got ready for our last night out. I told them how I had had few if any friends before recovery, due to my cutting sarcastic tongue. I also shared how no one knew what I was thinking, feeling, or wanting. I had good friends now and had learned to ask for what I wanted. I could see the lights go on in their eyes. The truth was resonating with them.

The Healing Begins

Later that night we were all out to dinner and Margaret moved Monica’s water glass on the table to place the lantern closer to the middle of the table.  Margaret didn't know touching Monica’s dinner setting often gets the violator a smart remark about staying on their own side of the table. This time though,  Monica simply said, “Margaret, I need you to leave my water glass alone.” Monica smiled and said, “Look at me ask for what I want.” I could see the truth of recovery working in her life. While the rest of the vacation wasn’t flawless it was far more bearable. I gave all I had, my story, my strength, and my experiences.   

A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Madeline Schloop

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Read 1799 times Last modified on Tuesday, 18 July 2017 12:33
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Madeline Schloop

Madeline is the widow of a man who died of alcoholism and the mother of 5 young adults whom she parents with the tools of Al-Anon. Her children continue to be affected by the disease of alcoholism. Her stories  deal with life's daily trials and what has and hasn't worked.
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