Spiritual

Accepting Good Things Without Guilt – and Defining “Family” Along the Way

By: Jana Greene

Many years ago, there was a fracture in my family of origin. I have forgiven, and am doing a lot of hard work in therapy to heal. The truth is that just because you are related to someone, it doesn’t mean they are not toxic to your recovery and well-being.

Yes, you can forgive and yet still not break bread with someone. It’s called boundaries, and when those are trampled, often there is necessary estrangement. It’s an ugly and tragic little truth.

I am loathe to even share this, because I have heard, “Just build a bridge and get over it,” and “Christians shouldn’t be estranged from one another, period!”

You know what Christians shouldn’t do? Judge another person without having the slightest clue what they’ve been through.

Walk a mile in my shoes before judging, please. My sobriety has to be paramount to anything harmful, or I won’t stay sober long.

Fast forward to an experience a few years ago. I am surrounded by my husband’s loving family. There is no screaming, only laughter. There is no manipulative mind games, just warmth.

I hole myself up in the guest bedroom for a while because happy extended families are still a little strange to me. I sat up there and thought about what I’m learning in therapy…. it’s not betrayal to my own relatives to enjoy the unconditional love of others who include me.

I don’t have to worry that yelling will erupt at any second. It’s probably not coming!

These people – my in-laws – are a pure gift to my life; it would be yet another loss not to enjoy them or claim them as mine.

It’s true that no family is The Waltons. My husband’s family isn’t either. Ain’t no thing as a perfect family, because it’s made up of imperfect people. But it also doesn’t have to be one long Jerry Springer episode either.

Only after cognitively thinking on these things could I join them downstairs, and hear about all the shenanigans my husband pulled as a teenager, how he and his sister picked on each other as kids, my Mother-in-Laws stories of growing up in a huge family, and all of the things that made each of them who they are.
I feel a part of these good things, finally. Bob and I have been together 14 years…maybe it’s about time.

I still feel the loss of a few family members, because a loss is a loss is a loss. I love them still. But I’m learning to focus on what God has given me; what he has positively poured into my life: My Beloved, his family (now also mine,) and so many dear, wonderful, amazing friends. To say I’ve been blessed ten-fold is a gross understatement.

Meanwhile, I pray for those with whom I don’t have contact, always. But it’s okay to appreciate others in my life who have made me family by choice (or at least by Bob’s choice!) and all the incredible people I know who love me back. How I love my friends!

And my daughters – Thank you, Jesus, for choosing me to be their mom! Oh sweet lord, how I love them. Family in the truest sense of the word. For a long time, it was the three of us against the world. But it doesn’t have to be anymore. God had even granted me yet another daughter. He truly is as good as they say.


Who knows, maybe someone reading this can relate. In that case, you are worthy of the love of your family and friends – just exactly as you are. No matter your history, no matter your childhood, no matter your struggles.

If you are accepted into a tribe, don’t feel guilty about it. If others wanted to be in your life, they would be.

Don’t push people who volunteer to love you away because those who traditionally should love you don’t (or can’t.)

Focus on who loves you with no conditions attached, and love them fiercely in return. Cherish those friends who make you family.

There is no love shortage. And you are worthy of happiness.

2 thoughts on “Accepting Good Things Without Guilt – and Defining “Family” Along the Way”

  1. I have been estranged from my family of origin since October. I skipped all holiday gatherings. The fact is, they are all toxic relationships and I have had to accept that and set boundaries. As a recovering addict myself, I totally understand the heart of your post here. You always have a “pal” in SC!

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  2. And YOU have a pal in NC! I am so sorry that you are familiar with this phenomenon too. Many people don’t understand, leading to more frustration. I’m so happy you are in recovery also, Todd! We gotta guard our recoveries. I’m so glad to call you “friend!”

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