Jailbird Vern has gotta fly free – Dog Abby

I did a short stint in jail for a minor offense 10 years ago. As I sat there in my lonely cell, I made myself a promise that I would straighten out my life and “do the right thing.” Since then, I have worked hard to improve my life. I gave up drugs and alcohol, started attending church, found an employer willing to give me a chance, and I am now managing to live comfortably (and ethically) without being a burden on society any more.

Unfortunately, my family won’t let my past go. My brother “jokingly” refers to me as “The Jailbird.” My sister makes snide comments that she thinks I can’t hear when we are at family gatherings. My mother is civil, but still looks at me disapprovingly. As for my dad, he barely talks to me. Things came to a head on New Year’s Day at my mom’s house. The whole family was there. All I wanted to do was watch the football game, but my brother kept goading me about my shady past. I finally blew up at him in front of everybody, reminded him that I had a better job and a nicer home than he did, and told him in no uncertain terms that I was done taking his so-called jokes anymore. I stormed out and haven’t spoken to any of them since. The odd thing is, I don’t feel badly about this.
Abby, I am just this close to being done with these jokers, even if I am related to them. Is it possible I am overreacting? Should I give them yet another chance?

Verne from Vegas

Dog Abby paw print

Dear Verne,

First of all, congratulations on how far you have come. You are a model that should be followed, so I hope you share your story with a lot of other people who are going through what you did. Your story could change many lives.

Our family is a family of adoptees. My Dad, Jim, has shared that he was adopted. Both me and my kitties were adopted, and Mom had a stepdad that is a good grandpa to me and my cousin doggy, Jezzy. Why am I sharing this with you? You will understand in a bit.

It seems that family members are often the ones that can hurt you the most because you trust them the most. When that trust is broken, it may not be able to be restored. It takes a very big heart to forgive someone, and a very big brain to recognize when someone is different. This is difficult for people who have known you your entire life. They see the barefoot kid who got into the mud, the straight-A student who never spoke out, or the teenager who got expelled for bullying. Even though you are not those things anymore, your family will always see you as that person. Mom went through a very similar issue with her sister. She is 10 years older than my auntie, so all Auntie sees is the ½ mom ½ kid that resented having to babysit her all the time. She does know about the different things that Mom as done since then, but she only sees the “mean big sister,” who she tattled on and got in trouble all of the time. To this day, Auntie will go out of her way to tattle on Mom to anyone who will listen.
Mom has had to back way, way, off from spending time with Auntie because she does not feel good about herself when she is with Auntie. Both of them have different friends and families of their own, and both are happier when they are not around each other.

I have known Mom my whole life, but I only came into her life AFTER all of her bad stuff happened, so I do not know the person Mom was before. Dad came shortly after I did, so he only knows Mom for who she is now.
In a way, we all adopted each other. Sometimes your adopted family is the only one who can see you for who you truly are.

It may be difficult, and you may fight the idea, so think about it carefully, but you might want to limit your time with the family who sees only the old you and adopt a new family that sees the you you really are.

With love,

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