I have a cousin who I recently re-united with after almost 40 years...and in the beginning we had long, fun conversations. He actually came to visit for a week, and we had a wonderful time. In the last weeks, these calls have turned into drunken monologues, the same thing over and over. Just in the days around New Year's he has called 3-4 times a day. If I am not there, he will call my elderly parents (his aunt and uncle) or my other aunt and uncle. This gets them both calling me.
I find his choice to call me drunk, is an insult to me and my family. Who wants their teenager hearing phone messages to his mother, from a drunk old cousin? It's not cool at all.
I know the boards is a good place to get great opinions...so I ask you, how would you handle this?
I would just screen your calls and if he leaves a coherant message, call him back quickly (before he gets to drinking) and just say you were in the bathroom, the yard, the shower, etc. If he calls drunk just cut him short, you have food on the stove, laundry to throw in the dryer, a dog to walk (if you have one), etc....get creative!
Unfortunately, subterfuge doesn't seem to work with drunks!
You need to tell him upfront (when he is sober) that you love him and enjoy his company when he is sober, but do not like to be around him or hear from him when he is inebriated.
You (or anyone else) should not have to put up the the repulsiveness of a drunk. He obviously has some issues, but only he can fix them if or when he is ready.
You do not need to submit to his weakness and let it disrupt your family. It's hard sometimes to be honest, but until he sees himself as others do, he won't change. Many drunks think they are charming. Most are bores.
You probably can't help or change him, but you can prevent his disturbing your life by being honest.
I use all the tactics of avoidance, and keeping the phone calls short, which so far have not worked. I have not had a call in the last weeks that I felt he was sober, so it has been a lot of avoidance, which seems to make him call all the more. I am at the point where I dread hearing the phone ring.
Now it is time to confront him directly. I will call him right now, and if it is not a good time/he is already drinking..I will compose an e-mail. He did mention his New Years resolution is to quit the drinking. so it being only the second day of the year, I figure I have a chance to catch him sober.
First attempt foiled...he's sick in bed. But I did talk to his roommate who had caught on to the phone calls too.
Sick in bed or hungover?
If someone has a true drinking problem, a new years' resolution won't do a bit of good, because alcoholics have a way of justifying drinking (a bad day at work, too much traffic on the way home, someone looked at them sideways, the sun came up...)
But catching him when he's sober sounds like a great idea, only I'm afraid he'll completely forget about your talk the next time he's drunk. I just wouldn't answer, and then forewarn those he usually calls so they won't answer either.
"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." - Erica Jong
So, I sent him a little e-mail that went like this...
I am hoping by the time you read this, you are feeling better. I called today, and you were resting. I was calling to check on you, because I have been worried about you lately. Over the last few weeks, it seems like you have really been partying it up...with the holidays and such. What has worried me, is when you call me you have been really drunk, and it's hard for me to talk to you. I wonder if you know that you have already called me?
I love you to death Buddy, but it hurts me when you call me after drinking. I don't ever want to hurt you, but I owe it to myself to be honest, even though this is very awkward.
I know someone like this who acts in the same manner, and in reality, the best way to "stop" him is to re-evaluate why this is bothering you. Here's how I handled it:
-I accepted that he has lots of good qualities, even though he is drunk and uses profane and often offensive (sexist) language when he speaks in such a state and makes absolutely no sense. But then, I realize that this is not his "true" self. He is in a drunken state, and not a natural one. (After all, I don't know of anyone actually born drunk. lol)
Once I reframe my perspective, then I realize that it's no big deal that he calls. It has actually made me a more understanding, empathetic person when I start to pity him and feel bad for him. That, in turn, helps me deal with his antics better.
I also found that I have something in common with him: we both share a similiar hobby. I built my relationship with him using this foundation, and now, don't see him as a drunk who likes movies, but rather as a nice movie-goer who happens to have an issue with alcohol. This helps me see him in a totally different light, and is a much healthier way of looking at things.
As for your elderly parents, if they see him in that same light (aka a great guy who has an alcohol problem as opposed to an alcoholic), then they won't be bothered as much.
As for your kids, this is a great learning lesson for them, to see why they should not abuse alcohol and may actually be a way to keep them on the straight and narrow, as I'm sure they are.
Hope this helps and I hope you have a great new year, and new decade!
If I re-evaluate why it bothers me, I would start with disrespect.
I am a person who values the meaning of words, and I choose my words carefully. I would never bombard anyone I care about with a story I have already told 10 times. I always make sure to ask if my phone calls come at a good time. I always ask how the other person is doing, and yield to their situation, if it is more important than my news.
I am very ill with stage 4 kidney disease, I have had 4 strokes, and there are times I cannot talk on the phone. Everyone in my life knows this, but it doesn't matter to him. I have a different sleep schedule, and he invariably calls during those times. He never asks, and when I try to gently tell him, he does not listen.
What we have in common is that we are family. I think everything we need to converse could be covered in a 15 minute phone call every two weeks or so. All the rest is simply jaw flapping.
As pleased as I am to be his favorite cousin, and one of the very few either of us have, I do not want to loose him...but that does not mean there can't be a few boundaries.
You cousin is obviously a drunk and has found a new person to be drunk with. There is never a time that a drunk/alcoholic is sober so you might as well tell your cousin to not call you unless he is clean and sober. Telling him to call you when he is sober doesn't make sense since he has no idea what that means. A drunk only has hours during a 24 hour day that he is more drunk that other times but he is always drunk. Beating around the bush and going along with his drunk world is not helping him and nothing you can do will change his drinking. The only help anyone can give a drunk is to stop them from contacting you until they are clean and sober....and that would require a stay in rehab. or staying clean and sober through AA...and would have a sponsor that he can call 24/7. It is sad that your long lost cousin turned out to be an alcoholic but you will have to stop all contact because they do not have concept of 'call me when you are not drunk/drinking'...they don't think they have a problem. You will have to be direct in his face. He won't believe you meant what you said and will probably get angry but he needs to stay your long lost cousin...you didn't gain or enrich you life or anything by finding him. So sorry...I have a real pet peeve about alcoholics they always destroy their own family....and other families if they drive.
Well, I have made the first step by sending the e-mail. I will have to see how he responds, and go from there.
It's funny that he refers to his roommate as an alcoholic, but not himself. We just buried his youngest brother at 50 years old to alcoholism, who left 3 young daughters without a father. He attends a weekly support group for PTSD which he has lived with since the Vietnam War, undiagnosed until a few years ago. He has faced up to a lot of demons, but the liquor and the cigarettes seem to have him by the throat.
"Reframing your perspective" is just another term for "enabling". That's like saying that if your husband beats you, but only once a month, you should just think of him as a good provider and generally nice guy who occasionally beats you. Is that healthy? I don't think so.
You have every right to ask your relative to stop the disruptive drunk dialing. Heck, if a friend calls during dinner time I don't answer the phone! I just ask people to call me after the dinner hour and it works just fine. I can't imagine any of my friends or relatives calling at ungodly hours while drunk!
"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." - Erica Jong
This is obviously a topic which garners strong opinions, and I am glad I asked. Thank you for all your input.
I choose not to make excuses, because they have not worked. Being nice hasn't worked. So I put it in writing, and I have not heard from him since. Honesty is the best policy for me. I do not need to make excuses to anyone else, and I am not going to start now.
I have many wonderful relationships with lovely friends, but my family has always posed problems. I have had to cut my only sister off, due to major psychological problems. I lost all contact with my other cousin when he chose to drink himself to death. I just lost another friend to alcohol in October. It is not a pretty sight, and I demand enough respect to choose whom ever and when ever I talk to anyone on the phone. My time is more valuable, even if I spend it in complete silence.
My cousin got the e-mail, and called last night. I wasn't up to talking so I let the machine get it. Of course, he apologized. I am still waiting for some time to pass, to see what the reality of his apology turns out to be. Only time will tell.
He used the excuse that it was the holidays...and commented that he thought this one may be his last. Well, I would have to agree, with that the way he's "living". I don't buy that excuse, because if it were my last, I certainly would not want to spend it completely drunk! Where's the logic? Oh that's right, the logic is drunk too!
The "it's my last" comment is to garner sympathy from you and make you feel guilty. Obviously, you are too smart and have been through too much to fall for it. My father was an alcoholic and I can't even count all the comments he made to make us feel guilty. They worked at first, but as we gained smarts and became more self-confident, the comments no longer worked, which of course angered him. We figured that was his problem.
Good luck. I think you're doing the right thing to try to find a solution while maintaining the friendship if possible. I hope it works out!