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cmpgirl 09-02-2008 08:11 AM

Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
Hello everyone,

I'm a "regular" on the PM boards, and have never posted over here, but I really am in need of some help. My brother has been an alcoholic for over 25 years. He stopped drinking for about 10 years, back when his kids were younger, and he was still married to his Ex. The problem is, that the only reason he stopped and went to AA, was because his wife gave him an ultimatum. He has never believed or acknowledged that he has a problem.

Since his divorce, 3 years ago, he has been slowly increasing his alcohol consumption. For 2 years, he was in a relationship with someone who kept him on an even keel. Now this relationship has ended, and he has met another woman who is very obviously an alcoholic herself, and he has been heading downhill very quickly ever since.

My youngest niece (21) called me last night, in tears. She and her older sister are scared to death, because they can plainly see where their father is headed. They have both tried to express some concern to him, but he has just laughed it off, and refused to discuss it further. My niece asked him if he had told his therapist about this new relationship, and he said that he saw "no reason for his therapist to know about this, because she would probably be angry with him". So, I know he has some idea that what he is doing is not positive.

The girls want me to join them on Saturday (this week) to have a sort of "intervention". I have no problem doing this, as I love my brother and am extremely concerned myself, but I have never done something like this before, and I don't really know how to even begin. The last thing I want, is to make this situation worse. My brother is really a wonderful person, with a huge heart, and I know he loves his girls to death, and me too, but I know he just can't "see" through the alcohol and it has taken over his reasoning.

I'm sorry this is so long, but I was hoping that some of you might give me some advice. Are we doing the right thing? Is there something else we can say or do? I know that an alcoholic or an addict has to make the decision to become sober, themselves. And I understand that we can't make him see this. I just want to help, if there is any way that I can. Thanks for reading, and for any advice. God Bless CMP/MM

mike987 09-02-2008 09:20 AM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...

I happened by this message board on my way to another one, and saw your post. Last year we discovered my brother had addiction problems (drugs/gambling) and spent most of the year trying to help him. I hate to say that it probably didn't do much good.

In that time, however, I spoke to many addiction counselors/social workers, and learned a lot. I am still far from being an expert. However, I can share some of the things I learned. First, be careful with the word "intervention." In addiction counseling circles, this can have a specific meaning. If you want to talk with your brother with your nieces, and express your concerns, that is a good thing to do. However, and intervention is usually a carefully planned confrontation. It usually involves anyone affected by the addiction, and should be held under the guidance of an addiction counselor. A word of warning here: an intervention usually involves stating ultimatums, which should not be take lightly.

If you or your nieces are having a tough time, I recommend contacting an addiction counselor yourselves. I found such people were very knowledgeable and helpful (though sometimes brutally honest), and gave some good practical suggestions. Many times they themselves had family that were addicts. If you don't know where to find such people, you can start by trying your health insurance. Mine had a program called the EAP, employee assistance plan; I suspect most have something similar. Or you can try some of your local drug treatment centers. You may also consider attending one of the support groups.

You are right that it is up to the addict to change. Unfortunately, you can't control this. So the next best thing is to try to help yourselves.

Casablanca gal 09-02-2008 09:32 AM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
Hi cmpgirl,

I'll caution you about doing an "intervention". Real interventions can take weeks of planning with professional support. However, if you do want to help him, sharing your concerns with him is a great idea.

I'd recommend that if you are going to talk to him about concerns, stick to the facts of what is apparent. ie he is drinking more, behavioural changes, won't tell therapist about new relationship, etc. Don't talk about what you suspect.

Let him know that you're really concerned about him and that you're there to help. Acknowledge that he probably doesn't want to hear any of this and you need to be prepared for the fact that he may not even let you say all of this - he may leave the room or ask you to leave. If he weren't already getting help, I'd suggest leaving a help number with him. As it is, he knows where to get the help he needs I assume?

Remember, when someone has a substance abuse problem, they will likely be in denial about it. That's the only way that an addiction can develop - it's too painful for people to see what they are doing to themselves. And, to admit a problem usually means they have to do something about it. So, be prepared for a possible angry reaction or also an overly agreeable reaction to get you to leave him alone.

If he's gone to AA, there's nothing you can tell him that he doesn't already know. The thing to remember is that people will only stop drinking when it becomes the best option. But, also remember that sometimes people drink themselves to death even when we know that it would be best for them to stop.

So, if family members can let him know what they are seeing and how they are being affected by it, that may make a difference.

So, here are the things to remember:
- Stick to the facts. (Write them down if you need to.)
- Talk about how you have been affected. (He needs to know the pain he is causing others.)
- Let him know you're there to help him. (Of course, many family members get to a point where they can no longer provide support because of their own well being. If you get to that point, let him know.)
- Talk about how / where he can get help again.


Good luck.

cmpgirl 09-03-2008 10:00 AM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
Thank you for your replies/advice. I have spoken with the girls and let them know that we need to get together and make notes, and decide just how far we are all willing to go with this. I do understand how a true intervention works, but I guess I just needed to call it something and couldn't think of a word or words to describe what we felt we needed to do.

We are getting together in the next couple of days. I think we can come up with a pretty good plan. I have a sinking feeling, knowing my brother as well as I do, that he may not be receptive, and might actually leave the house in huff. But I don't think we can let that deter us.

I agree 100% that the girls need to make him see the pain and anguish he is causing them. He has always been such an attentive dad in the past, and his relationships with them have suffered already. This spiral has been coming for a while in my opinion, but even with what I have seen in recent months, meeting this new woman has put him into a tailspin really fast.

One question I have, is whether or not I should bring up our deceased parents. We had a really good childhood and were both always very close to our mom and our dad. I know that my parents would be so concerned and worried about him, if they were still here. I want to make him think about them but not put a major "guilt trip" on him. Do you think I should approach this or just let it be?? If I do bring them into it, just how far do I go?

Thank you all again. I really appreciate it. Any other info/advice would be welcome as well. God Bless, CMP/MM

ms_west 09-03-2008 10:39 AM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
Sweetie, I am so sorry you are going thru this and wish I could offer you some advice or words of wisdom but I can't...I have no experience in this area. However, I can offer prayer for his two precious daughters, you and your brother and I have already said a prayer and will continue to pray that your discussion will help him see the light but be prepared that he will deny everything. (((Hugs)))

Casablanca gal 09-03-2008 08:26 PM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
Hey cmpgirl,

I wouldn't bring up the parent issue - I don't think there's a way to do it without it sounding like a guilt trip. You need to stick to how this is affecting you and the daughters need to stick to how this is affecting them. That tends to be most effective. Of course, there are no guarantees. Just remember that even if he does storm out or get mad with all of you, that your words will stay with him and may take root after he gets a chance to calm down. So, if he tries to leave, you can ask him to stay and hear you out, but don't push it. The harder you push, the harder he will push back and refuse to hear what you're saying.

The main thing to keep in mind is to let him know your feelings without threatening or coming across like you're forcing him to make a change. He needs to see what impact his behaviour is having on others and he needs to take responsibility and make any decisions about changing / getting help.

Above all, a former poster was right, you (and especially the daughters) should get help for yourselves to deal with this. Look up an addictions counsellor or a family support group. The wisdom you will find there will be invaluable. And, if he doesn't make changes, support for all of you will be essential.

Take care.


mike987 09-03-2008 09:40 PM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
I completely agree with what has been written already. Bringing up your parents is probably not a good idea for the reason you mentioned - it will seem like you are laying a guilt trip on your brother.

The best advice I got was to be specific. Focus on concrete ways his drinking is affecting you and your nieces. Don't be accusatory and don't bring up suspicions (I think this was already mentioned). If your brother had been to AA in the past, you probably can't tell him anything he doesn't already know in terms of treatment. But, you can go to your meeting with him prepared - print out a list of nearby AA meetings and times (you can find these easy enough on the web), and offer to go with him. This is a little more concrete than a vague promise to attend meetings in the future.

You should be prepared, however, for his reaction. One reaction could be to brush off his drinking as not really a problem, that everyone is making a big deal out of nothing. The other reaction is to get angry and indignant. I saw both reactions at different times.

Regardless of your brother's reaction to your meeting with him, you should continue to focus on helping your nieces. They will need support, and are the ones most likely to respond to help.

friendly_one 09-03-2008 10:31 PM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
CMP, my friend, I saw this thread while scrolling down to "our board". I'm so very sorry for everything that's going on with your family. You have so much to deal with right now with you S-I-L and now your brother. I will say a prayer for your brother. You already know I'm praying, alot, for your S-I-L, you, and your family. I hope you are able to cope with all of this. Your family should be [I]very[/I] [I]grateful[/I] to have you in the family. You have such strength and courage. I hope your brother will seek treatment, not only for himself, but for his own family. You know where to go for support. God Bless You, CMP!

Shay :angel:

jacritch 09-03-2008 10:32 PM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
I know it is tough. I have a brother that is an alcoholic and it destroyed his marriage. Four years ago, I went to another State to get him and bring him to live w/me. I got him medical attention for his hep c problem and thought he was on the road to recovery. He met this woman that also was an alcoholic and moved in w/her. They have had a love/hate relationship for 3 1/2 years. I tried to help him again and I had to ask him to leave because he was very mean when he drank. Unfortunately, he can't see he has a problem. My prayers are with you and your neices and I wish you the best in getting your brother help. Ultimately, he has to want the help. He is very lucky to have loving family. Take care//jacritch

cmpgirl 09-04-2008 12:07 AM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
Thanks so much everyone. I too, was afraid that there was no real way to bring our parents into this without it feeling like a guilt trip.

The girls told me today, that he's been quitting work for the day at around 2:00 pm, and heading over to his new girlfriend's house to start the "party". (He's a self-employed contractor) It's only been a couple of weeks since he met her, but it's already negatively impacting his business. He used to be the type who would stay on the jobsite till midnight if that's what it took to do the job right. His work was always meticulous. It is so hard to see him letting this business (which he worked [I]so hard[/I] to build up) go down the bowl.

I have never seen him get angry or nasty when he's drunk. If anything, he's a "happy drunk". You know, Mr. Life of the Party. And from what the girls are saying, he's been spending money like crazy, buying the booze and cigs for his girlfriend and her "entourage". He's letting her kids and their boyfriends use his cars, and I guess there have been at least a couple of these relative strangers crashing at his house, almost every night for the past week or so. His youngest told me that these people are using him for everything they can get and he truly doesn't see it. He thinks he's "helping" them. (He brought home every stray he found, when we were kids)

Hubby and I have both been in therapy for the last year, due to other issues, and we have both spoken to our docs about this and how it is affecting us. But the girls haven't been to see anyone yet. And I think they could really benefit from going to Al-Anon or individual counseling. I plan to talk with them tomorrow about that. I'd be more than happy to go with them.

We initially planned to have our talk with him, just before hubby and I leave for vacation. And I know that he's going to be angry angry and hurt by us, so I'll probably dwell on it the whole time we're gone. Plus, he was supposed to check in on our cats while we were gone. I am sorry to say that I don't feel comfortable with this arrangement now. I don't trust him to come alone. And I'm afraid he'd offer someone my house to crash at.

Should we put this off until we get back? Will waiting a week, make this whole thing worse? I honestly don't know what to do now. I know this may sound selfish, but I can't give up my vacation right now. We've needed this for a long time. It is supposed to be a time for my husband and I to heal from some personal losses in the last year, and Lord, do we need it. But I feel horrid for thinking of myself right now. I know I shouldn't. I know it is not healthy for me to feel such a sense of responsibility for someone else. I can hear my therapist in my head right now.

Thanks again. I am so glad that I posted here. You've all been so kind and helpful. God Bless, CMP

PS: Sorry these posts are so long. I just need to get it all out. I'll try to keep it shorter in the future.

Confused089 09-04-2008 03:16 AM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
Cmpgrl, I hopped over here from the PM board. I'm not sure what I can contribute, but I'll try. If your brother cares deeply about you and his daughters [I imagine he does], I might really focus on how behaviors connected to alcohol have affected each of you. He may feel that it really doesn't matter what he does, especially if he isn't hurting anyone but himself. If he knows that his *behavior* is causing pain for people he loves, this might help. I know others will disagree, but if your brother does not see himself as an addict or alcoholic, I wouldn't use those terms or label him - anything that puts him on the defensive is likely to shut things down pretty quickly, particularly if this isn't an "intervention" led by an addiction specialist and planned down to the last detail. I think that takes time to put together.

You might just "start" by meeting and talking about the behaviors, but in a way that he might be able to hear such as " I feel x when you do y" [stumble into the house drunk...I'm not sure. It needs to be factual and something he can understand. It might be "I feel hurt and scared when you yell at me after you have been drinking.." Again I don't know what behaviors are upsetting you and your nieces, but I might really focus on these and how they affect you, so that he can see that his behavior and drinking is hurting people he loves. He can dispute various facts & events, and minimize the importance of them. I think it's harder to argue with how you *feel* about different events/behaviors.

It's clear that he will change his behavior for people he loves and wants approval from [becoming abstinent and going to AA for many years to keep his wife/marriage]. And he seems to have kept the drinking somewhat under control in a relationship w/ the previous woman. I see this as positive and negative. I can't see how he will change his behavior while he is with this woman. If he's in love with her, I think you're facing a really tough situation. I don't see him becoming sober while he's with her. But attacking the relationship or trying to get him to leave her would probably make him dig his heels in [just a guess]. On the other hand, he will care what you and his daughters feel and think. He might be most upset to know that his daughters worry or feel ashamed of him. I don't know the best way of "using this" to attempt to get him to change his behavior and drinking. I know there are different schools of thought on all this - there is tough love w/ ultimatums, distancing yourself, etc. I don't know if he would respond to this. I wouldn't attempt what is called an intervention without someone to guide you through it, and you would really have to feel comfortable with the "intervention" specialist as well as what you were wiling to do in the name of "tough love." I'm a bigger fan of a less confrontational approach that entails talking directly about how his behavior affect you without putting him on the defensive. But this is probably just a personal preference and the way I would like people to approach me [also what would be more likely to make me think about my behavior and consider changing it. But that's just me.

If his daughters told him they felt anxious or even ashamed when he exhibited behaviors linked to drinking, this could have a powerful effect upon him. It's really hard to say. I think it's important to get the help of a professional you feel comfortable with before attempting anything more than talking about how his actions affect you and your nieces.

I agree with everyone that he has to want to change and decide that he doesn't want to drink. I also think that denial is an amazing human capacity [and not just present in addicts] and that family and friends can help cut through denial by talking about specific events and the impact these events have had on them. I do think it's critical that it not become an argument about whether or not he is or isn't an alcoholic [unless you are doing one of the professionally orchestrated interventions. My gut says this isn't going to work since he has such a long history of drinking and years of sobriety and attendance at AA, but has never thought of himself as an alcoholic.

It's hard to give advice period. But I don't know anything about your brother, his drinking or how it affects you and the other people who love him. I don't know if he has issues with AA or if he ever felt like he really belonged there and was a part of the community. Addiction is just one of the toughest things to deal with - for the person who is addicted, and for everyone who loves him. I really feel for you and your family.

I'm not a fan of the tough love approaches, but I know they work for some people. I hope the people on the board here can help. I know you're having a rough time and wanted to see if there was any way I could be helpful. I don't feel like I've contributed much though.

cmpgirl 09-04-2008 08:00 AM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
Pepper and Shay,

Thanks so much for coming over here and giving me your support/advice. I hope you know how much it means to me. I know this is not the best thing for my pain and how much it affects my overall levels and attitude. I know that you are both aware of all the other things going on in my life lately, like hubby's depression and our daughter "leaving the nest". I've known my brother had an alcohol problem for years, but he is in a real tailspin at the moment. In terms of the immediate family, my brother and I are all that is left. How do I separate all the stuff I already have going on in my life, from what I am feeling about my brother's situation?

I am really trying to keep it all together for hubby's sake. And it gets harder and harder every day. I've stepped up my appointments with my psych for now, so hopefully, he can help me get back on track.

Thanks for the prayers and the good thoughts. I love you guys. You are always there for me. As usual, I'll be "seeing" you on the PM boards as well. God Bless, and many hugs, CMP/MM

cmpgirl 09-04-2008 08:24 AM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...

Thanks for taking the time to pop over here and lend your support/advice. I know you have a lot on your plate at the moment, so it is very much appreciated.

I agree with much of what you say. I think the idea of letting him know how his behavior makes me feel, is a better approach than one that is accusatory. Especially with my brother's personality. Even when we were kids, he was uber-sensative and defensive. He is notorious for hearing only the first couple of words of what someone is saying to him, then immediately assuming he's going to be chastised or blamed for something, and get all defensive and worked up.

He's not good at letting the other person get the whole sentence out. I'm one of the only people who can make him stop and listen to what is actually being said. Many times he will take me with him to see his attorney or his therapist, because he knows I will absorb everything in it's proper context, and calm him down enough to listen. I guess you could say that I've always been his "interpreter" in these types of situations.

I'm thinking that I'm going to try to talk with him on a more one to one basis. And have the girls do the same. I really believe this will make him feel less "ganged up on".

Please don't think that you weren't helpful. You were... very much so. I've noticed that you tend to sell yourself short like that. And you shouldn't. You have a great deal to offer people. Your post was very informative and insightful. So, thank you for that. Take care and I hope that I can "give back" the support and advice that you've given to me many times. Thanks and (if it's not too mushy) hugs, CMP/MM :)

Confused089 09-04-2008 09:43 AM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
Cmpgrl, thanks for your note. Yes, I do tend to cut myself down. I know I do it, but don't seem to be aware when I'm doing it. I think I can also come off as sounding overly authoritative at times too [just not phrasing things in the best way for people to hear so I sometimes try to soften the authoritative tone after the fact - an odd mixture ;-)].

Anyway, sounds like you have been very close to your brother at times and know him well. I think that how something is said is so important though figuring out how to get someone to really hear what you're saying is a challenge in almost all communication and just gets tougher when it's an emotional topic and critical. I really think most people just tune out criticism or react defensively. If your brother is particularly sensitive, I can't see how an "intervention" would work. But then I've never quite understood the method - it must work in some cases. I think you've gotten very good and realistic advice here. You asked about waiting until after the vacation. I would definitely wait. I don't think it will make any difference for him, and it may make a big difference for you. If I understood correctly, you plan to talk to him apart from your nieces so it isn't a 3 on one situation (this honestly sounds better to me though I realize that there's an argument to be made for the impact of having three family members talk with him at the same time. If this is the case, then I don't think it's a big deal to wait. You need to take care of yourself first before you worry about your brother and your nieces. I think it's probably better if he hears if from all of you "around" the same time b/c the impact will be stronger and harder to dismiss, but I don't think a week or so is going to make a big difference.

Sadly, there's a pretty good chance that this isn't going to make a big difference -It sounds a little like a mid-life crisis (but then I'm not sure at what age men really grow up ;-)) with all the partying and guests and acting more like a teenager than an adult. I definitely wouldn't compromise your vacation so that you can talk with him a week earlier.

Also, I don't know how long the drinking has been getting worse, but is it possible that this is sort of a rebound relationship and he's feeling upset about the end of the other relationship? I don't really know how much bearing this has on the alcohol issue. If he's feeling upset and trying to mask it with a lot of partying, this could be more of a phase and very connected with this new woman. At least he hasn't known her long - perhaps the relationship won't last long. I know this is hopeful thinking and that it's more likely that his drinking is simply escalating and will continue to get worse. Only you know how connected it is to the new girlfriend. It's worrisome that he isn't treating his business with care right now. In this economy, it seems like the worst consequence of the increased drinking.

Good luck with all this. I would definitely do what is right for you - and it sounds like going on vacation and then doing what you can when you return is the best course of action. I can't imagine a week is going to make much of a difference. BTW, how old are your nieces? I couldn't tell if they were living at home or not.

Oh, on Al-Anon, I haven't been myself, but I think it's really important that you find the right group. Sometimes they advocate tough love approaches that I think are incredibly counter-productive. While therapy is more expensive, there may be more "objectivity," though that again depends on the therapist.

Take care. Oh, and no, not too mushy, hugs back..:-)

cmpgirl 09-05-2008 01:31 AM

Re: Brother in a Downward Spiral, Don't Know What to Do...
Just wanted to give an update and ask for some more advice, please.

I've learned even more worriesome info from my younger niece. My brother let one of his g/f's daughter's boyfriends use her (my niece's) car 2 days ago to go to an inner city area to "pick up a friend". Somehow, the "friend" was not with him when he returned. My niece knows (by reputation only) that this person is a known dealer who has recently been released from prison. And now, she's afraid that her car and possibly her plates might have been noticed/documented by either law enforcement or this person's "associates".

Might sound paranoid, but we had an incident in our area recently, where a different "known dealer", borrowed another person's car to go "pick up a friend", and two weeks later the owner of the car was beaten almost to death by the dealer's "associates" because they followed him home looking for the dealer (who he barely knew). I can't believe my brother could be this blind. I'm even angrier with him for putting his daughter in this type of situation. This just gets more and more unbelieveable each day. The people I keep finding out about seem like some pretty dangerous people to be around.

My brother was supposed to stop by today to borrow a golf club from my husband for a tourney this Sunday. He never showed or called. I was hoping to get him while he was alone and have a talk with him. We knew by 5:30 if he hadn't gotten here yet, he wouldn't be coming, because he would be well into the daily "house party" at his girlfriend's house. (Given his current state, I doubt he'll be playing anyway.)

I still have to say something to him, before I leave on Sunday, because he has the spare house keys and I need to get them from him and tell him that the girls are going to watch the cats instead. I know he is going to ask me why, and I'm going to have to tell him. I know when I explain my reasoning he will get immediately defensive and hurt, but I have no choice at this point.

These new developments are making me even more reluctant to go away. I know someone's suggested I call the local PD to see if they can check up on my house periodically. I just don't know? Do I tell them exactly why I want them to patrol around my home? Will they want an explaination?

Please, if anyone has any suggestions or advice about what I should do now, it would be greatly appreciated. I'm getting more anxious as each day goes by. I had 2 panic attacks today. Am I being overly paranoid? Reading too much into this? Please feel free to be honest and blunt. I would rather know if I am over-reacting. Thanks for all of your help, so far. I really, really appreciate it. God Bless, CMP/MM

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