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Alcoholic SIL, advice please

(56 Posts)
Jux Sun 11-Nov-12 20:25:32

SIL sold her flat a fortnight ago. She is an alcoholic, but had been dry for years. As she wanted to move closer to us, she decided to put off looking for anything until completion and then come stay with us until she'd bout a new place. So, she's been here two weeks.

She is clearly drinking. We have a flat on the top floor of our house, in which my mum lived until she died (3 years ago). That's where SIL is; there is a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and sitting room. It is quite cosy and warm, and the views are magnificent.

The first few days, she would come down fairly early in the morning, and then the whole day in the kitchen with me, just talking. Every so often she'd go up to get her phone, or her fags.

Then she started not coming down, but would say from behind a closed door, that she was ill, had a bad stomach, or a cold, or was tired. We would cook for all of us in the evening because she said she would ve down, but as often as not would change her mind when it came to it.

The times she does come down, she is tipsy at best, completely sozzled at worst.

Two nights ago, she was so drunk she couldn't sit straight in the chair.

I haven't tried to talk to her about this, as we barely know each other for one thing (met twice before dh and I were married, and only a few times since - she and dh never socialised together and he has always baulked at having her over, as he felt he would have to hide the drink). For another thing, I wanted to talk to dh first - his family have a habit of closing their eyes and pretending everything's OK.

Since the last incident, he has been furious with her, but doesn't really know what to do. Nor do I. There is no doubt something must be done though.

She can't organise looking at the place she wants to buy because she's too drunk to think, takes down the wrong phone numbers, every excuse in the book to cover for the fact that actually she's got no idea what she's doing.

When she appears, she says things like she's expecting this or that person to call her back, but then her phone's upstairs so she can't take the call, and then she goes get her phone and doesn't appear again for an hour or so at which point she's that much more drunk.

Sorry, I'm rambling.

DH is going to tackle her tomorrow. Is it better to be go the severe, elder brother route, or the kind gentle elder brother route? (He will find it very hard to do the gentle one!)

He wants to tell her to pull herself together or find a b&b.

Jux Thu 15-Nov-12 00:46:28

Thanks.

She came down quite a few times today, and for longish periods - 1/2hr to an hour - so we chatted quite a lot. No sign of tipsiness but she's pretty shaky, withdrawal? Came down again for supper, ate a bit, stayed down for an hour or so after supper. No indication she's touched a drop.

She's very nice when she's sober.

Snorbs Thu 15-Nov-12 08:36:52

Shakiness is indeed likely to be due to alcohol withdrawal. Depending on how much she was drinking there is a small but nonetheless real chance that she could have a seizure. If that happens call an ambulance ASAP.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 15-Nov-12 08:45:59

I recognise the shakiness. That is not a well woman at all. When you said originally that she's been 'dry for years' I think you've been sold a line. Does she seem a little slow in her reactions? What's her skin colour like?

What both Snorbs and Cogito have written.

Snorbs Thu 15-Nov-12 08:52:46

That's a good question. And what does she smell like? An odour of something like nail polish remover mixed with pear drops is alcoholic ketoacidosis. Not a good sign.

Jux Thu 15-Nov-12 11:44:07

No, she doesn't smell like that, thank goodness.
Her skin seems OK. What should I be looking out for?
She is a little slow in speaking; I assumed that was due to the many years of killing off braincells - slurred when pissed of course, but otherwise OK.
Slow physical reactions, hard to say as I have known her so little. Yesterday and today she has seemed pretty normal.

She's not a well woman. Her physical health has been crushed by years of drinking. She's haemorrhaged in the past and been blue lighted to hospital, had a hysterectomy, tons of things, apparently all due to drink (or this was what MIL led us to believe, anyway, but MIL is a twit and we can't take anything she says on trust).

She and dh have gone off to look at trailers today. She was excited at the prospect. As dh is involved now and will see the people himself, it will make it easier for him to keep things moving.

Will look up ketoacidosis now, what fun!

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 15-Nov-12 11:52:47

"Her skin seems OK. What should I be looking out for?"

A kind of jaundiced pallor IME. Liver failure is always on the cards for alcoholics, she's clearly not in good health, and things like the pear-drops smell, waxy complexion, slow speech patterns, tremors/shaking, are all danger signs that she may need emergency treatment. If she's been drinking heavily and suddenly stopped, that's often the most dangerous time. Remember Amy Winehouse?

Jux Thu 15-Nov-12 12:08:42

I've just looked it up, and remembered she's diabetic too, type 2 I think.

Reading the symptoms has made me very very concerned. She has spoken of quite a few of them. She complained of dry skin yesterday, her stomach is always giving her trouble though she says it's food poisoning, and that's been a recurring theme in her reasons for staying upstairs.

She hasn't been eating properly - a couple of bananas a day - and when she ate with us last night she had the minutest amount. She did say she felt better for habing a little bit of proper food, and is intending to eat with us tonight. DH asked for toad in the hole, but I now think she won't be able to eat much of it.

Oh I'm so stupid. Why didn't I check this out before? She's not even registered with a doctor here.

Now I don't know what to do at all. If she goes off to live in a trailer, there'll be no one keeping an eye on her. Maybe we should keep her here? Oh, I really don't want to. sad

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 15-Nov-12 12:14:56

She is not your responsibility to keep an eye on any more than she's yours to cure. You're not stupid either. Just wanted you to be aware of a few pointers so that you can get her treatment if she collapses on you, rather than thinking she's just drunk again. When she lives independently, she needs to register with a doctor and she's again responsible for herself.

Jux Thu 15-Nov-12 12:18:06

Thank you, Cogito. Will make sure dh knows too.

Snorbs Thu 15-Nov-12 13:53:56

The smell of ketoacidosis is unmistakable. If you can't smell it, it's not something to worry about.

An alcoholic coming off a binge can take a good few days, maybe even weeks, to get back to "normal". Not eating while bingeing is very common as booze has a lot of calories in it. She'll likely have a very upset stomach for a while so she probably won't have much of an appetite.

Why didn't you check this out before? Because it's not your job. And the information does you no good because you're not an alcoholic. She's the one playing Russian Roulette with her health, not you.

She's not your child, she's a grown-up making her own choices for her own reasons.

The bottom line here is that if she is just as capable of drinking herself to death regardless of whether she's living in your loft, in a trailer or in her old flat. Unless you are willing to imprison her in your home and watch her like a hawk 24 hours a day, if she decides she wants a drink then she'll get some booze and drink it.

Corygal Thu 15-Nov-12 14:53:32

Blimey - a touch of human feeling wouldn't go amiss here. Yes, alcoholics are a nightmare, and OP, if you feel you've already done your time with them (uncle) then you're more than allowed to boot her out. But would being kind about it really hurt so much?

Like everyone else, alcoholics don't respond well to harsh, disrespectful treatment or unkindness, particularly from the family. I sniff victim targeting here - the inability of the DH to be 'gentle', OP switching from guilty to ruthless in a heartbeat, MIL claiming you get a hysterectomy if you drink. SIL arrived fine and then got pissed, not sure I need to explain that. As for your DDs wobbles, maybe she's been unnerved by seeing what happens to people in your family who step out of line.

It will be a lot easier to get on with SIL when she is settled in said trailer and out of your hair, so focus on that. Keep smiling, detached, book her a doc appt and tell the surgery she has no family support.

The other alcoholic invariable is that they tend to die prematurely, esp the women. SIL won't be around that long, trailer or not.

Mayisout Thu 15-Nov-12 15:08:06

OMG.

Can't stand all this nice, sensible, kind advice.

She is an alcy she will either die relatively soon from her drinking or she will go to AA or simlar and stop.

Either way OP there is FA you can do about it.

Get her out of the house. Get her signed up with a doctor. Stop having anything to do with her.

What part of this
The 3cs re alcoholism:-
You did not cause this
You cannot control this
You cannot cure this
don't you understand.

And for heaven's sake get her away from your DCs. Your prevaricating is messing up with their lives.

Mayisout Thu 15-Nov-12 15:17:50

Oh and 'being kind' to an addict is NOT being kind. It is enabling the continuation of their path to an early death. Though of course some people are so mentally messed up that an early death could be a blessing for them, a way of escaping their demons.

But the most likely way of 'saving' her is to kick her out and leave her to her own devices which might kill or, hopefully, might force her in her desperation to search for a cure, that is how you 'save' addicts.

All your SIL will end up doing is dragging you all down with her.

BTW its not up to you to find a doctor for her; she should be doing that for her own self.

Mr Jux needs to realise that enabling his sister like this is not helping anyone; let alone her. All its giving him is a false sense of control. He needs to detach completely, he has not as yet been able to do that and you Jux and by turn your DD are also being slowly but surely dragged into this mess.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 15-Nov-12 16:17:42

"But would being kind about it really hurt so much?"

It does actually. Because all the kindness and humanity invested invariably gets thrown back in your face and is shown to have been a waste of time. If you don't know the score at the outset, being optimistic and well-meaning, you assume that if you can only be there for this poor person you might be able to help them through. What you're calling 'kind' can actually turn you into a 'mug'. It's not hostility to be hard-hearted about it.... it's self-preservation.

Snorbs Thu 15-Nov-12 16:26:52

What cogito said. In spades.

Fairenuff Thu 15-Nov-12 19:46:06

"But would being kind about it really hurt so much?"

Yes! It would hurt the alcoholic. Being kind is the worst thing to do because it enables the addict to continue their addiction.

This is most difficult concept for people to understand.

Kindness keeps people addicted.

Jux Thu 15-Nov-12 23:00:18

Corygal, I'm not sure I get your drift. Victim targetting, my inconsistent feelings, dh's lack of gentleness, dd worrying about stepping "out of line", and so on. It seems as if you have added two and two and got five.

I am allowed to feel angry if someone turns up at my table so pissed they are almost sliding off the chair, aggressive, boorish and unpleasant. Am I not allowed to say I would prefer them to stay at home under those circumstances, especially when home is a perfectly good, well-equipped, totally self-contained flat up the stairs.

No, I will not book her an appointment at the surgery. She is a grown up. She knows the phone number, she knows where it is. She can walk a darn sight better than I can, but if she wants a lift dh will give her one with no demur. It would be unbelievably presumptuous of me to book her appointment and she would be furious at my high-handedness, rightly so. I'm afraid I think it's a ridiculous suggestion.

Jux Thu 15-Nov-12 23:11:58

Everyone else, thank you for sharing your knowledge, and for your support.

I don't think we're being horrid to her. We all had quite a good evening together; dd has relaxed with her again. SIL is still sober; so well done that woman. Her shakes are less. I know she could very easily start again, at the drop of a hat, but maybe that day will get further away.

She has ordered the trailer; dh took her to the showroom today. The build and delivery takes about two weeks. I hope we might be unkind enough to have her here that long.

Jux Thu 15-Nov-12 23:19:12

Please understand, I can't force my dh to detach. Therefore, I can't force her out of the house. I know that we are potentially looking at a lot of trouble, but all I can do at the moment is hope that she remains dry for the very short time she is supposed to be here.

I'm sorry I'm letting you all down. It is simply not possible to kick her out now, especially as she is obviously trying really hard.

Mayisout Thu 15-Nov-12 23:21:58

Sounds like good moves, Jux, my rather robust response was my shock at Corygal's post. Best of luck.

madamemax Thu 15-Nov-12 23:39:18

Jux, that's brilliant news about the trailer.

Stay strong, there is light at the of the tunnel. Your DH will still worry, naturally, but at least you will have some distance and your day to day life and family won't be as directly affected.

madamemax Thu 15-Nov-12 23:41:55

^^ at the end of the tunnel

Jux Tue 27-Nov-12 22:13:25

Hmmm, well the trailer's not going to be ready until the end of Jan.

But, we are getting on better. As far as anyone can tell, she hasn't been drinking, and it's been a couple of weeks, so she's doing really well. Apparently, this is a bit of a pattern. She has a binge lasting anything from a few days to - well, could be a couple of years - but she pulls herself out of it and doesn't drink for years. I think it's commendable that she gets herself out of it, without external help, but even so, I think she would find some sort of professional support good. She clearly doesn't.

DD is coping well with the change in our family, but it is invasive and at times she finds it harder than at others. It is only a couple of months.

Thanks for all the information and support you lot have given me. thanks

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