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Dealing with an Alcoholic

(15 Posts)
luckywinner Thu 14-Feb-13 19:12:57

I think my mum might be an alcoholic, but not sure and questioning myself about it as she really is lovely. There are a few alcohol stories that are quite epic, but I'll leave those for a mo as am on my phone and it would use all my battery to describe them. But basically when we go to hers she says she's not drinking but will then sneak off to the garage and have a drink. There is a fridge in the garage and she will keep dipping into. We know this because my sis has become a bit of a detective and will watch the bottle go down each time she comes out of the garage.

She starts to slur but pretends its because she's tired. If we visit by train she will sometimes make an excuse to not collect us and so we get a cab. But then all the old signs appear (slurring, repeating herself) and something tells you she's been drinking.

She is a very anxious person. Her husband, my stepfather, is unwell at the moment and she is having to care solely for him. They are also in middle of moving house. So they have a lot going on.

Our family has a history of alcoholism. Her mother was an alcoholic, and so is her sister. Her husband drinks (half pint glasses of wine) even though his illness is diabetes related and has been told specifically not to drink.

The problem is I feel so angry about it, as well as worrying about it. But I no longer feel sympathetic. Her relationship with alcohol has always been a bit haphazard since we were little. I have had enough. She is supposed to be looking after my dd who is one next week. She asked to have her (we live about 100 miles apart). I worry that it will be too much for her. I am also worried about her drinking when she has her. At the moment I can't help her as I feel so angry about it.

There is no point to this post other than to let off steam and here other people's points of view. I just don't know what to do.

Cassarick Thu 14-Feb-13 19:26:03

Your first 4 paragraphs were spot on re an alcoholic.

And then, in your 5th paragraph, you say you are letting her have your 1 yr old daughter? I think you need to think again, and rapidly!!

There IS nothing you can do - you did not cause it, and you cannot cure it.
But you have a right to feel angry.

Lueji Thu 14-Feb-13 19:29:08

As said, do not let her have your DD.

goodenuffmum Thu 14-Feb-13 20:27:06

luckywinner,
I'm sorry you have to deal with this. Both my parents have alcohol issues.
You can't stop her drinking and it seems that she is in denial about the extent of her drinking.

You will drive yourself crazy trying to manage her and she will continue drinking.

The only thing you can do is make sure your family are protected from the affects of the alcohol. Could you really trust her to stay sober when she is lookking after your dc? She's an addict, and more dangerously she's an addict who isn't admitting how great her need is for alcohol.

I foolishly let my mum babysit for my ds..I came home to slurred speech and the "I'm tired" or "It's my pain medication" excuses. She blamed my h for the missing wine bottles. It wasn't till she 'slipped up' and blamed him when he was working away that I stopped herblush. I thank god my dc wasn't hurt during that time. I couldn't have lived with myself.

Al Anon is helping me make sense of this all..at the age of 42!

Good luck x

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 14-Feb-13 20:40:42

At the moment I can't help her as I feel so angry about it.

You can't help her, whether or not you control your anger around her. Only she can help herself. IF she wants to.

Don't let her have your child: she is not fit to mind her.

mermaid101 Thu 14-Feb-13 20:44:57

What you describe definitely sounds to me like an alcoholic. My late father was an alcoholic and this sounds exactly like how he was, fairly early on in the illness.

I know you aren't really looking for advice. I feel i could write a book about this, but won't bore you with my insights. I really feel for you. I found it a frightening and frustrating situation.

I wish you luck and courage with your Mum.

luckywinner Thu 14-Feb-13 21:55:47

I really question myself though and think I am being dramatic, in thinking she is an alcoholic. She has recently retired from a 'pillar of the community' job. She is loved by everyone she worked with, she changed people's lives in that job. I keep thinking, 'Have I made this up, Am I being paranoid? Am I imagining what is happening?' She doesn't fit the stereotype appearance of an alcoholic, which her sister does. In fact that might be half the problem, that thats who she sees as being 'alcoholic'.

I want to tell you all about the incident that most sticks in my mind, although bear in mind this did happen 3 years ago. It was dd1's birthday. My mum came to stay with us for her birthday. We ordered take away and my sis said, let's drink the wine you brought up mum. My mum went off to get it from her suitcase and came back saying, I can't find it. Earlier on my brother had popped over and he is known in our family for being a bit too laid back, and she sort of suggested maybe he took it? My sister and I were really cross and I was about to call him and rant when my mum got so stressed and begged us not to call him as she didn't want an argument. In the end my sis went and bought another bottle of wine.

The next morning we went into her room to open dd's presents. She asked me to pass dd's present over. I leant over into her bag and found a very empty wine bottle. The words pin and drop come to mind. It was awful. I think I said something like this is not the time to sort this out but it is not good. And then the day was unbearable as it was this HUGE elephant in the room.

To be fair she gave up drinking for a year and was very open with us about how awful she was when she was drunk. But now everything has slipped back.

I am definitely not going to let her have dd. But I will have to say something like, I think you have too much on your plate, rather than confront her, as I just can't face the fall out. And I mean that for me. I've had a few really difficult years and am starting to get onto an even keel and I just don't have the emotional or mental capacity to handle the atomic bomb that will go off if we challenge her.

My 3 dc adore her and it makes me sob just writing that line. Her mother, my grandma, died v unexpectedly of complications related to alcoholism. She was adored by her grandchildren. I still miss her. But I can't help but think history could start repeating itself.

I know none of you have the answers but it is really cathartic being able to write it down and have it read by people who know exactly what I am talking about.

Phew, that was a long post. Thank you all so much and here's a biscuit for all who have read this far.

tribpot Thu 14-Feb-13 22:08:12

This kind of hiding of empty bottles, the topping up her drink whilst she's out of sight - it's classic. If you read Michael J Fox's autobiography you can read about him doing more or less the same, he would go out to the kitchen to 'carry on cooking dinner' and basically down a whole bottle of wine back to the level of the previous one in the hopes his wife wouldn't know. Of course she did.

Alcoholics come in all shapes and sizes. You are clearly not mistaken about the extent of your mother's alcohol problem - and that's only what she hasn't managed to hide from you so far.

There is little to be gained from confronting her. Especially during a genuinely stressful time in her life. It might be worth you contacting Al Anon. I normally recommend this book as well.

mermaid101 Thu 14-Feb-13 22:13:27

lucky, I'm just away to bed so I'll keep it short. I too had those feeling about my Dad for years (thinking I was imagining things, telling myself that everyone likes a drink now and then, just not being able to believe that someone like my Dad could be an alcoholic). But he was and I think deep down I always knew it.

However, although my Dad ended up drinking himself to death, this is not in always the case for everyone who is an alcoholic. Through his illness, I came into contact with many, many people who had successfully overcome their illness and lived sober, happy, fulfilled lives, surrounded by their family, continuing (or resuming) their jobs/lives. They considered themselves in a state of recovery, rather than "cured" if you like, but some of them hadn't had a drink for twenty years or so.

Even if you mother is an alcoholic, it doesn't necessarily mean that she can't change her drinking habits. However, as you will know, this will not be down to you if she does or doesn't.

Warmest wishes. You are not alone.

Pilgit Thu 14-Feb-13 23:08:11

My Dad is the same. The hardest thing is to accept that it is their choice. Until they admit they have a problem there is nothing that we can do except protect ourselves from the fall out and not facilitate it. Lots of people get into recovery. Sometimes seeing that people will not let them do 'normal' things like having their DGC over alerts them to the fact that perhaps the problem is them. With my dad this hasn't worked - it's the rest of the world with a problem not him.

luckywinner Fri 15-Feb-13 11:08:49

I think she knows she has a problem, but is too afraid to admit it as then she has to face up to her anxiety, which she keeps at bay by drinking

FlouncingMintyy Fri 15-Feb-13 11:22:45

Luckywinner - I know it is very very very hard, I really do, but I think you need to explain to her that you know she is an alcoholic (the first symptom is denial, right?) and this is why you will not allow her to look after your dd on her own.

The rest is up to her.

Lueji Fri 15-Feb-13 11:45:04

Your description of your mother reminds me of ex, with the added problem that he was on antiDs and the mix was not good.

The bottles disappearing, supposedly for cooking, the slurred speech, the walking unsteady. Even emptying "my" special bottles, and leaving them in the box.
And I never saw him drinking. He always denied having had a drink. It was all for cooking, but I have the same bottle of wine for weeks now, even with cooking.

If you don't feel emotionally capable of dealing with the fall out, maybe you could write a letter to her?
Let her know that you are worried and that she's not fooling anyone?

Snorbs Fri 15-Feb-13 11:46:05

Your mother drinks too much in secret, she's frequently drunk and lies about it. That sounds about as stereotypically alcoholic behaviour as you can get.

People with drug/alcohol problems will often have some kind of hallmark behaviour that they hold up as the indicator of a "real" problem and, as they see themselves as not being that bad, therefore they tell themselves they don't have a problem. Eg, they'll say thing like "Real alcoholics have Scotch in their cereal in the morning", or "Real alcoholics drink all day every day". In your mother's case she's using her sister as that hallmark of a real alcoholic. In doing so she's exagerrating the differences and ignoring the similarities. It may be that your mother is reluctant to admit she has a drink problem in less expectation of having to face her anxiety issues and more because she'd have to face sobriety in general.

Alcoholism is described as a family disease. It distorts the relationships between everyone in the family, and it's affecting you as well. It's the whole "elephant in the front room" thing. The fear that has been instilled in all of you to stop you raising the topic of her drinking because of how unpredictable and explosive her reaction will be.

It is of course your right to choose when, if and how you confront her over this. You don't have to. But I do think you owe it to yourself to consider how much effect you are allowing your mother's drinking to have on your health and happiness. Your sister, too - acting as the booze police by keeping track of quantities is madness. It's a madness I found myself in when I had an alcoholic DP. But it's nevertheless mad as both you and your sister know she's drinking. You don't need to waste your time checking the quantities in the bottles and that goes doubly so if all you're going to do with that information is fret about it.

In these circumstances I always recommend a book called "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie. It's about how deeply someone else's drug/alcohol problems can affect our own lives, and how to go about wresting back control over ourselves. It's not about stopping them drinking because, frankly, you can't. As a wide and sweeping generalisation, alcoholics stop drinking when they can no longer get drunk enough to continue ignoring what a car-crash their lives have become. So far your mother has not lost anything significant through her drinking so she has no motivation to change.

I also generally recommend Al-Anon or, even better, one-on-one counselling with someone who knows about the effects of alcoholism on families. Counselling for me was a life-saver.

One final point - I'm glad you have decided not to let your mother look after your DD. If you ever waver over that decision, picture yourself explaining to Social Services why you left your child with someone you knew had a long-term drink problem.

What Snorbs wrote.

The 3cs re alcoholism are ones you would do well to remember:-

You did not cause this
You cannot control this
You cannot cure this

You can only help your own self here; you cannot help your mother. She does not want your help!. You cannot manage her nor her drinking and attempting to do so will make you ill or drive you half around the bend.

Al-anon are good to contact if you have not already spoken to them.

You are wise not to leave your DD in their care.

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