Help needed with stepdaughter(29 Posts)
For background, I have been married for 21 years, have 3 adult stepchildren and my husband and I have a son aged 20. The eldest stepchild (45) is alcoholic and has drunk heavily since at least 18 years old. She does have a job (just her and her boss) and lives in her own flat. There have been innumerable family occasions and holidays ruined over the years by her drinking.
She entered a non residential NHS rehab course in June and came to live with us. She did fantastically for about two months, however, she gradually relapsed. Things came to a head due to her drinking when she was on holiday in September with my husband and I (we included her when she was sober as a treat) and she returned to her flat when we got home. There were a few rows about her drinking before we went away (including a massive one the morning we were due to travel) and the holiday very nearly didn’t happen at all.
I have been told by her flatmate that she is drinking more heavily than ever, including during the day at work (her boss is often out of the office) which we don’t think she did before. There was an episode where her Dad and I felt we had to go to her flat one evening as she had sent a ‘help me’ text to her cousin who lives miles away and then wasn’t answering texts back or any other calls. Unfortunately this culminated in another huge row and I completely lost my cool with her and said a lot of things I shouldn’t have (even if they were true).
I minimised my contact with her and I haven’t seen her since September. She has been invited over several times but never came.
Last week I had to help my son, who is away at university, as he had sent me a text telling me how upset and down the situation is making him. I know my stepdaughter will text him when she’s drunk and he doesn’t feel able to ignore her.
The youngest stepson has recently told my husband that we should contact her and basically apologise for the things we said, wipe the slate clean and carry on as normal (even though she is still drinking).
I do not want to do this, I am really at the end of my tether with the situation now. If I stick to this it is going to cause yet more arguments between my husband and I. I have told him that if he wants to see her or take her out that’s obviously fine but I don’t want to get involved. Unfortunately he is of the belief that I have to be included in all the things he wants to do with his family and seems incapable of seeing any of them by himself.
I know that my husband will continue to invite her to family occasions such as Christmas, which are almost always at our house, and I am resigned to this and the drinking, rowing and moaning about her behaviour which inevitably follows. The family does not take any action other than discussing her problem endlessly.
Sorry, this is long but any advice much appreciated.
I really feel for your family, addiction is very much a family disease. You need to seek support for yourselves. Al-Alon has meetings, if you can't get to meetings you can get phone support. You need to take the focus away from your stepdaughter and focus on your families recovery, and start to put in boundaries. After all your stepdaughter is an adult, and she needs to feel the consequences of her poor choices, your son needs to be able to do the same by not reacting to her drunken texts. Good luck
Thank you Serene for your response and advice, much appreciated.
I will look into al anon. My eldest stepson, who is very close to my son, and who I trust very much, is going up to visit him next week to have a chat and reiterate that it’s not his fault.
I really need to stay away from my stepdaughter as our relationship has deteriorated so much. We were like sisters when she wasn’t drinking, so sad.
You might also find some helpful advice on the relationship boards? I don’t have any experience in the addiction side but I know how hard and draining it is when a child or adult child is sapping all your energy and the others are suffering. It sound like you are doing all the right things FWIW
Thank you another, I will try that.
I find it so upsetting for my son as he has grown up with this. He forged a really close relationship with his sister when she started her rehab and now somehow feels she’s his responsibility now she’s drinking again.
She’s so lovely and caring and fun to be around when she’s sober and then all we can do is watch her ruin her life through drink.
Why is she drinking has anyone who really cares about her actually sat down with her and had a talk about it.
Many, many times user. And by people who care deeply about her but have been pushed away by her behaviour.
At the start of her rehab she was so positive about the future and acknowledged how her past behaviour had affected her relationships with everyone.
She said that she found giving up drinking easy and that her life without it, although not perfect, was so much better. When we’ve discussed why she drinks the answer she gives is ‘I don’t know’.
I read on a website for addiction help last night that drinkers use alcohol to get them through life and haven’t learnt to ‘roll with the punches’ that the rest of us have. Consequently when life doesn’t turn out to be perfect when they’re sober, as they are emotionally immature and haven’t got any mechanisms to cope they turn back to their crutch. I think this sums up my stepdaughter perfectly unfortunately.
I really care about her but I struggle with the way it affects my husband and son, and her other brothers and their families.
Why is she drinking has anyone who really cares about her actually sat down with her and had a talk about it
Ime anyone who really cares about her can do absolutely nothing.
It has to come from the drinker themselves, the wish to change.
There is a drinker in one part of the family and the doctor says he can do nothing (even though there is risk of injury/ fire due to drunkeness which could affect others) unless the drinker asks for help. Scary.
I’m sorry for your situation Melony, it’s so hard.
I wonder why she is pushing everyone who cares for her away....and using drink to cope..maybe there are underlying issues she has that she is trying to escape/hide from and feels unable to discuss with everyone who cares for her. Perhaps she needs to go and have some counselling to help her open up to someone neutral.
Also where does her own mother figure in her life.....
I'm sure she would benefit from counselling and also from sorting her relationship with her real mother but that is not the OP's issue. It is the daughter''s issue.
I was just interested is the daughters own mother aware of the situation as she should be and be part of this situation.
Thank you Melony.
She has had counselling over the years, currently she has access to a counsellor for her alcohol issues but I don’t think she’s seeing her at the moment.
It’s her behaviour that pushes us away User. She seems to think we should just accept her drinking and forget about her behaviour the next day. She gets belligerent and bolshy if it’s mentioned, regardless of whatever she’s done (and there’s been some truly awful things). Her drinking completely changes her personality.
Her mother has passed away.
I’m sorry that you’re going through this. Al anon is what your son needs too. He needs to realise that it is her choice to drink, and hard though it is, there is nothing that anyone can do apart from support her and be there when she needs help. He shouldn’t be picking up the phone if she rings when drunk, and he needs to know it’s ok to say no to being an emotional support. There is a website I found very useful when my Ex partner was drinking heavily. It’s called sober recovery , it has forums for family and friends of alcoholics. It was a great support for me in allowing me to detach with love.
In actual fact my ex said that it was my change in attitude that changed things for him. Before that I had always being trying to “look after” him too much. I handed over the responsibility to him.
Thank you Squeegle
Pleased to hear your situation has improved.
We’re going to see my eldest stepson tomorrow and I will pass on your message to him, thanks. I’m thinking of going to an al anon meeting on Monday, unfortunately there aren’t any within a forty minutes drive of us.
I’ll check out that website too.
We had a member of our family who was behaving just as your step daughter and she would not make any attempt to get help for her drinking and was causing the family slot of hurt and upset. Eventually we all had a meeting she was invited and declined to come. We all decided to put a bloc on her contacting us via the telephone and we all agreed not to phone her as when we did it seemed to add fuel to the fire. We knew where she was living and knew some of her friends so could keep tabs on her. After about 18 months she turned up at one of Aunties houses and had taken control of the situation herself and had sought out the help she needed. By having had the headspace and freedom to be alone and do this she was able to let go of some of the guilt she was feeling everytime she saw us as it just reminded her how drink was affecting her and all her family's lives in a negative way. It helped her because by doing it alone she felt in control. She is never going to be a non drinker but she has respect for what it can do now and very rarely touches it apart from social occasions which she tends to shy away from anyway. Slowly she is becoming part of the family again it will never be the same but she includes herself as much or as little as she wants with no pressure to be anything else than who she wants to be. Maybe the family needs to do something similar.
Thank you User.
I find your experience really interesting. We all, including the counsellor, thought it would help if she stayed with us during the rehab. Largely I believe to break her routine of work, home, drink. It seemed to work really well at first.
The issue with the family is that I just can’t see them agreeing to detach from her. There is a genuine concern that cutting her off will push her over the edge. My position within the family is delicate enough without trying to force my opinion on them. Even today there was tension between my husband and I because he wanted to invite her to come with us tomorrow and I said no (just couldn’t face a three hour each way car journey with her).
I just hope with all my heart that she has another go at rehab.
Maybe residential rehab....I do empathise with your situation....she needs to reach her own rock bottom without taking you all down with her...you need to protect yourselves....her sobriety needs to be the most important thing in her life right now but only she can do it....and as a family you need to remove yourselves from it....her choice...her life....
Also, if you can persuade your husband that al anon for him will give him the best chance of supporting her. It really is a family disease. The alcoholic creates very unhealthy dynamics between everyone else.
Thank you both.
My husband won’t agree to detach from her (just asks me if I could do that to our son which I can’t answer) and I know he won’t come to al anon. Not sure what I would get from it myself other than reiteration of what you guys have already advised on here?
So, back to the same routine as for the last twenty odd years. I will remove myself as far as possible, I have the tendency to fly off the handle at her when she’s been drinking and I know that’s just making the situation worse.
Thanks for everyone’s advice.
You may be astounded at the information and support you can gain from attending Al-anon - even if no one else apart from you in the family attends however you may experience resistance as attending such a group makes what's happening real and more difficult for everyone to brush it under the carpet.
It took every ouch of courage I had to phone them and walk into a meeting but it fundamentally changed my life and the dynamic of all my relationships.
You both need to stop talking to her about her drinking. No moaning, don't mention it at all
Please Google ENABLING and CO-DEPENDENCY. You really really need to go to AlAnon. Make sure you encourage your son to go also
What I got from al anon was the ability to reframe how things were; gave me a truly different perspective. Also, seeing the absolutely twisted thinking of people who drink and their families is quite astounding in the amount of commonality. It gave me strength and conviction.
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