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How can i help my alcoholic drug using sister

(39 Posts)
begood Fri 19-Nov-10 11:26:20

I don't really know if this is the right place for this but any answers would be appreciated. I really don't know how to help my sister who is i suspect an alcoholic who also does drugs (cocaine). This has been going on for at least 8 years and my parents and my husband and myself have desparately been trying to help her, be supportive, just be there etc.. She has had hypnotherapy and CBT - no help at all but i suspect she lied to therapists. She has been in terrible situations including being raped and having a knife held to her(many more i don't know about). She has been living with our parents but they have finally asked her to leave. Any advice appreciated - i just feel so helpless and frustrated. She is 38.

jesuswhatnext Fri 19-Nov-10 11:51:28

sweetheart!!, you poor thing, you must be so worried! sad, i hope you dont think what ima about to say is harsh but,

you all have to stop being so nice to her!, she is 38, is an adult and right now she is making the choice to do what she does!

only she can make the decision to change her life - if and when she does you can be there for her but right now i think you all need to step away - you are almost enanabling her to carry on - there have been no consiquences for her (i dont mean being raped etc, i mean within the family)

im an alcoholic - earlier this year my dh gave me an ultimatum - stop drinking or leave - HE MEANT IT AND YOU HAVE TO MEAN IT TO!

im off to an AA meeting right now, i expect others will be along soon with advice for you - btw, al-anon is a fantastic organisation for the families of alcholics.

begood Fri 19-Nov-10 11:59:08

Thanks for your reply - you sound great and best of luck to you. I have been suspecting everything you have said. We have always accepted everything she has done and tried to help her and she has never had consequences within the family. This is partly because it is soo hard to watch her do this to herself and not step in. i feel sacred about what will happen to her when she moves out but i know she has to because it is destroying my parents life.

Creamlegbar Fri 19-Nov-10 12:00:14

Major alert before you get involved in AA.
Read these first. ment-15822

My sister was involved in this business for 4 years and now campaigns for greater public awareness.

feetheart Fri 19-Nov-10 12:00:44

I second Al-anon - gave DH and I fantastic support when dealing with alcoholism in the family. They are all people who are in your situation - mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sisters, friends of alcoholics. They will listen and not judge and from their stories we gained the strength to step back from the alcoholic in our lives and support her without it taking so much of a toll on our lives.
You can't make your sister stop drinking or taking drugs, only she can do that, but you can gain the strength to deal with its effect on you.

Don't be put off by the slightly 'culty' feeling at the meetings, I was a bit hmm to start with but can't praise them highly enough.

Good luck, its very, very hard.

Creamlegbar Fri 19-Nov-10 12:05:44

For al-anon.

IWishIWasAFrog Fri 19-Nov-10 12:16:29

FGS Creamlegbar, any constructive suggestions? AA and Al-anon has helped many many people, few of my parents' friends have been dry for years after AA.

IfGraceAsks Fri 19-Nov-10 12:22:47

Does she want to stop? If she does but is afraid to - maybe terrified of facing her feelings, which sounds understandable - perhaps you could point out that a weekly session with a private psychotherapist costs about the same as a day's coke (£50 - £90). She may be able to countenance one clean day a week, knowing she's going to be in a safe place.

Not saying this'll be do-able, but I'd certainly try and open a few more doors for her and this is one she may not have considered.

Where's she living now? Horrid as this will sound to you, it's not impossible that your parents contributed to her stresses in the first place. If she can be warm, fed and independent - even in a B&B or a bedsit - then make a small and manageable step towards helping herself, that might be better. I wish her well.

Mouseface Fri 19-Nov-10 12:30:51


I think you are bloody brilliant for wanting to help your sister in the first place. Not everyone would, lots would leave it for 'someone' else to do. I'm not surprised that the CBT or hypnotherapy didn't really work, as I suspect she wasn't ready to deal with all of the horrific things she's been through.

And if she was still using drugs and alcohol to block out and supress those memories, CBT etc would have been little use to her.

How awful for you all. You must be utterly exhausted with it all. And this isn't just about her is it? Someone who abuses drugs and alcohol to such an extent has a massive impact on the entire family, everyone around her.

All of you can see what's happening here and you want to help but the time has come (understanably) where you just can't take anymore.

There is lots of RL support out there for her, heaps of it, right at the end of her fingertips. 24 hours a day.

But SHE HAS TO WANT TO STOP ABUSING drugs and alcohol. This has to be her choice. SHE has to take control and make that first move to stop completely.

And it has to be completely. Cutting down the booze and drugs will not help her. No in the long run.

Maybe give her some of the websites listed above or see if she would be willing to go to AA or even her GP.

She needs help, real help but only SHE can get it and she has to be ready to take control.

One step at a time. Small, controlled steps. A plan of action if you like so that she can see where her life is going. So she can see the achievements.

I can't begin to imagine how hard this is for you and I'm sure your own life has been put on hold or suffered because of this. But FWIW - well done for seeking further help for her. smile

JustDoMyLippyThenWeWillGo Fri 19-Nov-10 12:34:49

I have to agree with jesus what next: from experience I know that it is hopeless to try to help someone else. I know that it is hard, especially when you feel responsible for them, but my advice is to leave her to it. It is her choice. You must try to protect yourself and your family and ensure that your life is not ruined by endlessly worrying and trying to pick up the pieces. If you feel that constant gnawing worry, and jump every time the phone goes late at night, then make a decision today to stop worrying: there is nothing you can do for her, but you can help yourself.

begood Fri 19-Nov-10 12:43:30

Thankyou fo these great replies. She has been to the GP - at our suggestion, plus been involved in various drug services over the years but i have a feeling this was all for our benefit, so she could try to convince us she was doing something. It was all initiated by my poor mum who has been fantastic. However, i don't think she honestly can see that she is doing anything wrong so i suppose that until she does nobody can stop or help her.
I am petrified she will end up dead.

JustDoMyLippyThenWeWillGo Fri 19-Nov-10 13:15:10

I know that I sound harsh, but if she does, it will not be your fault.

You and your family sound as tho you have already gone far beyond the call of duty to try to help her. I know how hard it is and do feel for you.

begood Fri 19-Nov-10 13:30:07

You don't know how much you replies have helped. Just having people who know how i feel helps a lot.

ilovesooty Sat 20-Nov-10 00:21:16

I work in the drug intervention programme and sadly I agree with those who say she can't be helped until she is ready.

Do you know how she's financing her cocaine use?

begood Sat 20-Nov-10 10:14:19

Currently she has very few outgoings because she lives with my parents so basically spends most of her wages on her lifestyle. I know she is overdrawn too, but i don't know by how much.
This is another reason i am so concerned about how she will cope when she moves out of my parents this weekend. She is moving in with a friend short term who is not a drug user and not an alcoholic, but to be honest i don't think she will put up with my sister for long.

Dipso Sat 20-Nov-10 10:24:40

You have an agenda don't you Creamlegbar. I wonder what it is, you seem very spiteful. As others have said AA/al-anon have been life savers for many and are filled with truly wonderful people (I speak from personal experience).

beebuzzer Sat 20-Nov-10 10:34:22

I know how hard it is for siblings and parents. I am one of 5 children, my father a former Dr. One of my brothers was a heroine addict for years and years. We went through so much hurt and distress with it and my parents had to not allow him in the house to protect us others. The worst time was when I was walking in town and saw my brother on the street begging. I looked away,hope he hadnt seen me and went on my way,to save his dignity.
He has been in and out of jail,many of his friends have died and it goes on.

But I want to encourgage you. Not many people recover from heroine addiction. But my brother has been clean now for the past 3 years. He has started working again and looks after my dad who is ill when my mum is away. He visits them every day and has two lovely sons who he are his pride and joy.
I love my brother,always have and its been very tough to see him suffer and others suffer because of this horrible addiction but it has finally come to and end and he has put his life back together.

You,as a person can do nothing - thats the reality. Its hard to stand back and watch but all you can do is be there,pray and wait.
Be available when your sister needs you and remember that it's not 'your sister' it's the drugs. (hugs)

Snorbs Sat 20-Nov-10 10:50:24

begood, the best - and, arguably, the only - way to get a drug addict to stop abusing drugs is to let them face the full consequences of their choices.

It is tragic that she was raped and abused but she's never going to be able to deal with those events until she gets clean.

It must be very worrying for you to see your sister moving out from the relative safety of your parents' home. But all the time she has that soft, safe place to fall back to she'll never have any need to change what she's doing. Also, having an alcoholic/addict in your family can skew all of the familial relationships as so much of the conversations and emotional energy are dominated by the addict's ongoing chaos and drama.

Finally, I'd very strongly recommend a book for you and your parents called "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie. It's specifically written for friends and family of alcoholics/addicts and will help you to deal with your sister in a way that is healthier for all of you.

begood Sat 20-Nov-10 11:12:15

THANKYOU for the encouragement. It is so good to hear about your brother bee.
It is true about skewed familial relationships snorbs. I have 2 young children, but my parents spend so much energy on my sister and they know i have a good supportive husband etc. they really do not put as much effort in with my family as they would otherwise. I occasionally feel resentful but can understand too.
I am off to amazon to purchase that book now.

jesuswhatnext Sat 20-Nov-10 11:28:07

begood - your sister is so very lucky to have you!

i do think its time for you all to get tougher - she is 38 for christs sake, not a child - her illness is a choice she makes every day, not something she has no control over - she is being selfish and manipulative and its time she realised that that as a family you have had enough - i wish you all the luck in world - it is terribly hard to almost turn your back on someone you love, but i do think its the right thing to do!

AlpinePony Sat 20-Nov-10 14:46:00

I'm a bit of a lily-livered liberal when it comes to substance abuse. I firmly believe that people use drugs/alcohol to hide from feelings they don't know how to cope with and I don't believe "it's my way or the highway can help."

Yes, she needs to stop drinking - but she needs the emotional support in place too. Psychotherapy will work wonders.

Group rehab not so great I fear - 3 friends went to residential places - seems to be a lot of illicit shagging & drinking, the very things they're trying to take control of.

beebuzzer Sat 20-Nov-10 15:00:46

I agree Alpine, usually find there are underlying issues when it comes to substance abuse and until you get to the bottom of that not much more can be achieved.
My issues (when I was a lot younger)were lack of confidence and self esteem having been in several bad experiences with men. I guess it was an escape from it all. My brother also had his problem before he started. I don't think you can turn your back on her as such - thats easier said than done. Their minds are so twisted and corrupted by it most of the time they have no idea of the effect it's having on their loved ones.

Snorbs Sun 21-Nov-10 15:33:33

I absolutely agree that often a significant drug addiction - and I include alcoholism in that - has its root in some other underlying issue. I also agree that such underlying issues can often be helped enormously by psychotherapy etc.

But it is my opinion that psychotherapy is a complete waste of time while the drug addiction continues. You simply cannot achieve the necessary honesty and balanced introspection needed for psychotherapy to work if you're simultaneously consuming large amounts of mind-altering substances. If nothing else, it will be impossible to work out which issues are being caused by underlying problems and which are being caused by being all too frequently pissed out of your head. The addiction needs to be dealt with first and then any remaining issues can be identified and addressed.

The other part of withdrawing from an addict is less to do with the possible effect on the addict and a lot more to do with self preservation. Drink/drug addicts are immensely draining people to be around. The nonstop cycle of addiction-fuelled drama and chaos can easily overwhelm normal family life. That's not healthy for anyone long-term and sometimes you have to just say "Enough's enough" to protect your own sanity and happiness.

JustDoMyLippyThenWeWillGo Sun 21-Nov-10 20:36:31

I think Snorbs has put that really well.

IfGraceAsks Sun 21-Nov-10 21:26:55

The theory's unarguable, but in practise it's a bit like telling a starving man he shouldn't eat until he's learned to cook.

Coincidentally (perhaps), I was just re-reading my journal from before I went into rehab. I'd started therapy and my counsellor was very focused on getting rid of the drink. Of course I understood, but felt that he wasn't understanding why I couldn't cope without my wine - the more I uncovered my real issues, the greater my need to anaesthetise myself afterwards.

No decent therapist will continue to treat a user who comes to sessions high, stoned, drunk or hungover. But that's asking for one day (the night before, and up to the session) clean. It's largely impracticable to demand more. And, as they say in the fellowships, anyone can stay clean for a day.

Alpine - there was a fair amount of substance abuse & shagging at mine, too, but I think you have to accept that the ones who don't take the principles on board weren't going to be fixed anyway.

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