Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Alcoholic sister - I really need advice (long)

(60 Posts)
Callmemadam Tue 20-Jun-06 21:16:26

Ok, here goes. My younger sister (40) has been a binge drinker ever since her teens. About 7 years ago it cost her her job, her lover and her life in London and she came down South and moved back home with my mother in a small village. She dried out for 5 years, over which time my mother developed serious cardiac problems and has undergone several major operations. She now has very poor health and is not expected to live for too long. My sister gradually took over the running of the house, saying she was my mums carer, but also started to drink again. This worsened to the point where she was having blackouts, screaming rages and very hostile even when 'sober'. For the last 10 months or so it has been like living on a knife edge for the rest of the family and noone could get near my mum. Finally my mum was rushed into hospital in May, and when she came out was very poorly, and so my other sister and I brought here here, to my house where she has been recovering ever since. She has got much stronger since living here, but wants to return to her own home, but cannot live with my sister as an alcoholic. My sister hit the roof when she found out what I had done, and then proceeded to appear to have a nervouse breakdown, and cried for a week (while drinking about 180 units). I got her to her GP who says she's an alcoholic, I got her to go for an assessment at the Priory, which said she was an alcoholic and needs 28 days detox urgently, and she says she's not going there. She says that she 'is trying to deal with it' and that she 'is trying' to contact AA. She was blind drunk on Sunday, Monday and now tonight. She has started inviting almost complete strangers into my mums house 'to talk'. She has gone around most of the village saying that it is looking after my mum which has caused this, and my mum is distraught that her neighbours should think its her fault. The worst thing is she is in denial about the extent of her drink problem and she doesn't appear to have much inclination to really access help. How much worse can this get? How do you deal with an alcoholic relative? I really really need some advice! Thanks

SnowBoo Tue 20-Jun-06 21:23:47

All i can say is my heart goes out to you. My sister is a recovering alcoholic and she has been dry for 6 years. She too went thru a pattern of self destruct but got help thru AA. Since she hasn't been drinking she has been a completely different person who i can now say i love dearly. Unfortunately if your sister is refusing help there is nothing you can do to make her get help. It took my sister 20 years to sort herself out but it was her choice in the end.

Have you tried reasoning with your sister? Easier said than done i know but i don't really know what else you can do. You could always get some info from AA for her.

WigWamBam Tue 20-Jun-06 21:29:18

My sister is an alcoholic too and we have had some awful times with her over the past few years, so my heart goes out to you over this one. Unfortunately if your sister is still in denial and refusing to accept help, there is very little that you can do for her. But there are things that you can do for you and your mother, and a really good source of support and information for the families of alcoholics is Al-Anon - you can speak to them on 020 7403 0888.

Callmemadam Tue 20-Jun-06 21:42:09

WWB - thanx for that number, I'm going to call it. Snowboo, the thing is I have tried reasoning with her, supporting her, encouraging her etc etc etc now it feels like YEARS, and it never, ever, gets anywhere. I've got to the stage this week where I am so disgusted with her behaviour that I've lost all compassion for her which I never thought I would say about a sibling of mine. The thing is, I just cannot believe that she wont get help even when her own mother is very sick and prevented from returning home by her appalling behaviour. To be honest I just find that really hard to forgive, and I am really trying my hardest not to get eaten up about it all.

imaginaryfriend Tue 20-Jun-06 21:48:25

What are your mum's feelings about it Callmemadam? Has living with your sister over these last few years been a total nightmare for her? Is she aware of how much your sister drinks? I'm asking because it seems to me that she's the priority here and I'm wondering if there's any way of getting your sister out of your mum's house so she can return home but still be cared for by other people?

It's a nighmare situation for you. My father was an alcoholic, recovering for most of my childhood but very heavily drunk throughout my teen years. So you have my full sympathy. As others have said, until your sister admits the problem and accepts that she needs help, you can't do a thing. But you must look after your mum.


imaginaryfriend Tue 20-Jun-06 21:49:37

Incidentally, what does your sister drink and what time of day? Do you know generally how much she gets through a week?

Callmemadam Tue 20-Jun-06 22:56:31

My mum has become very scared of my sister in a rage, partly because she's become too poorly to have a row with her. It took a very long time for the rest of us to find out had bad she'd become again, because mum kept making excuses for her at the beginning, and my sister kept saying how dificult my mum had become and how she needed a drink to cope. Well, since she's been staying with me - a month now - I have not had a single instance, however small, of my mum being anything like my sister portrayed, in fact, she's like the mum of 10 years ago in personality, jokey, interested, animated, not the withdrawn and depressed bad tempered person she had been recently in her own home. She wants very much to go back to her own house and she is missing her things, but she admits that she is not well enough to cope with my sister and my sister has no intention of moving out. In fact, my sister has said this week that mum 'can't return' until my sister has support, and that despite the fact that a)my sister has rejected all support to help her stop drinking and b) my mum doesn't want her living there but can't bear the thought of asking her own daughter to leave!! So at the moment my sister is calling all the shots. The only good thing is that my mum is receiving some sort of care while she is here.

My sister has admitted to being frightened of how much she drinks, and she certainly drinks a lot before anyone notices. It used to be evenings only but just before my mother went into hospital there were several lunchtime binges so she was paralytic by 6pm. She drinks 10 cans of beer, can then drink a bottle of wine or port on top of that and god knows what else. She certainly buys minatures as well, but then she has done that for a long time. Oh god it is such a mess.

Earlybird Tue 20-Jun-06 23:22:43

No idea, but is there such a thing as having an alcoholic involuntarily sectioned? Even if it was on the grounds of her breakdown (instead of her drinking), she might then be forced to deal with her mental and physical problems - or at least have the time/space to reflect on them.

Otherwise, my gut reaction is that your mum either can't go home, or needs to kick your sister out - have locks changed etc. It sounds as if drastic action is inevitable.

There's alot to think about and consider, and I know it's impossibly hard when someone is on a self-destruct mission and hurting all those around them too. Keep posting and let us know how you get on.

zippitippitoes Wed 21-Jun-06 08:42:23

I would have your sister out of the house..give her an ultimatum to go to the priory assuming from your post that finance isn't an issue

if she won't go I would have her evicted anyway which might take a while but might give her the time to see that you are serious

once she is out of the house the offer of to be honest quite an easy ride of the priory in comparison with managing herself alone might persuade her to go

your mum is the priority

FioFio Wed 21-Jun-06 08:46:19

Message withdrawn

imaginaryfriend Wed 21-Jun-06 13:29:00

I can see how this has come about but I think it has to stop, someone drinking that much just can't be in the position of calling the shots. Are there any authorities, health or other, social services, anybody who can help you with this? I imagine it's very hard to tackle by yourself. But I can't help but think your sister has to get out of your mum's house. How does she finance her drinking by the way?

KristinaM Wed 21-Jun-06 13:33:27

please please contact al-anon. they really really helped my friend whose mum was an alcoholic.

suejonez Wed 21-Jun-06 13:37:45

We have/had 4 alcoholics in our family - 2 now dead (one from alohol related liver problems), 1 recovered (dry for 30 years but still considered himself an alcoholic) and 1 slowly killing herself. Hey guess why I don't drink much!

You absolutely must get in touch with Al-Anon and get your mum to go along with you to a meeting. Also talk to CAB about your optoins re getting your sister out of your mums house. I hate to say this as it sounds harsh but alcoholics have a habit of pulling everyones else down into the mire with them. AL-Anon should be able to support and give you some practical advice.

Callmemadam Wed 21-Jun-06 19:25:20

Hi all, thax for the wonderful support, I really appreciate it as it is good to talk to people outside the immediate drama iyswim. Al anon say we can't make her get help, which I know, but zippie's point about the priory being more attractive if we have her out of home is my best option, assuming they would take her under those circumstances. I think from my work in court that she could not be sectioned unless she poses an immediate physical threat to herself or others, and that is quite a high threshold, certainly when we sign warrants for social services we have to be absolutely certain that the danger is immediate. My mum can't go with me to a meeting or throw my sister out, she is simply too ill. In fact, we are keeping quiet about the wilder excesses as we think she is too ill to cope. Finance is a big issue tbh, but all the siblings (there are 5 kids in total) have agreed that we will club together to fund her treatment if that's what it will take: the problem is that if she doesn't want to stop (and she says she doesn't, even though she's terrified of the loss of control) then it will be a waste of a huge sum of money. Latest idea is that my brother is going to confront her and say that if she won't seek help she has to leave and find a bedsit somewhere, and give her a short time limit, say 10 days.

NotQuiteCockney Wed 21-Jun-06 19:28:16

Don't spend money on treatment for someone who doesn't want it. Your sister may have to hit rock bottom before she realises she has a problem. Part of that process (sadly) may be all her family refusing to deal with her.

This stuff really sucks, you have my sympathy. It must be particularly wearying with your mum so ill at the same time.

imaginaryfriend Wed 21-Jun-06 22:27:28

I'm with NQC on this one, I wouldn't pay for her treatment unless she asks for it. She needs to make the decision. And I'm with your brother re. the ultimatum. You didn't say what money she lives on at the moment? Or when she's been there with your mum? To fund that kind of drinking habit must be quite pricey. How long has she drunk at that rate? Women's bodies give way under heavy alcohol abuse far more quickly than men's. It's just a matter of time really before she gets seriously unwell.

suejonez Wed 21-Jun-06 22:54:34

You're right imaginaryfriend. Sadly, I read in the paper yesterday (so it must be true!) that women who drink more than 3.5 bottles of wine a week (consistently every week for years) will get liver damage the exact quote was "it's not a case of if bit when". At that level of intake it doesn;t matter whether its binge drinking or spredaing it out, the average womans liver can't cope with it.

Alcoholics can get drink on very little money, expensive drunks drink wine and spirits, cheap drunks use sheap sherry and cider. My grandmother could maintain her alcohol level for less money than I spend on food - she just reduced her food intake to pay for it. She was malnourished by the time she died.

Very sad.

imaginaryfriend Thu 22-Jun-06 22:28:24

That's a scary statistic suejonez. Almost everyone I know probably drinks around 3 bottles of wine a week. Maybe more.

suejonez Thu 22-Jun-06 23:27:53

it's only half a bottle a night - but I think they mean you have to drink that every night for years. More worrying is the current youngsters who binge drink that much in a weekend, as I think they could quite easily manage to do that for enough years to do themselves some real damage whilst not considering themselves to have a problem beacuse they "only" drink at the weekend.

winnie Mon 26-Jun-06 09:26:41

Callmemadam, I've just caught up with this. What a nightmare for you. I am so sorry.

I've some experience of alcoholics and I agree with others that they have to make the decision to seek help themselves; I also know that getting someone sectioned is extremely difficult.

Sadly, I think the only option is to get her out of hte house and force her to take responsibility for herself (or not, as she chooses). Easier said than done I know.

Sorry, I am not being much help. It sounds like hell. Thinking of you, winnie x

whatscooking Mon 26-Jun-06 19:14:13

Hi Callmemadam
I'm so sorry about your sister, you sound as if you still love her despite what she's put you through. You need to allow her to find her own rock bottom, because until she is there no one and nothing can help her - although she sounds like she is nearly there anyway.
Your ma is ill and needs to be taken out of this situation as she is probably not well enough to handle it. Your sister needs to be told to leave. As others have said please call Al-Anon, Alcoholism is a disease about which people who don't drink have little understanding and Al-Anon could help you to understand it a little more. The only organisation which can help your sister is Alcoholics Anonymous, but she has to go of her own free will. It is my greatest wish she will want to. Their number is 0207 833 0022 and they will get someone local to come and take her to a meeting should she so wish. Good luck, she's lucky to have you as a sister.

winnie Tue 27-Jun-06 20:29:55

Callmemadam, how are things?

Callmemadam Thu 03-May-07 20:12:30

To all of you FAB MNers who gave me advice last year - I _need more help_. I won't be posting much because it upsets me but I will read all your advice, I promise. Update first: my mother went back home in July and things didn't change. By Christmas my sister was getting angry and aggressive from time to time, trying to control it on other days, and frankly a mess, After a binge lasting most of the week at New Year, I frogmarched her to her GP. She was prescribed Diazepam, and much later, Paroxetine, and came to stay with me so that I could administer the drugs. It wasn't easy, partly because I had to police her, and partly because she had a lot of stuff to deal with, but we coped. I started helping her to find somewhere of her own to live, and I persuaded a friend to rent her a cottage she owned. Just before she moved out, I found that she had been going down stairs to our locked wine cellar and swigging gin from a bottle. I hid the open bottles carefully, but despite promises and more promises she went back while I was out briefly, having left her with my 4 yr old.I put everything we had down the sink. When she moved out, I finally found her a psychotherapist that she would agree to see, and arranged it. I knew she wasn't well, but she was eating, and seemed so much better.

After about 4 weeks, she stopped calling me, or hiding the fact she was having 'bad days' as she calls it. Her landlady called me to say that my sister had been drunk and in bed for most of four days. I spoke to her GP, who arranged a referral to a psych. In the meantime my sister told the family that she had decided to leave the cottage (I think she was asked to go) and moved in 'for a while' with another elderly female friend, who she said had offered to help her. . I said she could have come to me any time but that the terms were no drinking and she says she can't do that. Anyway, after four days at new location, she ransacked the house for booze while the friend was out, and found, and drank, her Christmas stash. To behave like this she must already have had a skinful. She drank one bottle of wine, one bottle of Baileys and one bottle of Martini. My sister was asked to find herself somewhere else to go the next day, and now says she has gone to stay with another friend but won't tell the family where. She left a message wishing dd a happy 5th birthday (she had sent a present) but saying ' I am sure you don't want to speak to me, but...'. The thing is, I don't want to be manipulated into a0 a response which says don't be silly, or b) a response which leads to a row. So I havent called her , and I don't know what the f**k to do next..... My mother is frantic, but very very very hostile and angry and I don't know if I should do more, less, or what? I know I will get brilliant advice from you all, and in all my years of lurking on here I have NEVER needed it more...I love you all.

FioFio Thu 03-May-07 20:16:28

Message withdrawn

FioFio Thu 03-May-07 20:17:27

Message withdrawn

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now