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Alcoholic in the family - how to help without getting dragged down?

(10 Posts)
MamaMittens Tue 10-May-16 21:24:46

DM is an alcoholic. She's been to rehab and goes to AA (irregularly). She puts a brave face on it, and keeps telling me things are getting better. If I only talked to her, I'd never have had a clue how bad things were. My stepdad tells me she's (still) on a three week sober/binge cycle. He feels massively let down and teeters on the brink of leaving. Neither of them have a good word to say about each other, and visiting is immensely stressful.

I imagine being in the grip of an addiction is utterly terrifying and isolating. My father was also an alcoholic who died of the disease 10 years ago last Thursday. It was never talked about so there are a lot of things I don't know about his situation - its just the way things were. There's no-one I can ask - and part of me doesn't really want to know (I appreciate this is a bit wimpy).

I've tried reaching out to DM about her situation, but somehow the conversation is always directed back to something I've done/not done. Arguing is futile because she's not logical (told me I was "seeing things" the other day when I pointed out a particular thing she does with DCs). Even when I agree with her she carries on arguing. She clearly doesn't want to talk to me about any of it and its difficult to know how far to push.

I'm clear (in the cold light of day) that I have boundaries around what is my problem to deal with and what isn't. And neither I nor my DCs are going to go down with her if she does push the self destruct button. However I'm rubbish at keeping these things in mind during conversations and constantly mindful that things aren't clear cut. I never seem to say what I want to, and when I do manage to it gets thrown back at me in some format and I get confused (easily). In hindsight, its always been her way or the highway. As an adult I tend to apologise for existing, which I presume must be some deep rooted childhood thing.

Sorry for long post, just need a bit of fresh perspective. It's easy to get mired in who said what etc. Is there any way to help her if she doesn't want it? Is it bad to want to stay out of it as much as possible?

AuntyBatshit Tue 10-May-16 21:38:58

The boundaries you talk of, you need to put in place to safeguard yourself- you matter too. Distancing yourself is sometimes the only thing you can do. You can't control how her addiction is messing up her life- but you can control how how it affects yours. Sort if this sounds harsh- I feel your pain. I've just spent two weeks researching this myself.

AuntyBatshit Tue 10-May-16 21:42:03

Sorry...posted too soon. One of the main things I've learnt, is that nothing will stop her pushing the self destruct button if that's what she chooses to do. It sounds selfish- but you must concentrate on self-care...looking after you. flowers

Dapplegrey1 Tue 10-May-16 21:44:30

Mama - have you tried Al Anon? It's a life saver.

AuntyBatshit Tue 10-May-16 21:46:01

Agree with Dapple. The online forums are amazing.

Choughed Tue 10-May-16 21:48:33

Another recommendation for Al Anon. And huge sympathies, it's an awful situation.

I am going through something similar. Don't take any responsibility for the situation, don't dive in and rescue, and don't believe what they saysad. Trust me, alcohol is a terrible force.

Rosenwyn1985 Tue 10-May-16 21:51:56

Definitely try al anon, they're fantastic. Get in touch with your local group and they'll help.

AuntyBatshit Tue 10-May-16 21:59:16

Choughed me too. flowers

LobsterQuadrille Mon 16-May-16 11:49:09

Hi OP, I've only just seen this and I really feel for you. I second what everyone has already said - I'm a recovering alcoholic and unfortunately I can understand where your DM is. If she's only irregularly attending AA then she hasn't "got it" yet - does she have a sponsor? She needs someone who has been through the same issues and who will be a constant source of support to her if she chooses to replace the miserable existence (and it is) with a life worth living. Remember the old adage that you didn't cause it, can't control it and can't cure it. For your own sake and in the end for hers, you must detach as much as you can. Try not to be drawn in to her twisted version of what is going on - lies and denial are all part of this illness (and I use the word "illness" without wanting to get into any discussion regarding whether it's self inflicted or we are born with it etc - I can see both sides).

As for rehab - I have never done it but know plenty who have, time and time again - it's not (in my view) realistic as a long term measure unless you are serious about changing your life. It sort of isolates you from the outside world and what your DM needs is the ability and tools to get on in her own world without the drink. The fact that she's on the weeks on/weeks off cycle is encouraging - it means that she is physically capable of stopping. I've seen miracles happen with AA but only when the alcoholic is truly willing to change. Wishing you all the best.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 16-May-16 12:35:23

Alcoholism is truly a family disease; it does not just affect the alcoholic.

If your mother does not want help there is nothing you can do. You can only help your own self ultimately. I would stay well away from her, its self preservation to stay out of the way.

Your stepdad enables her alcoholism; he is also playing a role her in her alcoholism (provoker and enabler). He needs to get off the merry go around also.

Unless your mother herself (and importantly with no familial coercion to do so) wants to properly address the root causes of her alcoholism you cannot do anything apart from help your own self.

The 3cs of alcoholism are once again prescient here:-
You did not cause this
You cannot control this
You cannot cure this

Seek help for your own self through Al-anon; they are helpful with regards to family members of problem drinkers. Also attend their meetings if you can or at the very least read their literature. Its all too easy to end up actually enabling the alcoholic. Also your mother does not want your help or support.

I would keep your own family unit distance from your mother too.

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