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MIL and alcohol

(22 Posts)
traveladdict Sun 10-Jul-16 15:04:05

Pretty sure my MIL is an alcoholic. Since FIL died about 7 years ago her relationship with alcohol has got worse, but its only in the last year or two that i've realised that she drinks during the day too.

She lies a lot, hides glasses of booze around the house to pretend shes not drinking when she is and is often drunk in the middle of the day when we turn up for lunch/dinner etc. FYI - her drunk is often just being loud, erratic, bit clumsy etc, unless you got close enough to smell her breath or knew her very well then you may not know. I really don't like being around her with my young children when shes inebriated, but its hard to predict when shes going to be drinking and i don't want to restrict contact with her as seeing them seems to be one of the few pleasures in her life. Plus the kids are too young to notice at the mo, but i'm sure they'll start to twig as they get older.

I've spoken to DH about all of this and he has had many 'heart to hearts' with her and laid out how worried he is about her health and mental well being (she lives alone now), but seems to have given up as she never doesn anything about it. I am a firm believer that this is about his mother, and therefore its up to him and his siblings how to deal with it and i will support him. However, none of them are dealing with it at all? I suggested that maybe they need a rota to call her daily, and check up on her because i'm worried about her falling down drunk and hurting herself, we may not know for a few days as we only see her weekly and speak to her 1-2 times a week. They have yet to implement this or anything else, and i'm reluctant to do so myself because i am resisting becoming her de-facto carer because all of her children are too busy sticking their heads in the sand to do anything? I do think there's an element of them not knowing what to do. Shes very headstrong and obviously can do what she likes. I don't actually think she would accept any help, let alone admit she has a problem, but maybe she needs to know that her kids are aware and trying to help at least? I don't know - i'm way out of my depth.

My big fear is she'll be found dead in her house one day and my Dh will be filled with guilt and regret, not something i want for her or him, or our kids.

The reason i'm finally asking for advice is because when i picked her up the other day to come and babysit my kids for a few hours, it was obvious she had been drinking. Just to be clear she has never babysat before, my kids are very young (pre-schoolers) and i thought it might be a good incentive for her not to drink. She was really happy to be asked, and we gave her a few days notice. Although she wasn't wasted, she definitely smelt strongly of booze when we got there, i was so disappointed. Luckily i picked her up a good few hours before, so we had dinner and she sobered up. I made sure my lovely neighbour knew so she was on standby, i put the kids to bed and we were only down the road for a couple of hours, but i felt so awful. I prob shouldn't have gone, but the thought of telling her she had to go home and not babysit because of her drinking just filled me with dread, I don't want to make her worse? My husband was quite blase about the whole thing, I now think hes at the stage where hes 'minimising'(?) all of her behaviour, and i don't blame him - i think i'm guilty of the same. WTF do i do?

Please don;t flame me for leaving her with the kids, we weren't far away and she'd sobered up when we left. I can categorically say she is NEVER being asked to babysit again. How sad that i can't trust her at all with her own gc.

OurBlanche Sun 10-Jul-16 15:23:40

OK... 1 piece of advice BACK OFF

Your DH and his siblings have learned the mantra

You didn't cause it
You can't cure it
You can't control it

Now you need to do the same... stop feeling that they are somehow complicit in this. They aren't, they are just doing the very thing that Al Anon reccommends family of alcoholics do.

Pearlman Sun 10-Jul-16 15:25:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BitterAndOnlySlightlyTwisted Sun 10-Jul-16 15:28:32

If she has a problem with alcohol the very worst thing you can do is ignore it and brush it under the carpet. However, she is not your mother so it's not your issue to resolve. Her own children can grasp that nettle if they want to.

The only thing I can suggest is the next time she mentions the babysitting you tell her in words of one syllable why she won't be asked again.

This is not a problem outsiders can fix: she needs to want to do it for her own sake.

holdontoyourbutts Sun 10-Jul-16 15:31:51

My mother is an alcoholic, she's not aware that I know.

Unfortunately there is nothing you can do until she admits she has a problem.

This means that you can't leave the kids with her, your DH or has family can speak to her about her drinking but she'll likely deny it.

ourblanche is spot on, you have to back off. That probably isn't what you want to hear, but it's all you can do.

traveladdict Sun 10-Jul-16 15:37:05

Okay, so you all think I should back off? That's what I suspected, but I'm
not sure if I'm selfishly quite relieved, as it does take some of the weight off me.

If this never gets addressed though, how will she ever get better, or do we just watch her decline until it's so bad we have to restrict contact? At the moment, because she's retired and has no really responsibilities, it hasn't much of an impact, but I can see it getting worse in things like personal hygiene, lack of care for herself.i don't want to feel like there's something we could have done but didn't IYSWIM?

ScarletForYa Sun 10-Jul-16 15:39:11

i thought it might be a good incentive for her not to drink

Look OP, it's obvious by this comment that you're naive to alcoholism. She's probably physically addicted by now, so don't leave her alone with the children, she will drink regardless of anything. She has no choice, she's addicted.

Also forget these ideas of 'rotas' of people checking on her. It doesn't work that way.

Maybe try AlAnon, it's for the families of alcoholics. It'll help you to become educated.

traveladdict Sun 10-Jul-16 15:50:56

Thanks scarlett I think I am naive. I'm from a big Irish family, lots of alcoholism, but it's all out in the open and nobody sees it as a problem hmm. No experience whatsoever with this secretive drinking. I'll contact al anon this week.

Sorry about your mum holdon, is it common that the person in question thinks that no one knows or realises how bad it is?

Vlier Sun 10-Jul-16 15:51:05

First of all I think its very nice of you to care so much.

You cannot sanely discuss alcohol use with an alcoholic. You cannot prevent them from harming themselves. There is no use in becoming a carer, it just means you will be the one finding them dead.

For your own peace of mind just let it go. Never leave them alone with the kids. Do not do anything that will cost you useless energy. Love them for the positive traits they have.

My dad is an alcoholic (angry one) and is trying to drink himself to death. I sympathise with you and your DH but you cannot do anything besides taking good care of your own family. Stressing about an alcoholic is not good for you.

OurBlanche Sun 10-Jul-16 16:17:03

*Okay, so you all think I should back off? That's what I suspected, but I'm
not sure if I'm selfishly quite relieved, as it does take some of the weight off me.* Anyone who has been through similar will know what you mean Just remember, that weight never was, nor will be, yours to carry

If this never gets addressed though, how will she ever get better It depends on what you mean by address it If you mean you or anyone one else taking charge... don't even suggest it. If you mean everyone stops pretending it isn't real and it becomes an everyday known thing, then yes.

or do we just watch her decline until it's so bad we have to restrict contact? That depends. Babysitting etc is out, that should be one of those everyday known things that you all should be able to say out loud and have it taken for granted. Watching her decline isn't something you have much of a choice over. Unless she makes a concerted effort for herself then you can shield your kids but will need to be there for your DH, reassuring him that he has done nothing wrong... refer back to the AlAnon mantra

I can see it getting worse in things like personal hygiene, lack of care for herself.i don't want to feel like there's something we could have done but didn't IYSWIM? Please, take it form me, and many other MNers who may pop in, there is nothing you can do to make someone stop drinking. You can talk to them, give them all the leaflets and advice in the world, you could even try an American style intervention... it won't work because of anything you do. The alcoholic has to do it for themselves.

This sounds unutterably cruel but all you can do is save yourself (including DH and DCs). Allowing your natural desire to help take over will only make you and yours much more unhappy, and your MIL won't even notice!

So harden you heart, stop trying to help her, stop even vaguely wondering if DH and his sibs could/should do more. Find your own way to sing tra la and to minimise the impact she can have on your family.

And yes, I really do know how cruel and inhuman that sounds. But that is how cruel and inhuman the fall out from an alcoholic can be.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 10-Jul-16 16:33:44


re your comment:-
"I am a firm believer that this is about his mother, and therefore its up to him and his siblings how to deal with it and i will support him".

No x 1000. It is not up to him and his siblings or you for that matter in how to deal with it. That also shows me how very little you know about alcoholism and how it affects the wider family. It is truly a family disease that does not just affect the alcoholic, everyone gets impacted from the fallout as your post all too clearly shows as well. Enabling and minimising the alcoholic's behaviours are all too common. Also like many of these types of posts its mainly about the alcoholic; everyone tiptoes around that person.

Many alcoholics are also in denial about their own alcoholism and will claim they do not have an alcohol problem.

It was remiss of you to at all leave your children in her care but you realise that now. Do not leave your children in her care ever again; she cannot be fundamentally trusted with anyone. BTW when you think she is sober she likely is not; she is just on a come down from her alcohol consumption. I would think that she is never really stone cold sober at all these days. Such people as well are likely to also badly underestimate how much they are drinking as well.

This woman's primary relationship is with drink and her next thoughts centre around where the next drink is going to come from. Everything and everyone else comes a dim and distant second to drink.

The 3cs are again prescient here:-
You did not cause it
You cannot control it
You cannot cure it

Al-anon could help you a great deal personally and I would urge you to call them. If you cannot attend their meetings at the very least read their literature.

The only person who can help your MIL is ultimately her. Its not your DH or you. That is hard to accept but accept it you must unless you want to fall headlong into the trap of enabling. Detaching is the way to go here.

All you can do here is help your own self. Talking to Al-anon is a good step in achieving that aim.

traveladdict Sun 10-Jul-16 17:09:52

Thanks Attila, I feel like al anon might help, I expect there's a lot o should know that I don't.

Just had a very depressing chat with dh, he is in total denial that she is an alcoholic, no idea how he can't see it, but he can't. I might post later as there's a few things he said that I could use some advice on when the kids go to bed if anyone's around to chat?

traveladdict Sun 10-Jul-16 17:14:29

How can he acknowledge that she drinks too much and drinks every day, but not acknowledge that as alcoholism??

OurBlanche Sun 10-Jul-16 17:34:21

Because the label is scary... she is his mum... he is not/may never be ready to say that out loud.

You don't have to drive this you know! Have a look at AlAnon when you get a moment. You might find something for you not her, not your DH, you.

I expect there's a lot o should know that I don't. yes, but please don't think you will read a lot and suddenly have a magical fix for the situation. You won't. You might find a 'fix' for how you deal with it!

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 10-Jul-16 17:37:23 is about family denial and alcoholism

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 10-Jul-16 17:38:44

"I expect there's a lot o should know that I don't. yes, but please don't think you will read a lot and suddenly have a magical fix for the situation. You won't. You might find a 'fix' for how you deal with it!"

This from OurBlanche ^

Again the 3cs apply:-
You did not cause this
You cannot control this
You cannot cure this

ABunchOfCups Sun 10-Jul-16 18:14:29

I haven't read the responses yet, just wanted to share my experience.

My mil is an alcoholic and a lot if what you wrote is the same. She's always liked a drink and would have a few glasses of cider every night, but the last five years have gotten out of control, I noticed it before anyone else and spoke to dh about how I could smell booze on her when she was picking her dgc up from school, how she'd sometimes be slurring. Bil and SIL both rely in her for childcare and see her everyday so I think it wasn't so much as they ignored it, but that because it sort of got worse over time that it wasn't as prominent to them?

Dd didn't really spend that much time with mil, because she scared her when she talked funny and she would cross dds boundaries like grabbing her for a hug when she knows dd doesn't want hugs.

I spoke to SIL about it and she tried speaking to her Mum, but she'd minimise it and sometimes get angry. SIL still used her for childcare and I'd be popping round all the time because I was so worried she'd have an accident or a fall. Dh had both agreed that she'd never be looking after dd under any circumstances, mil would turn up sober and drink while she had the kids, I loved her but didn't trust her. She never once asked if she could have dd so I guess it suited her.

She would hide booze around the place, she would be always asking to borrow money, she would be sat with no heating or food in winter because she's bought booze, her personal hygiene went to shit, her home smelled of piss because she stopped walking her dog, she turned up at assemblies and sports days drunk and heckling, she's emptied lit cigarettes in bin and almost burned her house down.

She was so drunk picking kids up she couldn't stand and a woman had to carry her home because she kelt falling over, it was a day dd wasn't at school and I felt like shit because I'd never have let her take the kids, I'd have took them off her. I was worried she'd be found dead in her bed, or that she would die while looking after the children, she was on a lot of meds that she shouldn't be drinking with and I was worried that she'd overdose because she was so drunk that she'd forget what she's took. There's so many more incidents and the whole thing is exhausting.

It came to a head when she just quit drinking as she had no money and no one would give her any, she started hallucinating and ended up in hospital. She was so close to dying and it gave everyone a massive wake up call, she spent a few weeks on a dependence ward and seemed to be doing well, she wanted to be sober and wanted to be her old self, she went to AA and started looking healthy, although she had a blip and drank a few days after leaving hospital for a few months she was doing really well. She started looking after the grandkids again but I'd said to dh I want her sober for more than a few months before she has dd, he agreed. I think it takes longer

It didn't take long and I started noticing the slurring again, the smell, the mannerisms, sil told me it's her meds but I just knew. It became clear she's drinking again and Its building back up again, she's looking unkempt, I know the woman who works in off license and mil is in there everyday and the whole cycle is starting again and there's nothing I can do but watch. Shes stopped trying to hide it now and it's looking like she will be stopped from looking after toddler niece.

You can't help her unless she wants help. Mil quit because she had no money which seems to be the wrong reasons. I've read a lot and when there's no impact there's no need to want to change if that makes sense, mil lives alone, she still sees dgc, her family are all there for her and her benefits have been increased so she has more money now. Her drinking life is the same as her non drinking life so why change? I love her but I'm very angry with her too. During the time when she was sober she knew how much she had hurt everyone, especially her grandkids, and she chose to start drinking again. It seems to be escalating quicker as she's not hiding it now, SIL and bil have talked to her, they've shouted at her, they've fallen out with her, they've offered her all the support in the world but if she doesn't want to stop, she can't be forced.

I cant tell you how to help, I don't think you can, nor can your dh or his siblings. I would not have her alone with the dc under any circumstances. She may have sobered up before you went out but addicts are devious and lie,my mil would have booze with her and drink in bathroom. Things will get worse as her tolerance builds. She will decline regardless of anything you do or say so do not blame yourself. The detach advice is helpful and it's what dh, SIL and bil have all started doing. Mils drinking has no impact on her life, but it's had a massive one on everyone else's and detaching is our only option now.

You can PM me if you ever want to chat flowers

Shizzlestix Sun 10-Jul-16 19:28:23

You can't help her. You can read up and try to understand, but from my POV as a child of a long term alcoholic, nothing you say or do will change her. Mine I slate 70s and will die an alcoholic, because my DF has enabled her and refused to stop her. I'm very lc with my DM because I cannot stand the behaviour and I don't see why I should have to spend time with a pisshead. Sorry to be brutal and use nasty terms, but this has been the way for decades and I'm totally fed up of it. It's in the genes, several of her side are addictive personalities, not necessarily booze.

traveladdict Sun 10-Jul-16 19:43:27

Thanks ABunchOfCups your story made me realise how much worse it could get. flowers for you and your dh family.

At the moment she doesn't do any childcare for the family and because she's a bit of a recluse and doesn't like leaving the house, she is able to drink all the time without it really impacting anyone except herself. She's retired, has a very comfortable income and very few friends or interests. As a result I really have no idea how bad it is or isn't? I only see her very drunk on occasion, but I smell booze on her a lot so I wonder if as a pp said, she's drunk all the time but it's only noticeable when she's wasted? This also makes me feel guilty because if she was more of a 'disruptive drunk' if you will, maybe everyone would be more motivated to talk about it? But at the moment it's easy to sweep it under the rug as it doesn't adversely affect us all that much? She gets internet deliveries of booze and always has an overflowing recycling bin with wine bottles and yet claims not to drink when we're all there, and none of the rest of us drink really very much.

Thanks for the link Attila, I read the first few pages, and will plough through the rest later. It already rings a few bells unfortunately. I'm keen to understand the nature if dh and his siblings and why they're so invested in pretending there isn't a problem?

Been thinking a lot about this today and it occurred to me that I remember instances when fil was still alive where she would get inappropriately drunk at social occasions and be loud and a bit belligerent. I always put it down to letting off steam as she had a high pressure job for many years, but now I'm wondering if this isn't something that pre-dates fil's passing and has just become more obvious now that she's on her own and doesn't have to put on as much of a 'public face' if you like? I think there's been an assumption on my part and everyone else's that she started to drink in excess through grief (and therefore nobody said anything) but now I'm questioning that assumption and thinking that this may be a longer term thing....

traveladdict Sun 10-Jul-16 19:49:44

Sorry to hear that shizzlestix I feel pretty crappy about mil, no idea how awful it must be to deal with this from parents at a young age.

flowers for you too and anyone else dealing with alcoholism in their family.

Bluetrews25 Sun 10-Jul-16 21:23:12

MIL came to babysit our DCs once (sober, with a big zip-top bag plus handbag), FIL dropped her off. She was off her face when we returned. Guess what must have been in the bag? She never had the DCs after that.Ever.
Fast forward a few years and she died of cirrhosis. It was not pretty, and it was.....messy......for the last year.
Please, don't become her enabler carer.
This will be a bumpy ride, I'm sorry.

traveladdict Mon 11-Jul-16 15:51:42

Sorry to hear that Bluetrews25. Its hard not to be angry at the individual isn't it, but i expect what shes putting herself through is much worse than anything shes doing to us.

Had a good heart to heart with my SIL today (married to my DH's brother). Shes on the same page as me which makes me feel like i'm not overeacting, and her DH is similarly in denial about his mother's situation. She seemed a bit horrified that i'd even agreed to let MIL babysit in the first place.

We agreed to take a step back, continue to communicate about anything we witness and see what happens essentially. Bit crap really, but not much else we can do.

Thanks to all the advice givers on this thread, appreciate it.

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