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.

At wits end dealing with alcoholism

(29 Posts)
magnummum Tue 29-Sep-09 12:52:05

How does anyone else deal with it? Have posted a couple of times on things relating to my alcoholic DM but have reached the end of my tether.

I've done all I feel I can - have attended a residential family programme (leaving my 8 month old Dd1 to do so), Al Anon etc etc for about the last 3 years in an attempt to keep her in our lives and minimise the impact her drinking has on us.

Anyway, after yet another drama I wrote to her last week (very nice letter under the circumstances saying we love and support her but she has to chose to put her recovery first and my priority has to be my children -DD1 is 3 and have 4 month old twins).

She finally phoned last night to say she has been to see an alcohol counsellor (who is wonderful - generally it seems because she told her how brave she was etc) and whose approach is totally different to AA and who says the tough love approach is completely inappropriate and what she really needs is lots and lots of support and it is very unfair of anyone to kick someone when they are down(which clearly I'm not giving her).

Feeling really angry/stressed/upset and don't know what to do really. Sorry needed to vent as couldn't sleep after phone call and breastfeeding the twins so knackered. All out of patience with the whole thing (and apparantly I am a very patient person usually).

So how does anyone else cope?? (I should also point out that she has been through this other organisation in the past and thought they were totally useless!)

I think I need to minimise contact but then don't know how I'd handle the guilt.

magnummum Tue 29-Sep-09 12:54:05

Just realised that should have said support which I'm not giving her and kicking her when she's down which I am.

MovingOutOfBlighty Tue 29-Sep-09 13:02:10

God Magnummum - having an alcoholic DM myself I know how hard it is.

I have tried to help, stepped back, facilitated, not facilitated, shoved leaflets at her about AA, avoided, shouted, cajoled, told her she couldn't look after DCs alone etc.

I think your priority is your children and although the counsellor may be right, there is still surely only so much love and support you can be called upon.

I realised with my mum that pretty much nothing had worked and she needed to come to her own understanding of the problem. So I would arrange to see her at say midday in a local town (she is a functioning alcoholic so wouldn't drink and drive - shit - I think) and only see her in the morning when she was sober. I stopped staying overnight there as I found it too upsetting slurring her words by 1pm even though she ostentatiously declared she hadn't had a drink.
In the end, she had her own 'waking up in the gutter' moment where she was asked to leave my brothers wedding as she was so drunk. So far it seems as though she has been sober for several months, but there was a lapse recently where she 'thought the Pimms was a fruit juice' hmm so I can't celebrate yet.

Personally, the only way I coped for a while was to set rules. Meet only in the morning where she has to drive. If she is drunk, you will leave. Do not let her look after the DCs by herself. You are her daughter, not her carer and although she is in need, you must be there for your children and if this means you cannot support her as much as you want then you have to explain that to her. With my mum I did lots of little things like send her a book she might like, photos, etc.
Let me know how you get on.

JeminTheDungeon Tue 29-Sep-09 13:04:17

By saying she needs to put her recovery first you ARE supporting her.

Alcoholics can be incredibly self-pitying..and can look for excuses to drink, citing excuses as 'reasons' her consellor a specialist D and A consellor?

Have you tried support for yourself? Give an oeganisation like Al-Anon a ring.
Alcoholism impacts upon the whole family- perhaps it is time you put yourself and the children first.

She has to choose sobriety for herself, you can't do it for her, but you cannot risk your own health either.

You must be shattered with 4 month old twins-you need to concentrate on yourself.

BigusBumus Tue 29-Sep-09 13:25:55

Hello Magnummum. I have a chronically alcoholic sister 3 years older than me. She has been an alcoholic for perhap the last 17 years, but the last 4 years have been particularly horific. She has been in 12 rehabs, at huge expense (£thousands), and has been detoxed hundreds of times. She is currently being detoxed (again) in a clinic in London.

I used to be very patient, give her loads of understanding of her "disease" and get extremely upset about it when she went on another meltdown. Its affected my relationship for weeks at a time with me being upset and moody, its affected jobs i've had when i got in trouble for searching for rehabs on the internet, talking to my mum about it on the phone, etc. I could list the amount of times she has ruined a big occaision (including my wedding), but i won't, i'm sure you have your own similar stories.

Anyway, i have 2 sons, aged 6 and 2. My sister has lost custody of her son to her ex due to her drinking. She is also mostly homeless, but being quite a pretty blonde, with a "posh" accent, she manages to get herself fixed up with "boyfriends" with swanky flats etc who become her enablers, pay for everything, take care of her through weeks of lying in bed swigging neat gin and wailing. Then pay for her to go through detox and onto another 5 weeks stint in rehab. She dumps them and then repeats the cycle. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

Can you sense my irritation? About a year ago i just thought to mnyself, you know what, my kids and family are far too important to me and i am not going to let my sister ruin my life for another minute longer. Something in me changed and i have nothing further to do with her now. The relief is enormous and my life is so much happier now.

The only downside is that my mum is still trying to sort my sister out on a daily basis. Recently she spent 7 weeks sober at my mums, (the longest time in years) and then went to London to see her friend and drank/screamed for 9 days solid. She was arrested twice in this time but let off. Now she is in detox again (day 2)... My poor mum is 65 and widow and i feel genuine hatred towards my sister for doing this to my mum. I can't believe anymore that this is a disease, more like bad behaviour and absolute selfishness. I am there to support my mum at the drop of a hat, we speak daily and i go and stay with her when things are bad.

So, i can't really say what you should do, as every circumstance is different, but it sounds to me like you could benefit enormously from distancing yourself and not letting your mums addiction interfere with your life on a daily basis. Concentrate on your children, not your mum. Gosh it sounds harsh, but you know you will feel better if you do. And as for guilt, i always say that i am making this choice as a consequence of the CHOICE my sister is also making. Somehow the guilt subsides a bit then....

(I will perhaps get shot down in flames for saying that adiction is a choice and not a disease, but hey, its just my opinion)

Its awful isn't it, living with an alcoholic in the family. I feel for you i really do. People who haven't had this experience don't understand properly. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Chin up and Big hugs to you. xxx

escape Tue 29-Sep-09 13:30:32

I could have written all your posts ladies - My Mum is the same , and very similar to so many of your stories in particular BB. I don't have time to post a massive response, just marking my place and letting you know you are not alone.

JeminTheDungeon Tue 29-Sep-09 13:31:02

Biggus-I think you have shown how difficult it is for people involved with an active alcoholic and how the impact it has on you all is far-reaching,awful and enormous.

You have every right to your feelings, noone would surely argue against that.

MovingOutOfBlighty Tue 29-Sep-09 13:37:46

IKWYM Biggus. It is so hard after a while to go with the Alcholism Is A Diease theory when so much of it seems so wilfull.

BigusBumus Tue 29-Sep-09 13:38:37

Jemin you've just made me cry. Funny how although I can act all feisty and "I don't care about it anymore", one nice thing said by a stranger and the tears all spring up.

wilkos Tue 29-Sep-09 13:39:53

she says she "needs" your love and support

well, what is it that YOU need? as a mother of three young children you need love and support too!

why don't you tell her what you need? see what she comes up with when posed with that problem

btw biggus I totally agree with you, its not a disease, alcoholism is a lifestyle choice

so shoot me

Lemonylemon Tue 29-Sep-09 13:45:31

I lived with an alcoholic for 2 years. Being pretty trusting and naive, it didn't register for a long time. I kept thinking that "something wasn't right" and eventually had so many signals that the light bulb eventually came on.

I tried Al-Anon, getting him to get back to our local AA or such other group (which he says he did, but I very much doubt). I've rowed with him, discussed it all with him, but nothing ever changed. It got to the stage where he was collecting his daughter from school while drunk. He even had my son in the car and drove while he was drunk.

After it got to this stage and I found out what had been going on with the drink/driving, I took a day off work, got the locks changed first thing in the morning, packed all his belongings in black bin liners and took them round his Dad's house.

Luckily the house was mine in the first place, so I didn't have any problems with that. My first thought was that I couldn't bring my son up with such utter chaos and put him in danger.

dinster Tue 29-Sep-09 13:47:31

Please, please, magnummum, however you try to cope with this, don't feel guilty. As you say, you have done all you can - it sounds like you've done more than could possibly be expected, as I think many loving children of alcoholic parents do.

Whether or not your DM manages to beat her alcoholism isn't, I think, going to be related to what you do. I completely understand the feeling that how you handle things could make a difference but, ime, it can only be down to the individual in the end. (I've sadly learnt that love isn't always enough...)

You have shown and demonstrated your love and support clearly: put yourself and your dc first now. Again, this is only in my experience and I know dealing with alcoholics is different for everyone, but I think it can be torture to watch and be with - a relentlessly painful but weirdly repetitive form of emotionally exhausting torture. If you're out of patience at the moment, go with that and turn some of the kindness you've given your DM back to yourself.

I hope that doesn't sound bossy - apologies if so, it isn't meant to!

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 29-Sep-09 14:23:51

Hard as it is you need to walk away from your DM and leave her to it. For your own sanity you need to walk away. She has chosen the life of drink yet again over you all; her primary relationship is with drink and will likely remain thus.

There are no guarantees here; your DM could reach rock bottom and she may still choose to drink.

Enabling her as other people have done has done no good at all; its actually made her worse because she has been sheltered from seeing the consequences of her actions. She is still being enabled by this alcohol counsellor she supposedly sees and she is being very unfair towards you. It seems to me that your DM is not really wanting to address her problem at all but still is happily in denial of the whole situation.

Stop feeling bloody guilty as well - that will do you no good!!!. Guilt is a useless emotion. You think she feels guilty - well no is the answer to that question. Alcoholics are truly the most selfish individuals.

Concentrate instead on your own self and your children, give them a good life and keep speaking to Al-anon. You are truly NOT, repeat NOT responsible for this individual; only your own self and your children. Al-anon also do good pamphlets; one I would recommend you read if you have not done so is the one about the "merry go around" that is alcoholism and how family members around the alcoholic get affected.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 29-Sep-09 14:25:35

You need to remember this too re alcoholism, these are the 3cs:-

You did not cause it
You cannot control it
You cannot cure it

BigusBumus Tue 29-Sep-09 14:36:08

Yes the leaflet "Alcoholism is a Merry Go Round named Denial" is great. You get given it on the first visit to Al Anon. It helped me enormously.

2rebecca Tue 29-Sep-09 15:08:56

She has to accept responsibility for her drinking and want to stop. Sounds like you've given her lots of support. I would minimise the damage her drinking has on you and your kids by limiting contact until she chooses to remain sober. You can't support someone to become sober, she has to want to do it herself. Once she is sober and has stopped drinking I'd visit her, invite her round etc.
She is supposed to be the mother here. You have your own kids to mother.
I would step back and let her decide whether or not you are important enough to her for her to stop drinking to see you and your kids.
Alcoholics whilst they are drinking are selfish and destructive.

Snorbs Tue 29-Sep-09 15:21:28

I'll come back to this later for a longer ramble but, in short, I just wanted to say that your mother's alcoholism is her responsibility to deal with.

Also, many alcoholics will lie through their teeth about anything and everything - including lying to counsellors, and lying about what counsellors have told them - if it helps protect their "right" to get pissed whenever they want to.

I spent a lot of time on a forum dedicated to alcoholism. I don't recall any recovered alcoholics there ever saying "You know, I sobered up because I suddenly got loads more support." The story was almost always "I sobered up when I had already lost so much from my life and I was terrified of losing any more."

BigusBumus Tue 29-Sep-09 16:13:16

Snorbs, you are so right. I also spent a lot of time on an alcohol site (was it the same as you? BE?)Anyway, i had issues with guilt when i myself ever drank too much (regular normal drinking though) and needed to disconnect with my constant thoughts of alcoholism, due to my sisters problems.

Its funny how most of the alcoholics on there were really quick and keen to label me an alcoholic too (as i drink a glass or 2 of wine most nights shock wink),almost gleefully in fact! They also, almost without exception, never said anything about the guilt or shame they felt for what they had put their loved ones through. It was mostly self-pitying, accusatory stuff, and in the end i stopped visiting the site.

I realise i have gone a bit off topic here... sorry. Its such an emotive subject to me. I do hope Magnummm, that you are finding what people are writing useful. x

JeminTheDungeon Tue 29-Sep-09 17:17:54

Agree with Snorbs too.

Active alcoholics will lie through their teeth, about anything...

The way alcoholics in recovery speak is very different..very honest and humbling...but that is people in RECOVERY.

I know your mum isn't in you are dealing with all the awful shite that alcoholism brings with it.

Agree with the other posters about looking after yourself and your kids first and foremost.

JeminTheDungeon Tue 29-Sep-09 17:18:44

Bigus- yeah you will always get people sating things like that- ignore 'em.

magnummum Tue 29-Sep-09 17:33:47

Thanks everyone for the posts so far - they have been really helpful - I've obviously hit a nerve. I don't really want to get into having a go at alcoholics as any of us in this situation will know enough about their behaviour to last a lifetime (though, self centred, manipulative, self absobed - actually any word beginnning with self are all words that spring to mind). Anyway, we could I'm sure all fill several threads about their behaviour but I'm more keen to know how others protect themselves from it.

I know I have to distance myself, set boundaries etc but knowing something intellectually and doing it emotionally are quite different and I'm grateful for the practical examples of how people have managed it.

As I mentioned in original post I have regularly attended Al anon (not since babies born) but off to open meeting tomorrow as topic is "Adult children"

Spent an hour on the phone earlier to the alcohol counselling service she's now going to to find out what their approach actually is (as opposed to the edited version), so that has been helpful.

Thanks everyone it's nice to not feel alone though also as ever quite sad that so many people are going through this.

BigusBumus Tue 29-Sep-09 18:11:38

I thought i might just share this as its kind of relevent. I just got off the phone from my mum. She has just had a drunken call from my sister who is supposed to be on Day 2 of a supervised at-home detox. (not in a clinic this time after all). So she is drinking again, whilst taking the detox meds - so dangerous! She obv doesn't want to stop drinking and my mum was crying on the phone and saying "what do i do now?".

For the first time EVER, my mum has agreed to try a new approach. She has sent both my siser and her boyfriend texts to say that she has had enough, she can't try and sort her life out for her anymore, when its so obviously coming to nothing. She has taken the sim card out of her mobile and given it to her friend and neighbour for safe keeping, taken the answerphone off and will not answer the home phone if it's either of them. She is very worried that she (my sister) might die, but i managed to persaude her that she knows what she is doing and hasn't died so far, just got everyone to dance to her tune. Its a gamble, but my mum said she felt EMPOWERED by her descision rather than guilty. (Even if its just temporary, for a week or 2).

And this is all because i told her all about this thread on MN. So thank you, you have helped my mum.

So, Magnummum, theres an example of the Tough Love approach that you might want to try, or maybe something less harsh like halving the amount you see her / take her calls, to start with?

Apologies for any "alcoholic bashing" before. I felt thats all they did at Al Anon too, which wasn't helpful to me. I do think people like to reafirm what they think of alcoholic behaviour and seek approval for those thoughts though, as a way to make themseoves feel better, me included.

Goodness, i go on a bit don't i? x

FredaMare Tue 29-Sep-09 18:23:17

I can't really help you with any practical advice on how to deal with your DM. Or indeed add anything to what others have said. My dad was the alcoholic in my family. We went though cycles of sobriety and waking up in the gutter scenarios. He was an all or nothing kind of guy. In my situation I found that the only way I could deal with it was not see him. He knew it was the drink that was keeping me away, but I couldn't stand to see what he was doing to himself. Do what is right for you and your family. You can't help them until they acknowledge their problem/illness/whatever you want to call it and want to contribute to getting better themselves.

dinster Tue 29-Sep-09 18:55:37

Glad you're feeling a bit less alone, magnummum.

In practical terms, I tried not to get involved in any drunken phone calls. Not always easy and I would feel bad about ending calls but would explain clearly why, say goodbye and hang up. Would usually call back the next morning in hope of a sober chat - not that that often worked out.
Did occasional bits of shopping and helping out so as to feel I was doing something but tbh I just kept away much of the time.

Emotionally I think I gave up and accepted that things weren't going to change and that helped me to stop being disappointed when they didn't. Although that is sad in itself and maybe a bit defeatist, it made things more manageable and helped me to feel more pity than anger. Sort of.

MovingOutOfBlighty Tue 29-Sep-09 19:19:52

Bigusbumus(gosh it feels a bit wierd saying something supportive and huggy after calling you that!) I hope your mum is OK. I can't imagine what she must feel like. If my dd when that way one day...sad

And magnumum keep us up to date with how it is with your mum. As I said, after many months of very superficial contact and her screwing up my brothers wedding she seems to be out the other end. It is like I have my mum back again. She is a witty, loving caring woman again as oposed to a self deluded woman trying desperately to hold it together. I think her wake up call was realising that her grandchildren were becoming relative strangers.
One day I'm sure this could happen for you. But it is for her to decide when that time comes and not you.

Join the discussion

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

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: