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Mother a slave to drunken brother

answered 05:07 PM EST, Mon January 14, 2013
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I'm hoping you can help me.

My 52-year-old brother is an alcoholic who lives with my 80-year-old mother. He has been an alcoholic for years, with a few sober moments in between. My father passed 2-1/2 years ago, and my brother has pretty much been drunk ever since. He is destroying my mom, her house, etc. I have BEGGED my mother to throw him out, but she refuses. I think she has convinced herself that she can "save" him. Yet, I think the ony chance he has is to suffer the consequences of his drinking. I live one mile away, and feel totally helpless. My mother isn't interested in being educated about alcoholism. She still thinks he will one day wake up and quit drinking simply because she has asked him to!!! The entire situation makes me sick to my stomach. He passes out in the garage, and my mother works for hours to drag him back into the house. He sits in a chair and pees himself, and my mother works to get him into his bedroom, then goes about cleaning everything up behind him.

I am looking for information on how I can learn to cope with and/or accept this situation. I worry about both of them constantly. I can see sadness and sorrow all over my mother, but cannot get her to toss him out. At this point, I have nothing but contempt for my brother, especially when I see what he is doing to her and how he speaks to her.

Please point me in the right direction.

Dr. Ari Hahn Says...

Dr. Ari Hahn A. Hahn

I really feel sorry for you. But it seems like you have a situation which is way beyond your control. I certainly understand how you feel totally helpless. In a sense, you probably are. It sounds like your mother has been a very dedicated and caring person all of her life. If your brother moved in after your father passed away and has been totally dependent on his 80-year-old mother for the past 2 1/2 years, he must've known that he would be taken care of. Your mother and your brother are adults making decisions for themselves. Although I hesitate to say that they're making "conscious decisions", they are still decisions made by adults. I might guess that on some unconscious level your mother feel a sense of satisfaction that she is able to help and care for her son, especially after she no longer has a husband to take care of. (Even if she wasn't actively or intensively caring for her husband.)

However, I don't think you should be left out of the picture. I don't think you are able to change the situation, but I think you can be a great help. If the situation, on some unhealthy level, helps your mother feel like she is contributing to her family and is serving a purpose you will not be able to change this symbiotic relationship. But you certainly can help your mother. I don't think it would be useful to help her care for your brother but you could help her in other ways. Taking her out for lunch and refuse to talk about your brother. Treating her to a massage. Or some other activity that could take her mind off her troubles and for a few minutes give her some relief. Concentrate on being the supplier positivity to this situation. If you can't fix it, at least you can make it a little bit easier on your mother.

There is one big danger of the situation. I hope your mother lives a long and healthy life. It is natural for children to survive their parents. Your brother will be used to being completely cared for. There's a good chance that he will turn to you. That, of course, would not be healthy for anyone. Unless you want to take care of him, I would make it very clear in words and actions that such a situation will never be an option. It sounds like you're doing that already, but it's still important to mention.

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Page last updated Jan 14, 2013

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