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My parents are enabling my alcoholic brother.

answered 01:41 PM EST, Sun March 25, 2012
anonymous anonymous
How can I convince my parents to stop enabling my brother? He is an alcoholic and he has never really had a job that he can stick with for longer than a few months. He is in his 30s now but he still acts like a child and relies on my parents for everything. They still pay the rent on his apartment so any money he makes he can pretty much just spend it all on alcohol, but even with that he still managed to get evicted for taking that rent money for a couple of months and pouring it down his throat. He was the life of the party in his teens and early 20s, but now all his friends have moved on and he just stays at home alone and drinks by himself.

My parents just can’t bear to see him face the consequences of what he’s doing to himself. But how is he ever going to stop when he has this easy life, and my parents are also getting older. What’s going to happen to him when he’s in his 40s and all of a sudden there is no one around to take care of his every need. They need to stop treating him like a child and he needs to man up and start taking care of his own self. He is smart and big and strong and there is no reason why he can’t take care of himself. I am so frustrated because I have worked so hard on him to try to get him to take some responsibility for himself and to try to get him to drink less but I feel like my efforts are just so totally undermined by my parents so it’s just all a waste of time.

Dr. Ari Hahn Says...

Dr. Ari Hahn A. Hahn

I think you are right on the money with your assessment and your feelings of frustration. It is virtually impossible for you to help your brother if his parents are enabling and are co-dependents.

You need to focus your attention on educating your parents. Commiserate and empathize with their pain of seeing their child in such bad shape. Bond with them around the tragedy that is your brother's life. Then begin to help them see that they need to learn more about the process of what happens in an alcoholic family and what is the tragedy of codependency. 

May I suggest that you start to look into the educational programs of the residential programs featured on this site. Some have policies that when a patient is admitted to their program there is a no-contact rule that allows for the patient to begin to break contact with the enabling family members. I do not believe that it is possible for loving parents who have a lifetime of caring and enabling behind them to change their ways without a strong outside structure.

These residential programs are very expensive. While that often makes them a "last chance option" it also helps the codependent family to put the effort into changing their destructive habits. When people spend $50,000+ to help their son, they want to do everything they can for the project to succeed. Most of these programs include a family support program. When you do your research start by explaining the problem and hear and compare and learn where you can get your parents to learn about ways to help your brother.

I highly recommend a residential treatment center for your brother because it is the only way that he will be cut off from his parent for a long enough period of time to have any effect at all. It is both him and your parents that need to change. If such a program is out of the question you need to focus on educating your parents. Again, that can be done by joining in their pain and commiserating and wondering how they have the strength to keep up with your brother and keep on suffering by seeing his ruined life. 

I wish you a lot of luck and success with this difficult project. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you want to consult or coaching during the process.

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Page last updated Jul 22, 2012

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