How to Help an Alcoholic Sibling Who Doesn’t Want to Be Helped

Your sibling’s struggles with alcoholism leave you feeling lost, helpless, and afraid for the future of your family. These six ways to help an alcoholic brother or sister are inspired by a book called Sober Siblings, and they may give you insight into your sibling’s drinking problem.

If you’re struggling to decide what behaviors to accept from an alcoholic sibling, read Sober Siblings: How to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister – and Not Lose Yourself. It’s the first book geared towards helping siblings of alcoholics, and is written by the sober sister of two alcoholic brothers. Also offering expert advice is Petros Levounis, M.D., the director of The Addiction Institute of New York and chief of addiction psychology at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals in New York City. Sober Siblings is a good practical guide for brothers and sisters of alcoholics.

There are no easy ways, quick tips, or fast solutions for coping with a brother or sister who has a drinking problem. Alcoholism is a serious, destructive disease that can’t be overcome with a few strategies or psychological coping mechanisms. The sad truth is that love isn’t even enough to solve your sibling’s problem with alcohol. That’s the bad news. But wait, there’s always good news! Let’s see what we can find…

When you want to help your alcoholic sibling, you must set your boundaries and stick to them. At the end of this article, I link to a fantastic book called Boundaries. You’ll love that book – especially if you tend to be the black sheep in your family.

“Maturity involves being honest and true to oneself, making decisions based on a conscious internal process, assuming responsibility for one’s decision, having healthy relationships with others and developing one’s own true gifts,” writes psychologist Mary Pipher in Reviving Ophelia. “It involves thinking about one’s environment and deciding what one will and won’t accept.”

Maturity – especially when you need to learn how to help an alcoholic brother or sister – involves being realistic about what you can and can’t do about the drinking problem. This is part of setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with all your family members, not just your sibling.

The reality is you can’t help a sibling with alcoholism if he or she doesn’t want to be helped. But, you can help yourself cope with an alcoholic in the family, with these tips…

6 Ways to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister

Take time to grieve the loss of your brother or sister. Your childhood sibling is lost, and will never be the same. Either will you or your family. It’s important to grieve this loss, for it is deep, painful, and real.

Every sibling and family is different, even though the thought patterns and behaviors of alcoholics may be the same. These general tips for helping a brother or sister who has a drinking problem can apply to most families. If your sibling tends to drink more during the holidays, read Family Fights at Christmas – Tips for De-Escalating Conflict.

1. Learn about your sibling’s perception of alcoholism

The more you understand about alcoholism and the way an alcoholic thinks about his or her disease, the better able you’ll be to help with the treatment process. And, the more open you are about your family history and interactions, the better. Your brother may not consider himself an alcoholic. Your sister may refuse to admit she has a drinking problem. And if there’s no problem, what’s all the fuss about?

Whether or not your sibling admits to being an alcoholic, talk to a counselor, or someone who understands alcoholism, about the dynamics in your family – not just your brother or sister’s alcoholism. This will help you understand your family, and help give you direction. “Whatever the reason your brother or sister became alcoholic, it’s helpful for a counselor to hear about your family dynamics in order to know what direction to take,” writes Dr Levounis in Sober Siblings.

2. Accept your personality differences

Personality issues always arise in families, often unrelated to the disease of alcoholism. Take time to untangle your own personality conflicts from the actual drinking problem. This can get complicated, especially when personality differences are extreme, long-lasting, and exacerbated by alcohol.

Separating your personality differences from the serious issues that affect your alcoholic sibling may be part of the healing process for both of you. If you’re dealing with a mom or dad who is trying to control you and your brother or sister, read articles about coping with controlling parents.

3. Recognize if you are enabling your alcoholic brother or sister

“Enabling” is allowing your alcoholic brother or sister to keep drinking. Married and romantic couples sometimes fall into this trap, which is why I wrote How to Live With and Love Your Alcoholic Boyfriend. But, siblings can enable each other in unhealthy ways, too.

Enabling an alcoholic includes covering up, providing alibis, minimizing the addiction, attempting to take control by getting rid of the alcohol, and removing consequences (such as bailing him or her out of jail, or lending money). Sometimes people have a deep-seated need to keep an alcoholic brother or sister in the role of being needy and helpless. Family dynamics are confusing and complex, which is why therapists are helpful. Especially when you’re trying to help an alcoholic brother or sister; counselors can see issues that aren’t always obvious to people.

4. Consider ways to change your response to your sibling

To stop enabling your brother or sister’s alcohol problem, you need to recognize what you’re doing.

How to Cope With an Alcoholic Brother or Sister Who Doesn't Want Help blog

6 Ways to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister

“You have to realize that it not only doesn’t help your brother or sister but actually allows – even helps – him or her to continue drinking,” write Olsen and Levounis in Sober Siblings. “Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line. No one’s perfect, and things are not always black and white. Allow yourself a few gray areas, for your own sanity.”

Relationships – especially where addiction is concerned – are difficult. You’ll make mistakes, even when your heart is in the right place. All you want to do is help your sister or brother heal from the disease of alcoholism…and sometimes your attempts to help backfire. It’s hard.

5. Learn about alcoholism treatment options

You can’t help an alcoholic sibling by forcing him or her to get treatment, but you can be well-informed about treatment options for drinking problems. Learn about the addiction treatment centers in your area. Ask what resources and support they provide for families and siblings of alcoholics.

The more information you have, the more you’ll understand how alcoholism affects families, brothers, and sisters. You may not find all the answers – or be able to use all the services, solutions and resources for alcoholic families that you find – but at least you’ll know what’s possible. Take heart, have hope, and know that your family will come through this.

6. Accept that relapse is part of the process

“It’s natural to have hope for your brother or sister, but don’t be disappointed if she stops drinking and then starts again,” write Olsen and Levounis in Sober Siblings. “Relapse is not a sign of failure or weakness; it’s part of the disease, and often more than one stay in rehab is necessary if the person is to be successful.”

How to Help an Alcoholic Brother or SisterHere’s an excellent book that will help you figure out how to help an alcoholic sister or brother cope with drinking without losing yourself: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

If you have any thoughts on how to help an alcoholic brother or sister, please comment below. I can’t offer advice, but it may help you to share your experience. And of course, take time to visit the local Al-Alanon chapters and meetings in your area! The more support you gather, the better.

For more ideas for supporting a family member with alcoholism, read How to Help an Alcoholic Husband.

May your family find hope, healing, and peace. Alcohol and drug addictions are difficult diseases to deal with – often very confusing and destructive for everyone. Your brother or sister’s drinking problem is sad, and I’m sorry your family is experiencing this. Take time to grieve the loss of the brother or sister you knew, of the past you shared.

Take good care of yourself, for you are worth taking good care of.


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88 thoughts on “How to Help an Alcoholic Sibling Who Doesn’t Want to Be Helped”

  1. My whole family is alcoholic. I just realized this myself a few years ago when I finally admitted than I too am one.

    My sister is the one I worry about the most. She drinks vodka everyday. Just last weekend she drank so much she threw up all over herself and her room.

    An hour after she woke up she started drinking again. Her face is red and puffy. She’s only 30.

    I’m very newly sober myself and I know I can’t take on her problem too but this is all just killing my soul. Every time I’m around my family they binge drink. It’s just the way it’s been for 10 years now. What do I do? Not hang around them anymore? I feel like an enabler at this point.

  2. An important aspect of recovery that can help combat depression is to develop new hobbies. After all, if drinking consumed a lot of time in the past, they will need new activities to stay busy! Finding something healthy that your sibling enjoys is crucial. Try to participate in it with her, so she has accountability and companionship. Encourage her to notice even small changes – and do it yourself! Help her see how she is growing and healing. You should mind the language you use, and take good care of your own mental and physical well-being. These things might sound very general but when you look closely they matter in each step of the journey. These are crazy times especially with covid and coronavirus. Makes it harder to overcome alcoholism when you can’t be with others.

  3. Hi.
    I have a sister who went through trauma with past relationships with men. Without going into details, i have allowed her to continue to drink at my place while ase is staying with me. She does help with food for the house but does not pay rent or anything else. I told her to get back on her feet first then help out financially. I think that it was a mistake on my part to allow this. Finally, last night, after switching from beer to hard liquor, she drank until she couldn’t stand up much less walk.
    This morning i told her what i saw and she said she is trying to work through her problem by “trying different ways” to consume less alcohol.
    She fired back by saying i had bad habits and to back off. I told her maybe she should leave to deal with it.
    It has affected my life be keeping myself holed uo in my own home as i am tired of hearing the same thing over and over about her life. Keeps talking about her past relationships and how she hangs on to one person after he has moved on.
    Did i do the right thing by saying, “You need to deal with this as I’m done having you drink yourself in a stupor”?
    Ive tried to talk to her in a compassionate tone but that doesn’t help. Now, when push comes to shove, the only thing i can think of is to force her to see what she’s doing.
    Any advice is greatly appreciated.

  4. Yes, dealing with a sibling/ siblings who are raging alcoholics is very difficult. I have found comfort with Alanon 12 step-work.
    Recently, J gave one of my siblings a hug , told them I was sorry for being so angry with her because of her behaviour before , during and after our mom’s funeral.
    I said to her when need to talk and communicate sometime down the road. 2 days later she sent me a text and said she wishes me and my spouse the best in life and take care. I was not at all surprised by her text and how callous her behaviour was since this is her mode of operations. She’ll cut you out of her will because she doesn’t allow any form of communication to get in the way of her alcoholic behaviour and drinking. I have learned that I need to follow my heart and just keep her in my prayers. Hopefully, she will eventually get help before her body stops working from this disease. She is way too toxic to have around and I never answer her texts because when she texts it usually when she has been drinking for awhile. It very passive aggressive behaviour that she exhibits while drinking. Shameful behaviour and hurtful thoughtless words are texted. That’s it with my story. It saddens me but this is the nature and progression of the disease of alcoholism.

  5. I have an alcoholic brother who lost his leg due to a drunk driver (our younger brother), and since that point in time has eroded his marriage, was kicked out of his home last year, came to stay with me but had done nothing to improve his life. Depression and alcoholism rule his life. I have a rule of no alcohol but he sneaks it, I catch him, we discuss, he straightens up, and then another day in the same routine. A year of this and no positive results. Just went through another round of one oh his binges where he disrespects me and my husband. I told him to leave but he stays holed up in his room. It’s hopeless!!! I seek advice.

  6. My sister is nearing middle age and has been doing the drinking/self-medicating destruction for nearly 20 years, now…possibly longer. Our parents are both gone, now, and our brother’s in CA, with a new wife. So, it’s just us, now, in our parents’ home. I am afraid for her health; past attempts to keep to AA and counseling have not worked. There have been past incidences of physical violence, but not in the last 4 years; one of those incidences, though, put her in jail for over 6 months; we were told that the next arrest would mean at least a year in prison…I don’t think her body would hold up that long, without “something” to help her. She was out of it, at Easter & there were 2 instances when I thought we would have to call the fire department for courtesy lifts, as I could not help her off of the floor. I try to be positive–or, at least neutral–loving and supportive; these ellicit positive verbal responses, at least, but I think the chemical levels are now completely controlling her every outlook. Sis claims it’s her ADHD that’s the problem & the fact that her insurance won’t allow medication for this…so, AA/counseling is off the table. I’ve gone through Al-Anon before & it was not the best fit for me, and I wouldn’t be reconsidering it, now, but, I feel I should get counseling for myself. I’m still not out of the grieving zone for our parents & suspect that some of sis’ grieving is bleeding out through the self-medication, too; ideas on how I can get her to come along with me? I’m told I’m always the strong one–even though I don’t ever see/feel it, that way–so when I get help, people always think it’s an act…I only wish it could be. Thank you for listening.

  7. My brother is 45. He has been drinking for years. The last few years had gotten worse. His roommates have large padlocks on their doors because he steals for his habit. Now they want him out and he has no where to go. My husband will not let him stay in our house for the same reason. I love him so much I’m actually crying as I type this. He wants help he claims but doesn’t have health insurance. I have been doing the leg work searching for resources. He is now in the hospital in the “restricted ER” because he walked to the nearest liquor store and fell by a ravine with steep hills. His excuse nobody liked him. I called the police and they took him to the hospital. I’m praying they send him somewhere and not let him go. I feel so helpless that I can’t eat, sleep or concentrate at work. If something happens to him I will never be the same.

    1. My heart breaks for you. Against all odds, my brother is surviving, battling for his sobriety (often losing that battle). I don’t know if this will help, but I managed to find some peace (and sleep) when I finally convinced myself that I can only help him by being there when he wants help, and letting him make his own decisions about his life.
      It’s so hard to watch someone you love me be destroy themselves. All we can do is look be them.
      Wishing you peace.

  8. My sister is a alcoholic. She’s 42. She started drinking when her and her ex was going through a bad patch. She was left at home on her own with her 3 kids while he went out partying and doing drugs. They split up and she carried on drinking. He then had the 3 kids taken off her by social services and they now live with him. She carried on drinking but eventually sorted herself out and stopped.
    She met some bloke via facebook and eventually had 2 kids with him. The drinking started again. She became violent to her partner and he was violent as well. He eventually walked out with the 2 kids about 6 months ago. Since then she’s constantly drinking. I’ve asked her how much she drinks a day and it’s about 8 bottles of wine a day. She rings me and abuses me down the phone and it breaks my heart because I hate it but I answer the phone knowing I’ll get abused but I just want to know she’s alive.
    Is there any advice anyone can give me on how to help her? I just want to send her to rehab myself but she doesn’t think she has a problem. The rest of the family have already washed their hands with her. I’m the only person she has left

  9. My mom past away and left me the younger daughter responsible to take care of my brother and nephew whom has no mother or father.
    I’m doing my best as I have my own two kids with no husband and left to take care of two homes.
    My brother is an alcoholic and steals things from the home to maintain his drinking habit and fails to work.
    I’m a Christian working woman whom is looking for words of wisdom and help

  10. This is the most helpful thing I have found on the internet in the 5+ years I have been trying to help my brother. It helps me to read stories that sound so much like my own. Thank you to everyone who shares their stories here so others (like me) can feel a little less alone.
    Now I feel like I should share a little, to add to the conversation…
    My brother is 59. After years of “high functioning” alcoholism, he couldn’t hold it together any more. His marriage ended, he lost his job, friends, his daughter. He and I were not close growing up or until his life started to fall apart (before they split, his wife emailed me, my sister and my two brothers pleading for help – I’m the one who responded). He’s been to 4 rehabs. The longest he’s stayed sober is about 4 months. He’s in a spiral now and I am preparing myself for the worst – but terrified of the prospect that it could take YEARS for this to play out (despite heavy drinking for decades, he’s relatively healthy).I love him dearly and we have grown very close. This is much harder to cope with than the deaths of my parents.

  11. Hi I have a brother who is an alcholic for most of his life he is 47 years old, he lives in another state and he pretty much drinks every day until he passes out. He been drinking more as he gets older and says he is lonely and bored thats why he does it, when he stops for a day or two (only because he has no money ) He aways ringing me nonstop saying he really not well or feeling very depressed, I get really concerned and anxious and thinking is he in real trouble, he does this on average about two to three times a week, I feel he cries wolf and I don’t know when to help him? Im feeling really overwhelmed the other siblings just ignore him when he cries wolf but Im a softie and like to help when I can. He lost every one in the family and also his two grown children. I was wondering if I enable him or should I just ignore him and maybe he will hit rock bottom and help himself. He been to heaps of doctors and councillors but wont take the step to recovery. I feel that someday soon we get a phone call saying he’s dead. ? cheers Tracey A

    1. I totally know what your going through you dont know what to do to help and theres little help out there on how to help an alcoholic brother or sister. :(

  12. My brother is 70. He has always had a drink problem but has only in the last month called himself an alcoholic We were always close.But as we grew up and he was divorced and returned to live with Mum and Dad, whilst I went to live in Australia and married and had my own family our relationship changed. I encouraged Mum and Dad to come to Australia unaware how sick Dad was. My brother wanted to come as well so we sponsored him. It did not work well. He stayed at home to care for my parents and I visited to always receive the guilt and abuse for many years. I realise now that Mum was looking after her alcoholic son. He now lives down the road from me and I visit him every week. If I visit in the afternoon it is a disaster and the same old abuse returns. I’ve suggested rehab and receive abuse. It upsets me and colours my days and nights because I still love my brother and feel disloyal on the occasions when he is sober. He has managed to stop smoking so I still have the hope he will quit the booze but presently he says “I am busy dying”.
    I don’t know what to do other than cry.

  13. Dear VG,

    It sounds like you care about your brother so much, and his alcoholism is devastating for you. You love him dearly, and it breaks your heart to see his drinking affect his life in such negative ways. You are a kind, loving sister! I’m sorry your family has to go through the pain of watching your brother spiral into alcoholism.

    I encourage you to get yourself emotionally and spiritually healthy. You have to let your brother live his life, and you have to live yours. You can’t let his choices affect your emotions and daily life in such an extreme manner! You need to set healthy boundaries, and free yourself from the emotional grip your brother has on you. I know he doesn’t intend to hold you down or make you feel bad. You’re letting his lifestyle and choices ruin your own life. This is really sad — because it means he’s wrecking not only his life, but yours too.

    Go to Alanon meetings, and get support from other people with alcoholic brothers and sisters. Read the Sober Siblings book. Learn how to set healthy boundaries in your life, and how to love your brother without letting his alcoholism ruin your life.

  14. I am dealing with exactly the same problem. My younger brother is an alcoholic. He went to rehab and was sober for 5 years. Now he relapsed and our family is devastated. He doesn’t accept the fact that he is sick and needs help. He is a veterinarian, has his own clinic but he can’t keep up working because he is late all the time he is loosing his clients, I feel so hopeless and heartbroken… I don’t know what to do…

    My brother is in total denial about his alcoholism. I cry all day long, try to call him everyday but he doesn’t answer… I live in another city, have my family but is really hard to do my things and focus in my family because I can’t stop thinking about him…

    If you have some experience about how to help an alcoholic brother, I would appreciate so much… Thank you!

  15. The best way to help any loved one who has problems with alcohol/drugs is to go to Al Anon/Alateen. By learning how to take real care of yourself you will stop obsessing about what they are doing & getting yourself frustrated (expecting the same behavior to get different results) & you can let them experience their consequences (which may or may not help them hit a bottom so they can find help), and give an example of healthy behavior. Alateen is for 12-20, Preteen 6-12.

  16. Thank you for this post! It looks as if it is helping people, even long after its been published. I just got off the phone with my alcoholic brother. I am feeling the stress and sickness in my stomach that usually happens after all our conversations. My brother has been able to find and keep a job for the first time in his life. (At 33 years old) That sounds like an improvement but his behavior has not changed. (He continues to drink and will not admit to being an alcoholic) He still only calls me when he needs something. He still expects me to do what ever he requests. He acts like he is owed the world and gets very offended when he is told no, which is always followed by a guilt trip. It surprises me that he calls me at all because I am good at telling him no. I find myself always refusing his requests even if they are realistic. I feel nothing but contempt for him now, which makes me feel bad, but I am sick of his selfishness. I need to find my balance again. I’m looking forward to reading this book!

    1. I completely understand the contempt as I feel the same way about my alcoholic sister. We were the best of friends but she has now been an alcoholic for nearly 10 years, with 3 rehab stays, a DUI, and a suicide attempt. As a family member, you reach a point where it’s time to let go and go back to living your own life. I’m there now and it’s such an incredible relief to leave all of that behind me. Good luck.

  17. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thank you for being here, and sharing your experience with your alcoholic brother or sister. I know your comments will help other siblings deal with alcoholism in the family.

    There is ALWAYS hope! Never lose hope for healing, recovery, and reconnection with your family. You can’t heal the disease or fix the problem, but you can keep your door open and be available if your brother or sister wants to reunite in healthy ways.

    May you experience peace and joy as you move forward, and may you find the best resources for healing and acceptance.


  18. I believe my older sister has turned into a Raging alcoholic in less than a year. She has gone threw some difficult events in the past 20 months. One being my daughter’s unexpected death. A divorce, and her ex mother in law’ death. Also her son was diagnosed with pediatric epilepsy, which the doctor has concluded that his triggers are stress, and both episodes were on days he knew he was going to her house after school. She has totally stopped talking to me and our mom and has moved a few hours away with her alcoholic boyfriend, who has a good job. She before moving has given Both of her kids to their dad’s ( which she had furtlity issues and fought to get them. One is 14 almost 15 and the other just 12) . This alone we can’t believe happened. She feels she don’t have a problem and has others including family around her enabling her. She has lost a lot of weight and is already having sunk in eyes and darkening eyes. We are so worried that she will not stop before my mom and I are left buring her and she’s only 38. Her now ex husband is going for full custody of their son and her daughter wants not to see her as does her son. So she has lost Everything already, we are so scared of loosing her, but remain helpless because she isn’t hurting others or herself to a legal standard. I’m so stressed that I have made a doctor’s appointment for meds to help me. Is there any hope left?

  19. Hello even if no one ever reads this, I am going to post to get it out for once and for all! I lost one sister to alcohol 3 years ago. My sibling and I have had a strained relationship for years. They are your typical alcoholics. I am at wits end, both my sibling are alcohol dependent and have decided now after not seeing my parent 1 to 2 times a year to become part of her life again……sounds wonderful doesn’t it… My father passed away last month after a short hospice (11 days). My father took care of my mother who has dementia. Now I am here with my mom most of the time however now I am having to put up with my drunk sister because she thinks she is moving in. I am in between a rock and a hard spot because I have no desire to be roommates with a drunk! I would love to go home but I feel that would be a disaster. Yesterday I returned to work for the first time in 2 months because I thought if she is gonna be here might as well. Let me tell you an alcoholic doesn’t usually make a good babysitter , so I found out yesterday! She took my mother with her to town after drinking a “few beer”, however she didn’t drive her car drunk she drove my parents car! So today there was a Hugh explosion here because I am sick of her giving my mom cigarettes and beer! Her and I had a confrontation today she was screaming and yelling telling my mom that I am in it for money and that I want to keep her car. Now keep in mind my parents have given her not one car but 3 cars over her drunken years. My sister was screaming ” mom keeps telling me …you are making her miserable” making my mom
    miserable( my mother has dementia). She doesn’t remember to bath or eat but she insisted that my mom is miserable! I can’t take this one more moment I can’t eat or sleep I have the stomach pain! she was in my face backed and slapped her chest and said in that voice “bring it on” I am 51 years old she is 47 my son heard it and said I am on my way ! She is gone tonight but what about tomorrow or Monday? I would have called the police but my poor mom
    Sorry this is from my iPad it is hard for me to type a lot on them,

    1. Hope you called someone in authority to help you…I went through something of the same. Sometimes, you just have to do it. I hope all is at peace, now, for you!

  20. To Riya,
    Alcoholics have to hit bottom on their own When you can’t reach them anymore, I think the only solution is to walk away. It really hurts. Sounds like you really care about your brother.
    My problem was my sister’s alcoholism was starting to make me sick. That’s when I walked away. Maybe when an addict feels truly alone do they do something about it, but don’t count on it until it happens. All my sister cared about was booze.
    I’ve now chosen to move forward and have a happy life. You owe that to yourself too!

  21. I have an alcoholic brother. He is very good by nature but every night he comes home drunk which pisses me off. We belong tp a respectable familt in india but he doesnt care about our image in society and ends up drinking and creating nuisance in the streets.. how to deal with him? Im helpless..feel like killing him.

  22. Thank you so much for this information on how to help you alcoholic brother. I am 21 and my brother is 25. I’m loosing myself trying to find the answers to his drinking problem. I will not do it anymore!

  23. Thank you Laurie for your supportive words. I have re-read this site again today, and I believe I was able to focus on your words that I had somehow not caught in the first reading. Since there is nothing we can do to stop my sister from drinking, let her know “we will be there in every way with her recovery.” That takes the weight off my shoulders, also the guilt I put on myself thinking there was more I should or could be doing. I now know that’s not in my power and it frees me from the mental drain.

    Margaret :-)

  24. Wow, what an incredible lady you are. You have a wonderfully deep enriching ancient, wholesome soul.

    Don’t worry, I didn’t take it personally what you wrote.

    After an alcoholic dad who was abusive, I hated him. He died over 20 years ago and just recently I have forgiven him. Clearly he was not able to move on to heaven or hell until then. I held on to my anger for a long time. You’ll be okay with your sister. My opinion is that, like with my sister, I don’t discuss her drinking anymore with her. I talk about ours animals and her animals. She only calls me when she’s been drinking and she’s always crying and saying how much I hurt her. Her complaint is unfounded and I don’t react to what she says. She is a very angry drinker. Her real personality comes out and she can be very spiteful. When she’s sober she’s great. Go figure. I have separated my frustration away from my feelings for her and I am letting her be. Not getting directly involved with her, but I’ll always be her sister. After all, she’s not doing this to me.

    You are such an amazing person, I am convinced that your feelings for your sister won’t be damaged. Looks like we need to remain steadfast with the “care and feeding” of our own families and let our sisters marinate. We only have what’s so. We move on and if it’s supposed to happen our sisters will catch up with us down the road.

    Always good to hear from you.


  25. Hi Margaret…..I read somewhere that alcoholism is the worst disease because of the damage it does to others…especially family. I think what i wrote was directed More at myself because I worry I will “move on” and become indifferent to my sister….Its fear of all the unknowns…this fear plagued me as a child, I now realize… I will seek out this fear and learn how to overcome it. I once read that faith overcomes fear….master faith…master love.. and you automatically master fear. Margaret, it is a soul wretching experience to see what this disease does to people…I apologize for coming across as being indifferent to how you feel. What I wrote is what I strive for…I see that now. I guess I don’ t want to be frustrated, but often I am. I think I should have this disease all figured out and I should be living serenity now…its been a long time since I worried about someone’s drinking…I had forgotten the angst it causes…and turmoil within. I will do what I can to keep the love I have for my sister untainted by this disease. I’ m gonna need help cuz I know the disease tainted the love I had for my parents at times.. I will keep praying for wisdom and the truth I need to see about me. Tracy

  26. Hi laurie…I do know that nothing I ever did or said helped my parents to stop drinking. They both came to the decision because of events that happened because of their drinking. I also know that I did pray for both of them for years, and my prayers were answered. I know the power of prayer, I must remember to be patient….and I have to work on my reactions to this disease…at times my reaction/ feelings come from my childhood when I was afraid. Sometimes I just don’t want to “deal” with this disease anymore, its all so familiar and exasperating! I feel less worried today, and I have been praying for just that. Thanks for reminding me…tracy

  27. My practicum is in an alcohol and drug recovery treatment program, and I’m learning that family can’t do much to help the ones they love. It’s sad, but the alcoholics I’m working with tell me that their family couldn’t do anything to save or help them. Many of the counselors on our team are recovering alcoholics, and they too say that their families tried, but couldn’t do much. The only they they could do is be there if and when the alcoholic hits rock bottom and decides that enough is enough.

    AA is founded on the belief that we are powerless over the alcohol, and we need God or a Higher Power to give us the strength to quit drinking. It seems like you’re not doing enough if you “just” pray for your sister…but maybe prayers are more powerful than you think. When you need to learn how to help an alcoholic brother or sister, sometimes prayer is all you have.

    Prayers, and constantly reminding your sister that you are there for when she needs you to walk alongside her during her recovery.

  28. Hi Tracy,
    Believe me, I feel the same pain you feel. To me there is nothing more frustrating then not being able to help someone from destroying themselves. We are very lucky we didn’t inherit the gene that pushes people over the edge. Seeking AA for support is a wonderful thing. Stay focused on your life and family. That is what I am trying to do. Each day, for me, has it’s ups and downs. I try to call my sister and most days she never answers because she’s usually passed out. God is the only answer. The only answer. I’m trying to move on.

  29. I do need to take care of myself. I have found an Alanon meeting to help me with the sadness I am feeling. I have never felt such intense sadness, and both my parents were alcoholics. I lived the experience your sisters children are living, and so did my sister. 30 years ago we both read the book ” it won’t happen to me ” (we wouldn’t, become alcoholics) and within the last year it has happened to her. I am tired of watching alcohol destroy people I love, but I have learned to hold onto the love I have for them while hating the disease of alcoholism. For me the tragedy of alcoholism is grieving the loss of a loved one while they are still living. I distanced myself from my parents to protect myself, and I got help to work through the anger and resentment I felt. When my parents both chose sobriety I was with them and I thank god for giving me the ability to support them. Last night I had a good cry because I don’ t know if my sister will seek sobriety and I will lose her to the disease. I do know that the love I have always had for her will not be tainted by this disease. I keep praying for her and for me and I thank god it didn’ t happen to me, because it could have…tracy

  30. Hi Tracy,
    I have commented on this site because I have a beloved sister who has put her drinking above the rest of her life. Family spit up, children leaving (staying with friends) and husband clinging on for dear life to keep the business going and hold onto the house. I am no longer going to suffer. I have said “Good bye” to HER. I told her I loved her and that if she drinks herself to death I want to know that I said “goodbye” She didn’t react. You have to get on with your life and not get dragged into this addiction. I’ve come to the realization that this is what she wants, if she decides she’s had enough booze she’ll stop, if not, she’ll die (she’s been hospitalized 3 times with a .32 reading), she had accidentally taken two doses of her blood pressure meds as well as Xanax. She didn’t do it on purpose, she just didn’t remember because she was drunk. Her husband said the only thing left is that she would get stopped for a DUI and put in jail, AND hopefully not because she created an accident where someone else is injured. Basically, our family has learned that with my sister there is nothing we can do to help the addict. It hurts so much, but I refuse to get sucked into her decline. I have let her family know that I will be there for them if they need anything. And, of course, I pray for her everyday and I ask God to take this burden. I makes it so much easier.
    Take care of yourself.

  31. Thanks for your info on alcoholic siblings. I am struggling with my sisters alcoholism in the following way: I am feeling so afraid for her and I worry about what will happen next, and I feel guilt for not speaking with her…my sister is in total denial and would be offended if I spoke up.

    We are both children of alcoholic parents. I took the recovery path years ago, she didn’t see the need, more denial,unfortunately. I think I’m most afraid of something terrible happening to her and I will carry the burden of not doing anything, not speaking up. Yet I know speaking up will not help her,as she will feel shamed. I have read shame is the root of many addictions, and surely I have struggled with the shame of helplessness with my parents in the past. I don’t know what to do and at the same time I know there is nothing I can do, save get help for myself. I am upset that what I learned with my parents isn’t all that I need.

    Its so different when its your sister and your both adults compared to growing up with alcoholics, as a child you don’t know all of the possible consequences and the tragedies of this disease .

    Any insight or direction you can give is so appreciated…I will get book you spoke of for siblings. Thanks for reading …tracy

  32. My sister refuses to go to Alanon meetings and drinks herself into unconsciousness. I had her stay with me for 5 days and she went berserk everyday -and after the first two days of the shakes. She complained that she needed to get back to work. She cried and acted like she was dry-heaving. I now know she was wanting booze. I took her to 2 Alanon meetings, but it was a waste of time. I’ve already told her “goodbye”.

    Her husband has hung in there but after 5 years of this he’s wearing out. I’ve backed away. I am struggling with the notion this is a “disease”. To me it’s a mental illness and lack of character. Sorry, I guess I just don’t understand obsessions.
    I wish everyone well

  33. Dear Elizabeth,

    Thank you for being here – I’m glad to hear from you! It sounds like you were a bit disappointed about how your older sister reacted to you after you got sober and went into a program. It’s difficult to move forward, past those old hurts and relationship complications and problems.

    What do you think you sister needs from you, in order to move on?

  34. I am an alcoholic, went to rehab, jail and while I was going through it, my sisters just ignored me.
    I used to drink with both of them and we all got into battles sometimes, but also had a lot of fun. I can only relate to my older sister as a drinking buddy. She got me started at 14 she was 18. It continued well into our 40’s until I got into trouble. She refuses to acknowledge that I love her and says that the family doesn’t know what to do about my disease. I was sober for 2 years and in that time tried to reach out and be a part of my family. They will always hate me but they continue to drink and don’t invite me to go to family functions. My older sister lives 5 miles away and never even offered to take me anywhere, even when she knew I was sober and in a program

  35. Thank you for sharing your experiences here. You’re not alone in coping with a sibling who is alcoholic, difficult, and frustrating! It’s difficult to know how to respond or what to do, especially when your sister doesn’t accept any responsibility or doesn’t seem to want to change.

    One of the best ways to cope with any type of relationship problem is to figure out your boundaries. Where do your responsibilities end, and were do they begin? I can’t answer that for you, but I am reading an excellent book by Cloud and Townsend. I’ll add it to the body of this article, because it really will help you figure out how to stay healthy and happy, and how to help your sibling at the same time.

    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers! Please come back anytime, and let me know how you’re doing.


  36. This is sooo very difficult.
    My sister is 6 1/2 years older than I. We grew up in what I always believed and still do was a “leave it to Beaver” life. What I did know however, is that my sister, who is the middle child out of a family of four children, always lied.

    She has always had an extreme, urgent need to be the “favorite” She acutually introduces herself to everyone in that way to this day!

    So, according to my family account, she began overeating about the age of 8. She always had to empty every bowl at the table. She continued to overeat and became overweight. That continued through her life. She did crash dieting and it worked temporarily. She hid her smoking addition. I think she actually kicked that.

    Then about three years ago, she concocted a huge lie that because she had a herniated belly button as a child that somehow this damaged her intestines and now had to have a serious gastric bypass. OK we all just go along with these tales. So she had the surgery, became very thin.

    Then the thing happed. My 82 year old mother had a serious heart attack . She had a triple bypass with numerous complications. My siblings and I all took turns at the hospital which was out of town for all of us for SEVERAL months. It has been a terrible road. Mom survived but life is no longer as she knew it. It is not the same for any of us.

    Well I Believe that is when the drinking began. It started about a year ago. Of course she has conjured many wild tales to cover these drinking bouts, but it came to a head when she actually passed out knocking my frail mother to the ground. Mom got herself to a phone and called an ambulance because she thought my sister was having a
    heart attack. Well boy that was dandy considering my sisters son had just begun his first week as a nurse at the hospital that both his mom and grandmother arrived at!!! I got myself there in ahurry. I saw what the reality was, She was drunk off her butt!! Mom had not known about her drinking up to this point. There was no hiding it now! I thought, great, now maybe she can change. Silly me! She basically tried to deny that it was her fault. Went through weeks of apologizing and using moms illness as the reason. Well It only got worse. She cut herself from friendships. Forgot what she told all of us most of the time. No shows for mom. Showed up at moms 83rd birthday hammered and made weird excuses about medications.
    My brother called her on the carpet. It did not go well. UGH!!! It just goes on and on.

    Bottom line, I love her and want her to get a handle on this. I do not know what on earth to do. I DO KNOW she is the only one who can save herself.

    I DO KNOW, she will try, like she has always done, to somehow make this my fault, my brothers fault, and my moms fault. I do not believe it is.

    I have a hard time standing up to her. I always have. She is mean.

    Life is difficult sometimes. I pray for strength today.


  37. My sister has has problems with alcohol for over ten years now. Things reached the worst they ever have around six years ago, when she was regularly brought home in a state by the police, found sleeping under bridges and going missing for days. Things have since then not been as extreme, but I believe this is mainly because my sister is no longer living with my father. He didn’t force her to leave, she wanted to live outside of the family home and always has wanted her own space. She has lived with a number of partners, all now failed relationships, and now lives alone.

    She has never been able to hold down a job, with her current job of 18 months being the longest she has ever held. Her alcoholism has remained a constant problem over the last ten years, with her turning to alcohol to ‘cope’ with her everyday life. She also has recently in last two years been diagnosed with bi-polar and personally disorders. I feel that now this has been diagnosed, instead of facing up to her problems she hides behind her mental illness, using this as an excuse and even explanation of her drinking behaviour. She has a number of friends through a bi-polar meeting group, but I feel these friendships aren’t healthy for her when she is still very vulnerable.

    My father and I have accepted that she will always have her problems and never recover to have no mental difficulties, and will most likely never live her life without dependency on alcohol or the medication she takes daily for her mental illness and related symptoms.

    However, although I claim to have reached acceptance of this, I am still struggling to move on with my life with a alcohol and medication dependent sibling. I feel as though I am expected to continue my relationship with her and offer support, when I have in truth lost all respect and compassion for her. Of course I will always love her as my sister, but I am afraid I will never be at peace with our relationship again in her current state and lifestyle choice.

    I am struggling more than every recently, after believing for a while she has been sober (16 months) and recently discovering she is drinking. This is not the first time she has relapsed, and I can’t be sure she ever stopped drinking at all. I know you are advised to not feel disappointment if your sibling relapses, but how long are you expected to stand by their side, and be supportive to their lifestyle? Often, this feels as if it is at a sacrifice to my own happiness.

    I am not sure what to do anymore.

  38. Dear Debbie,

    I hate to say this, but I don’t think there’s much you can do to help your sister overcome her drinking problem. You can absolutely give her information for Alcoholics Anonymous or other resources you think will help her re-evaluate her life, but you can’t change her behaviour.

    Many people need to hit rock bottom before they can admit they have an alcohol problem. They need to be faced with the ugly reality of how tragic alcoholism can get, before they decide to take control of the disease.

    It may be most effective not to answer the phone when she calls, or hang up when you realize she’s drunk. Follow up a day later to find out how she is, but don’t argue or engage with her when she’s drunk.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this with her. It must be difficult, to see your sister struggle with this addiction.

  39. My sister is 56. She has been abusing herself for many years.In and out of abusive relationships. using different drugs she always snapped out of it .she married an alcoholic and became one herself.the marriage ended after 10 yrs now she keeps relapsing she can’t hold a job for more than a year she hasn’t gone to any family functions at all.She lives in a house that belongs to her friend.She lives in another state.I called her today she was drunk at 10 am.She won’t come clean about her alcohol intake.I told her she was drunk and not to call me. How can I help her its like she needs a babysitter 24/7.Oh and everything is someone else’s fault.

  40. Withdrawal symptoms becomes more severe. This is not a simple job as these facilities require money.

    Remember that alcoholism is, in essence, a Spiritual ‘problem. The estimated cost was 19 times more than the amount collected from taxes on the sale of alcohol. Some of the people accept that this is because conscious concerns and social pressures create a new choice in behavior. If you have a drug or alcohol problem, the first step in rehab is detoxification.

  41. My sister has been over-doing alcohol (mainly wine) for the past 5 years. I remember first noticing it 3 years ago when at her home with a group of friends drinking and having fun. She and I were pretty much drinking the same quantity… it seemed there was a definite point where she just went to another place. That night I ended up literally putting her to bed. I said to her husband, “i’ve never seen her like that”… he commented, “I have; many times”. After that he mentioned to my sister’s best friend and one of our brothers that he was concerned about her drinking. There were other occasions where my sister’s drinking led to embarrassing moments and her not being in any state to take care of herself.

    15 months ago, my sister’s husband passed away suddenly at age 45. She is raising two teenage sons. Her drinking continues and my nephew has told others that he is embarrassed by his mom.

    My sister is a proud woman who will not be easily intervened… I sense she will argue and fight. What are my (and my other siblings) first steps to help my sister? Not only for her sake but for our nephews peace of mind.

    Appreciate any guidance you can give me.

  42. I have a 50 yr old alcoholic brother who is a binge alcoholic. He lives next door to my elderly parents who have been supporting him for most of the last 5 years. Due to real estate crises, he has not made much money as an agent. And he has been in and out of detox and rehab for the last 5 or 6 years, after he had a major seizure at my parent’s house. We were in denial that he had an alcohol problem until the seizure when he was trying to detox himself. My parents were serving him alcohol after he would get sober and be dry for awhile. My parents live in a fantasy world. They have been afraid to not give my brother drinks as they fear my brother will never come over again. I have been the one in the family who has been most involved with my brother in all of his detoxes etc even though I live overseas. Almost every time I have been there for the last 5 years there has been one crisis or another with drinking etc. It is excruciating to be involved with my brother when he detoxes which he often wants to do alone, without medical support.He has deep emotional and psychological problems. He is in total denial over his own situation and I my parents support this by enabling him, financially and even with his ideas about himself. I have become the enemy as I am trying to protect my parents. I am alone with this situation as my parents just want me to stop making waves etc. My brother will not seek help. He doesn’t think he needs it. And, whereas I was the one he would choose to help him go through detox (the only one around other than my parents) I am now the hated one as I have been trying to get everyone to look at and deal with the situation.I know I need to separate from my brother emotionally and this has been so difficult. To see him in such psychological pain when he detoxes has pierced my heart and I can hardly bear it. I think my parents need to get away from living next door!! They are 94 and 90 years old. Neither of them are alcoholics but my Dad is of the generation that pushing alcohol at every social occasion. I have two other siblings but they are of no help. Relationship with one of them has been destroyed due to my brother’s alcoholism…………

  43. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I agree with Mary – the best way to help an alcoholic sibling (and yourself!) is to go to Al Anon. You need in-person support from people who understand what you’re going through, who can give you ideas and support and acceptance.

    This article on helping an alcoholic sibling is a good starting point, but if you need more in-depth help, you need to get it in person. Coping with alcoholism can be exhausting, frightening, and confusing.

    That said, however, it’s always good to write out your feelings! So of course you’re welcome to share your stories of coping with a sibling who is alcoholic here. But if you need more in-depth help, please contact an Al Anon support group.


  44. Hey linny I totally undrstand where you’re coming from! I worked in social work (with folk with disabilities) , my sister is 54, she smiles, laugh”s etc, and is the nicest person on the planet! You know what she does next! There are nice and nasty drunks! My sis is the later! The language etc is sometimes intolerable and i still don’t know what to do! I cry, her husband , works away and doesnt want to come back! What do! I don’t know. but sharing my thoughts has to be good.

  45. Hi, my sister is, well seems to be permanently drunk. I don’t know what to do. I think I’ve been kind, gentle, last week I got anoi, I shouted at her! My god the guilt! This she sees as abuse. She stormed out shouting it’s not me! It’s not me!My Mum is still around and witnessed all, of course you only have my word for this, but I beg you for some wisdome, Love Malcolm

  46. PLEASE ,everyone on this site ,GO TO AL ANON ,it will help you if you give it the time .You will find people there who UNDERSTAND .
    I started reading these letters because today I am so hurt about my sister .I know I am not alone and I have been in Al Anon a long time . A person in your life who is drinking cannot be relied upon ,their word means nothing and that is so hard to accept .

  47. My brother starting drinking in his teens and seemed to always indulge too much compared to others. At the age of 33 – we realised he had a drinking problem and started to offer help. We looked into AA meetings, doc’s appointments, sat and chatted for hours about what made him drink, and how we could help him – but very quickly he was starting to have significant physical effects on his body. In summer 2010 he was in and out of hospital with stomach pains, swellings and bleeding. Each time he was treated medically by the doctors but then sent on his way – too ill for a detox programme and too ill to continue drinking. He was needed to get ‘healthier’ before he could be entered into a programme, it was like a viscious circle and he became more and more weak and poorly. Eventually – he was admitted into hospital in the February of 2011 and was diagnosed with accute liver failure and that was the last time he drank alcohol. He was told after 6 months of being sober, he would be entered on the transpant list and finally – i was able to have my big brother back. We chatted and he was clear that he was done with drinking and wanted to start a new life with his 3 year old son.

    Despite best efforts – Matthew passed away June 11th 2011 and my heart was broken. I was there – holding him as he struggled to breath, fluid rushing through his lungs from his bloated swollen stomach, drowning before my very eyes.

    Life for me and my family will never be the same again! By the time there were physical signs of alcoholism – its very nearly too late. 35 years old, and life ended so painfully and traumatic. Dont think for one minute its a quick and easy death – fall asleep and not wake up – OH NO! Its slow, painful, horrific, and more importantly – so preventable. Matthew knew he was dying and felt guilty for in his words – being his own fault. But by the time he realised he was in danger – it was too late.
    Sometimes – tough love is the way to go – maybe if i had been more insistant – or more angry, more determined – he’d still be here. Maybe i should have made th doctors treat him more thoroughly, not like a 2nd class citizen like they did, maybe he’d have got better?
    All i can say – is dont ever give up on supporting and helping someone you love. Theres always hope, and when someone is going through these dark days – its frightning and lonely and you wouldnt want them to go through these times alone.
    Stay strong – keep fighting for them, and never give up.

    RIP Matthew – love you and always will xx

  48. So my brother is an alchoholic. He comes from a long line of alcoholics. Well this week he lost his job. I just don’t know what to do to help him. He showed up to work drunk and there is a possibility he could get the job back but it could take up to a year. In the meantime he is going to have to find a job. I am not sure this is a possibility. I am afraid he is going to lose his house and everything he has worked so hard for. Are there any assistance programs out there? He will now be losing his health insurance in the next month. I doubt he will be able to get unemployment.

  49. I took in my brother 3yrs ago, he has multiple medical issues and is a severe alcholic, he has been in and out of jail all his life, and has no life skills.
    I have gone through a lot the past years keeping him out of jail and off the streets, when he is good (not drinking) he really is a pleasent guy, but I came home form work this evening and he admitted to drinking after I confronted him. I have been dealing with my brothers issues all my life, and I never thought I would ever take him in, but he would of died if I did not, and he is like a very big child. I told him that I can’t live like this. I don’t drink ( rare occasions), but I have changed my life around for my brothers well being, now I don’t know what the right thing to do is. He can be very hard to handle when he is drinking (although it has not got to that point yet, it has in the past) and I can not trust him not to take fom me or bring strangers in the house when I am not here. At the same time I know he can’t live on his own. I already told him, he can’t be drinking and living here, he told me that he can not promise that and he might has well move out, but he will go back to the streets and or jail. Any advise??

  50. My sister is presently in jail due to a failed urine test while on probation/ankle bracelet. She has numerous DUIs and recently was serving house arrest and was taken to jail. I want to write her a card because I can’t go see her (out of state). I have no idea what to say. I am angry with her for the loss of our relationship and the worry and stress the family goes through as a result of her actions BUT want to send her something supportive. Any suggestions on how to handle this?

  51. Hi There,

    My sister has been sober for 10 years now, well this recent thanksgiving I feel took her over the edge. She couldn’t handle it and has started drinking again, and yes of course my mom feels responsible only because she said if she would have stayed with her she may not have started to drink. I told my mom, she can’t feel responsible it is not her fault. I just want to know what can I do to help her. She has stayed home all weekend and just drank. what can i do, desperate!

  52. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Susie,

    I’m sorry to hear about your sister — it sounds like she’s been through alot. It’s great that she’s taking full responsibility for her actions, and SO great that she didn’t hurt anyone in the accident.

    Different people feel supported in different ways. One way to support her is to ask her how you can help! She may be the best person to tell you how to stand by her.

    Another possibility is to call your local Al Anon or a helpline, and ask for tips on helping an alcoholic sibling. Al Anon may be especially helpful.

    And, giving her a call once a week might be very helpful. The more consistent and regular you are in her life, the more supported she’ll feel. Not judging her or telling her what you think is also important — until she asks you for advice!

    Finally, remember that this may be the rock bottom that she needed to hit, in order to start dealing with her alcoholism and living her best life possible. Sometimes we need to gravely disappoint ourselves before we can turn our lives around.

    I hope this helps, and wish you all the best. You’re obviously a very caring, kind sister — and I suspect your sister knows it!


  53. Hi there,

    My little sister recently got into a very serious car accident while driving under the influence. She has a history of mental health issues (eating disorders, debilitating depression and anxiety), as does my father. She is young but has been attending therapy on and off for about 8 years.

    Miraculously, she walked away from the accident with only a few bruises. She hit an electrical pole and no one else was involved in the accident. We are so blessed. She’s feeling an extreme level of disappointment in herself and is facing possible jail time.

    I worry so much about her facing jail time with her history of depression and anxiety. In no way is she trying to evade jail time, and she is taking full responsibility for her actions, attending support groups and individual therapy. She has also volunteered to be an advocate for safe drinking on her college campus.

    What can I do to support her during this difficult time? I feel so helpless. I live on the other side of the country, and even though my parents are being extremely supportive, I feel that she needs something that she isn’t being given. Any advice, Laurie, or anyone else who has been in a similar situation?

    Thanks for all your time spent in this forum – it’s really a huge help.

  54. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Nancy,

    I think you need help setting your boundaries with both your sister and your parents — and sticking to those boundaries! There are several ways to get help, such as reading books about boundaries, attending meetings and learn more about alcoholic family members, and getting personal counseling.

    My best advice is for you to talk to a family counselor. Getting professional guidance and support will help you see your parents and sister more objectively and clearly, which will help you make the best decisions for your relationships.

    And, remember that your parents and sister won’t change. There’s always the potential for change, of course, but change for most people — especially people who have been living a certain way for decades — is difficult.

    The only person you can change is yourself. A counselor can help you figure out if you need to distance yourself, or set boundaries that allow you to be with your family without being consumed by them.

    I hope this helps, and wish you all the best.


  55. Hi. My sister has been an on again, off again alcoholic. She does not live near me or our parents. This past weekend my son (21) had a performance at college that I attended. My sister came also at the encouragement of my parents. She flew in and I picked her up at the airport. It was not where either of us live so she was sharing the hotel room with me. The afternoon of my son’s performance my sister proceeded to drink a pint of vodka. I asked her to stop numerous times without avail. She went to the performance in what looked like a semi-drunk state. She demeaned me and I just wrote it off so that there was no “scene” during the show. This is not my son’s first show and we (my son, his friends, his girlfriend) have a tradition to go to the local resturant and have burgers ect. and I pick up the tab. My sister proceeded to order wine and double shots of scotch. After the 4th drink I had to get her out of the place. I paid and started to drive back to the hotel. Now, I realize that I should have never taken her into the place. Anyway, on the way to the hotel she became verbally violent and abusive. I told her she was an alcoholic and needed help. She kept screaming at me and I just stopped comunicating. She passed out and I took her to the airport the next morning. I told her I loved her but she needed help and I was there for her when she got out of the car. I had an 8 hour drive home. When I got home my mother was told my my sister that I was an alcoholic and needed help (I don’t drink and my parents know this). I am hurt on so many levels. To make matters worst my parents want me to make amends to my sister so we “are not fighting”. I have made amends, I told her I love her and I was there for her when she was ready to get help. But, my parents are and always have enabled her to believe she is correct. Honestly, I want to distance myself from my parents because of the pain I am experiencing from their response to my sisters acting out. Then I realize this isn’t fair to me or them. What do I do?

  56. I am embarrassed to write this but it is important that I do. I have a 62 year old sister who has been an alcoholid for over 10 years. She is in total denial about just how bad she is. I don’t believe she drinks during the day, but as soon as 5oo pm comes around she starts with wine and wine only. In the past I have confronted her but she simply brushed it aside. Today, while on the phone with her, she started off with a normal tone conversation, and when the conversation moved toward my younger sister who has chronic medical problems, her demeanor changed immediately. She HATES her, she no f-ing good and I was trying to defuse the situation to no avail. I am a nurse whith 37 years experience and then she went off on me, cursing, screaming, calling me a drug addict (which couldn ‘t be further from the truth) and for 15 minutes this abuse continued, while I kept telling her to calm down, I’m not screaming or cursing at you. I actually said I love you to her and would be available to help anyone in our family who was sick. The rage became so intense that she spewed out that she hated me and my sister and then said she hated everyone here. I was so upset, never cursed, never screamed, but realized I needed to get away from this out of control woman, so I simply hung up the telephone and started to cry because I was so sad that she was so out of her mind. I know she will not attempt to get help, ever, and it has ruined many relationships in the family and within her own friendships. She is just not a nice person anymore. I called my Dad and told him what occurred, and for the first time heard him say that when she drinks too much she gets mean and is an alcoholic. How do I deal with this situation? Do I just let her go? Do I offer a peace offering?

  57. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Nancy,

    I’m sorry to hear that your parents are in this situation — it’s such a difficult place to be in for them, for you, and for your brother.

    Yes, I think you should call someone for help. The best way to help get him out of their house is to call social services or a local AA chapter — or even ask the police or a local hospital for resources.

    You need to talk to someone in person who understands the laws and resources in your parents’ area. You could also call a counselor, social worker, spiritual leader, or a support helpline. Find professional, objective support — that’s the best way to help your parents.

    I just wrote an article called How to Find Solutions to Relationship and Family Problems, which describes different six ways to get help.

    I’m sorry I don’t have better answers, and wish you all the best — and welcome you to come back anytime to update me on how you’re doing!

    Also — calling a local AlAnon group would probably be helpful, as they have a great deal of experience with this exact problem.


  58. My Mom’s Mom abandoned her family, leaving 3 children with a mean and sometimes violent alcoholic. My Dad’s family was cool, and Dad was Mom’s knight in shining armor. Mom’s brother and sister died of alcohol-related disease. My parents are now in their late 70’s, living clean and healthy and have enjoyed a quiet and simple life in retirement.

    Fortunately, as a young adult I learned about my family’s alcoholistic tendencies and dynamics and helped myself grow a healthy life. Of us four siblings, the eldest “golden boy”, age 54, is the practicing alcoholic. He tried to get rich during the real estate boom but went bust instead. Facing homelessness, the parents allowed him to move into their home. It’s been several months now and the situation is deteriorating. I don’t know if he’s really looking for a job. He’s become less communicative with them. I don’t have a close relationship with my brother and he would not be receptive to any suggestions from me. As far as I know he’s never gone to AA or treatment and he has the ego of a golden child. In a conversation with my sister last week, we decided that we would pay for an apartment for our our brother as soon as he lands a job, but I know that’s not the way to go for a number of reasons. The economy is indeed bad, but I am very concerned for my parents and they have expressed to me that they would be happy to see him out of their house. Yesterday I had dinner with my parents (a couple times a year) and my mom was so sore and stiff because she spent the whole morning cleaning her stove after the alcoholic did some “cooking”. I want to help them get him out of their house. Is there a right way to do this? Is this considered elder abuse and something that “the authorities” should be involved in? What can I do?

    Want to help the P’s,

  59. I stopped enabling my sister. She went on a drinking binge and died a month later. Don’t tell me to go to Al Anon, they just tell me not to feel guilty, which doesn’t help at all.

  60. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Casey,

    I’m so sorry about your family problems….that sucks. You’re right — you do have your own day to day issues to deal with as a teenager. Coping with alcoholic siblings is the last thing you need.

    One thing to remember is that this WILL pass. Your family problems may not be solved, but you WILL be out of the house and living your own life before you know it. I know it seems like it won’t happen for forever, but trust me…one day you’ll be free.

    I hope you’re smart enough to stay away from the drugs and alcohol. Why would you want a life like your sister’s? Or your brother’s? I know you don’t want that….that stuff will mess you up good.

    Okay — in the meantime (until you’re living on your own), I think you need to get in-person help with distancing yourself. That is, talk to a counselor, teacher, or trusted adult about how to get that emotional distance. You can live in the same house as your parents, but have healthy boundaries that protect you from taking on their issues and problems.

    Learn about boundaries, by reading books or searching online. A boundary is basically a line in the sand: “this is what I’m willing to take — but not that.” A boundary can protect you from taking on other people’s problems, and is a great way to stay healthy.

    I hope this helps….if you need more info about boundaries, let me know! I’d be happy to dig it up. In fact, I’m taking a healthy boundaries course through my church next month, and plan to write a whole series about boundaries then. But I can write about it before then if you’d like. Just let me know!


  61. Hello there
    I was wondering if you have any other advice than the list above because none of that has worked at all. My older sister has been abusing alcohol for six years (she’s 22 now) and my parents and I have devoted almost all our time and energy to her welfare. We have put her in clinics, hospitals, even a substance abusers community (sort of an expensive ranch). And nothing. She gets out, she lives with us until she starts drinking again (her sobriety never lasts more than a week), she goes to live with her father (in another country) and then she goes to live with our brother (again in another country), she comes back and does it all over again. This has all been especially hard on our mother who is prone to severe depression and has contemplated suicide often.
    My father is her step-father and she doesn’t listen to him.
    I recently found out that our brother has been doing heroin! It would kill my mother if she found out! I really don’t know what to do anymore!
    I’ve tried distancing myself from my family for my sake but it doesn’t really work, you can’t do that if you live with them and it hurt my mother.
    I went through a time of basically flipping them off and doing drugs too, my guilty relax time (and the fact that I need substances to relax is just ridiculous).
    I’m sixteen so I have my own day-to-day adolescent issues to deal with. I really don’t want to do this anymore.

  62. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Meg,

    I’m sorry to hear about your brother’s struggle with alcoholism. It’s a tough addiction to kick, as you well know!

    You’ve been caught between your parents and brother since you were a child — and this is a role you’ve accepted and even perpetuated, my friend. If you no longer want to be stuck in the middle, you need to release that role. You need to step back and let go of your involvement.

    So, what do you do, as a sister and daughter who is NOT caught in the middle? That’s what you need to decide. Maybe you could read Sober Siblings, which I recommend above — it’s got great information about boundaries for families (especially brothers and sisters).

    It won’t be easy to let go of something you’ve done for decades, but it may be the healthiest thing you can do for yourself and your family.

    Have you contacted an alanon group? That’s a great place to get information about relinquishing a role you’re not happy with. There are support groups for family members of alcoholics — and you can learn so much from them. And, an alanon group can give you recommendations for the best books for elderly parents of alcoholics.

    I hope this helps, and wish you all the best.


  63. Hello again,
    Can you recommend a book that I could give my parents that would shed light on their situation as parents of an adult who is an alcoholic? They are emotionally and physically effected by my brother’s benders and I would like to equip them with a good book to start.
    Many thanks!

  64. Dear Laurie,
    I have a 46 year old brother who is an alcoholic. He has been addicted to other substances but kicks them and returns to alcohol. He has been “self medicating” for years but goes on drinking binges when life doesn’t go his way (usually job loss). He was diagnosed ADHD around 1973 and was on ritalin. In the 5th grade he started using drugs and alcohol and had never stopped. He was a very difficult kid for my parents to raise, had been in and out of detention centers and juvenile jail. He was doing pretty good in his early 30’s until he was let go from a job he had for 7 years, then the crystal meth started. He moved to the state I live in to “clean up” and stayed at my husband and my house for two weeks then into sober living. The drinking never stopped but the meth did. He now lives in the Philippines with a wife and 3 year old.

    My parents and I live in California. My parents devoted so much of their lives to my brother while he was growing up… they did all (that I can think of) they could to help and support him morally. Had some tough love going on as well. Anyway, my parents are 78 & 79 years old. My mom suspects my brother is on a bender and I found out he is (via email about three days ago). I don’t want to tell my mom because she gets so worried for my brother’s wife and child. My mom doesn’t want to tell my dad about my brother’s recent benders because my dad’s dad was an alcoholic and my mom doesn’t want my dad to feel sorrow and anger over this. I have been the go between in many different ways since I was a child. As an adult I don’t know if I should withhold information from my parents because of their past distress and all the work they poured into raising him…I don’t know what to do.

    Should I tell my brother that he needs to contact them and tell them of his situation? My brother has some health problems as well that he is neglecting. He has become reclusive while on this bender. Usually we all skype together on major holidays, but Father’s Day passed with no word from my brother. I usually am the main communicator via email with my brother.

    Thank you for your response. I plan to purchase your book as well.


  65. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Ann,

    I am SO sorry to hear about your mom and brother! That’s terrible.

    If your brother doesn’t spend time in custody for what he did to your mom, then he’ll do it again — and worse. If he doesn’t start seeing some consequences for his actions, he’ll just keep going down the same old destructive path.

    If he HAD dealt with consequences to his actions way back when he first started drinking, he may not be in the situation he is today. And neither would your mother.

    The problem with protecting people from the consequences of their actions is that they don’t learn. They don’t live through the results, which means they don’t have a chance to pull themselves together.

    Enabling an alcoholic is never the route to success. I understand how difficult it is — it feels like you’re being cruel, and you feel guilty. He’s your BROTHER, and you love him.

    But, your past ways of loving him didn’t work. You tried loving him by giving him second and third and fourth and endless chances….and it didn’t work. Now, to help him, you have to try something different. I’m so glad your husband is there to help!

    I encourage you to talk to a counselor or go to an Alanon meeting. You need to disentangle your love for your brother, your memory of the way he was, your hope for his future, and your ability to help him succeed in life. An counselor who is experienced in dealing with issues in alcoholic families will help you see that you’re not alone. And, he or she will give your concrete, practical ways to deal with your guilt — and ways to help your brother.

    I hope this helps. Please reach out in person to someone who can help you deal with the burden of your guilt….the sooner you’re free from that, the better you’ll feel. And, you’ll feel empowered and in control, which is liberating.

    Let me know how things go.


  66. I have a 55-year old brother who is a severe, chronic alcoholic. He lives with our elderly mother and does not work or do anything productive around the house for her. He has been in and out of the legal system and has been given multiple chances to complete a drug/alcohol program as his “sentence” to keep a felony off his record. Every time he does well at first and shows signs of the “old” brother, but reaches a point and quits, which results in outstanding warrants that result in re-arrest and the cycle goes on and on. I fully admit to being an enabler, hoping that trying to help him will for some reason result in the long awaited success.

    Two weeks ago while I was out of town for 3 days, he beat up my Mother to the point that she was in the hospital for 2 days. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant. As we attempted to FINALLY remove him from her home and all of our lives, he was released. My strong husband took over and expedited assault charges by my Mother, restraining orders, and revocation of bond and he was taken back into custody. Why am I feeling guilty and almost sorry for the time he will be spending in custody now? I am determined that he will never live with or torment and harm my mother and she will live the rest of her life in peace and free from an alcoholic in her life (my father was also an alcoholic). How do I break the cycle of being an “enabler” and really feel the anger towards him for what he did to her? I know he finally has to suffer the consequences for his actions.

  67. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Leah,

    I’m sorry to hear about your sister — it sounds like her struggle with alcoholism has gone on for long enough. I wish I had a solution for you, but there are no easy answers.

    Yes, I think you should keep in touch with CPS. Call as often as you need — and keep calling! The more “on record” you are with your concerns, the better it will be for you husband.

    I also suggest talking to a local Alcoholics Anonymous or Alanon group leader. You might consider looking after your nephew for some time, until your sister can pull herself together. I don’t have any suggestions for talking her about this possibility, which is why I think talking to an AA leader is a good idea.

    The best way to help your nephew is to give him a home, with family members. If that’s possible, it may be better than CPS or a foster home.

    I wish I could offer more helpful solutions, but it just depends on so many different factors (her personality, your nephew’s personality, your ability to give him a home, etc). I hope you can find someone to talk to in person, to discuss the details I can’t speak to here.

    Wishing you all the best,
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post …Best Ways to Save Money on Summer Holidays – 7 Travel Tips =-.

  68. Hello….

    I have a 32 year old sister that is an alcoholic. My parents had cut her off, but she became pregnant and they started helping her again when the baby was born. My nephew is now 7 and she is still drinking. We have called CPS and been told that there is nothing that they can do. She is pretty functioning when she wants or needs to be to pass the home visits. She has exposed my nephew to her violent/abusive boyfriend (he has seen her get beaten-though he has been safe so far), gang members, and left him with complete strangers for days at a time. He is behind in school and will most likely follow down her path if we cant help him soon.

    How do we as a family “stop enabling her” or help her without hurting my nephew? We are the only stable things in his life and do not know how to go about it with him in the picture. If my parents stop paying her bills should they allow them to move in with them? Should we keep trying CPS, they said it is very hard to remove kids. We do not know how to proceed with my nephew in the picture. Thank you!

  69. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Molly,

    I’m sorry it took me so long to respond — I’ve been tied up with work! I’m also sorry that your brother seems to have relapsed into alcoholism. That’s very sad, and difficult for everyone.

    Regarding your brother: when he’s sober, make sure he knows about the Alcoholics Anonymous and organizations like that in his area. And, stick to what you’ve said: you’ll only interact with him when he’s sober. If he calls or visits when he’s been drinking, you need to ask him to leave. Don’t hesitate to call the authorities if he refuses to leave you alone.

    Regarding your husband: what does he say when you ask him to leave your brother alone? All you can do is ask your husband to tell his ex to let everything be.

    I know a few days have gone by since you wrote this. Have you talked to your brother since then?


  70. I have a 54 year old brother that has been an alocoholic for most of his life. He’s been “dried” out and in rehab countless times – four or five in 2009 alone. He has 3 or 4 DUI’s and has lost his license for five years. He lost his wife and kids, his house and most of his retirement savings.
    He recently spent about six months in jail – saw God and seemed to be my old brother again. He got a job (his friend has the same job and drives him), got a very cheap house for cash so he has a home, too. His ex and children are in his life at the moment. He seemed to have bottomed out (1 to 2 fifths per day) and then come back – we really thought after all these years he “came back”
    Last night my husband drove over there with a nice dinner and it appeared that my brother was drunk. They had an argument and my brother called me on the phone. He sounded like my “drunk” brother again.
    My husband called the “ex” explained everything and now my brother is calling me. I’m on disablilty with a chonic illness and trying to heal. The days of bailing him out of jail or taking him to court (while very ill) are OVER for me – I do not want to enable him anymore nor do I want to speak with him or see him when he’s drinking.
    My question is two fold:
    -what can I do for my brother, if anything? I’ve told him in the past I only want to speak with him or see him if he’s sober.
    -How can I get my husband to butt out – his ex surely called my brother to say that we both think he’s drinking again as he tried to contact me again lasts night (I turned off my phone)

  71. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Donald,

    I’m sorry to hear about your brother — that’s very difficult for you and your family to cope with.

    You need to call a local help line or social services organization, and get both legal and emotional support. Your brother has been allowed to live like this all his life, and making changes at age 50 will take alot of effort and determination on everyone’s part!

    I strongly encourage you to call a local alcoholics anonymous or addictions counseling organization. You need to figure out your brother’s options, financial situation, and so on — but not to the extent that you get him a job! But, there needs to be some separation between him and your father, especially as your father ages.

    Call a help line, and find out what resources exist in your area — for both your father and your brother. You will have to exert that “tough love”, which means protecting your family and ultimately helping your brother (though it may not feel like you’re helping him!).

    I wish you all the best,

  72. My brother is a severe violent alcoholic.He has abused my parents for 32 years.They tolerated it and live in stress and fear.My mother has passed away.So that left just my father and my brother at home.He has never left home and he is at age 50.He does not have a job.He does not pay anything to live.He steals money from my father or threatens him to give it.After my mother passed he has been a dictator over my father.He has beaten him and abused him.My father can not run his affairs any longer so he has placed himself under my care.Now my brother is in panic mode and is demanding money.He has just recently stolen $540.00 from my father before i got him in my care.He went through it in 2 weeks of drinking.His body is a walking time bomb.He has never been to a doctor for anything.He looks in bad health.At the moment he still resides in my fathers home in which i have to sell or rent so it won’t be an extra expense on my fathers limited income.He needs help bad and he totally refuses to quit his drinking and possible drug use.I do not know what to do.He has no idea how to exist on his own or how to manage his life.


  73. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Michael,

    I’m sorry to hear of your brother’s struggle with alcoholism — and you’re right: moving back in with an alcoholic girlfriend put him right back where he started with the bottle.

    It sounds like the best solution is for them to get on with their separate lives, and I think that convincing them (your brother, especially) of this is the best option. This is why people pay each other off in movies — a concerned dad will give an unsavory boyfriend several thousand dollars (or more) to leave his daughter alone, because he thinks that’s the best thing for her! Of course, I’m not suggesting you “pay off” your brother’s girlfriend. But, I think it’s smart to find a way to make her want to leave. I don’t know what this reason for leaving would be….but if your brother is too weak or kind to kick her out of the house, then she needs to be the one to make the decision. And, it doesn’t sound like she’ll go on her own.

    Forcing her out of the house and “banning” them from seeing each other may have the opposite effect — you may drive them together by saying they’re better off staying apart (the old Romeo and Juliet thing). Plus, you won’t be able to monitor their activities or plans to see each other.

    But, if that’s the only option you can see, then…maybe it’s your last-ditch effort to help your brother get back on his feet.

    I suggest talking to the social worker at that or another hospital. Social workers often know of resources and organizations in the community that can offer help. You might also call your local Alcoholics Anonymous organization, who might put you in touch with people who have coped with similar situations. Putting your brother and his girlfriend in touch with AA might be helpful. The more healthy, supportive people they have surrounding them, the better!

    I also think that sometimes we just have to let our siblings go. We can’t control the paths their lives take, no matter how much we care about them — and no matter what alcohol or other addictions are doing to their lives. As painful as it is to see, he is an adult who is making the best choices he can, given his personality, past experiences, and perspective of his present situation and future. Perhaps he’s living the life he’s meant to live…and maybe nobody can stop things from unfolding the way they will.

    Good luck with your brother — I hope he’s ready to stop drinking and start living a happy, healthy, fulfilled life!


  74. Hello,
    For the last 3 years my 50 year old brother has gone from a heavy drinking (yet working) man to a raging alcoholic now retired with a decent pension. Just enough income to sustain a decending lifestyle. It has been exacebated by a 3 year relationship with another raging alcoholic, live-in (& unemployed) girlfriend. He is now in the hospital following a seizure that was the result of some combination of the alcohol & long-standing hematomas that were from some unknown head trauma.
    The detox has been brutal. The treatment for the hematomas is not yet fully determined. She is already now pre-planning for his blissful return home. I have tried to have as rational a conversation as possible to try to get her to understand that this is a life-and-death situation for him as well as a most needed opportunity for her to get help without the prior stated “dragging down” syndrome that each provides for one another. So far her responses are too vague & scattered to have much meaning or credence. She has no place to go. I believe it is unlikely that my naturally passive/aggressive brother would put her out regardless of his possible (short-lived?) sobriety even if he somehow does make it home anytime soon.
    My other brother wants to take an aggressive tact & ban her from the hospital as well as try to get her out of his home. We both agree that this is the final effort that can be put forth for him. It is killing our mother and has had an untold profound effect on his pregnant daughter.
    It is hard to be at all optimistic given the circumstances but I am trying to maintain some level of realistic sanity in all this chaos. I guess anyone with a even a degree of similar experience or some idea of a direction that could be sought, would be infinitely appreciated at this point.
    thank you in advance for your concern and any possible help,

  75. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Shelley,

    I’m sorry to hear about your brother — that’s too bad that he’s fallen off the wagon. An alcoholic family member can have negative effects on everyone in the family, as you well know.

    I can’t tell you what you should do to help him, but I do think you should put your husband and kids before your brother and parents. I believe our spouses and children should come first, especially if our extended families (parents, siblings, etc) are harmful or negative influences.

    If you decide to do the “tough love” thing and cut off contact until your brother is in a recovery program, then you have to expect that your parents will be hurt, confused, and possibly angry. I suggest giving them a book on coping with an alcoholic son — if you click on the “Sober Siblings” book in the above article, you’ll go to, where you can look for books for family members of alcoholics. Your parents may not understand enabling…they’re just loving their son as best as they know how.

    I hope this helps, and wish you all the best as you figure out how to live with your brother. Please keep me posted — and I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers!


  76. Dear Laurie: I have a brother who is a longh-term alcoholic; who, over two years ago had
    succeeded @ the battle and was sober for about 10 yrs. So for over 3 years
    his drinking is getting worse and worse. I have a husband and 2 teenage daughters; as well I am
    the only daughter amongst 3 brothers; one of them that is the alcoholic
    My husband wants me to cut him off from being
    a part of our life until he gets into a program
    to become sober. Needless to say the last 3 yrs
    has not been good; he had drove drunk down our
    Street, dropping in and behaving badly in front
    of my children; passing out on our floors when my kids
    are home and my husband is’nt home & I cannot pick
    him up as I’m disabled. This went on & on. Are we doing the
    right thing by cutting him off completely? My parents are BIG
    “Enablers” & are not in agreenance with our decision
    to stop all communications with my brother. Should we
    Stand our ground & possibly also do a full
    family Intervention? Thank you for your time
    And advice. Mrs Shelley Hill

  77. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen


    Wow — congratulations on your “late life surprise”! That must have been a shock, to find yourself pregnant at 45 :-)

    I’m so sorry about your mom…that’s a sad, difficult thing to live through. I can’t imagine. But, what a testimony to your courage and strength as a strong woman and a survivor, that you’ve gone on to have your own family and healthy life! Good for you.

    Regarding your sister staying with you — and staying sober — you need to decide what the right thing is for your family first. Your husband and son’s needs and safety come before your sister’s. And, your decisions regarding how you can help her must NOT be based on how she helped you when you were a child. You can’t make decisions out of guilt, fear, or a sense of obligation. Rather, you need to find the balance between giving her sister the help she needs as she fights her alcoholism and other physical diseases…and taking good care of your family.

    I guess the short answer is yes, I think you’re doing the right thing. If you let her stay with you while she’s drinking, then you’re enabling and helping her stay sick and get sicker.

    You may have to show your love by telling her what you and your husband decided together — which is a very loving, supportive thing to do. Asking her to leave if she drinks is ALSO a loving, supportive thing because it shows that you care about her health and wellness.

    I wish you all the best, Reba, and hope your sister stays sober.


  78. I am 50 years old with a little sister who is 44 and an alcoholic. Both of our parents were alcoholics, although we were only raised by our mother. I have always avoided alcohol like the plague, I NEVER wanted my children to go through what we did. I currently have an adult daughter and a late life surprise 5 year old.

    6 months ago my sister was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and panreatis. She stopped drinking for about 4 weeks after being released from the hospital, now she is drinking again. The man she had been living with has had enough. She lives on the west coast, I live on the east coast. My husband has made an agreement with my sister that if she goes through rehab and sobers up she can come and live with us. I love my sister dearly, and probably would not have survived childhood without her. She saved my life the night my mom tried to set me on fire, yet I am worried about my son. I am a stay at home mom, but I am not sure how to cope with this situation. My husband says we need to support her while she is sober and help her to get the medical attention she needs, but one drink and she is out, no ifs ands or buts. Are we doing the right thing?

  79. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Andrea, I’m sorry for you and your brother — that’s such a tough situation.

    I think getting information from Alanon is a great idea (Pat had mentioned support groups, which made me think of Alanon). The Alanon experts have a tremendous amount of experience in coping with alchoholism in siblings and other family members, and can help you learn how to help your brother.

    It’s important to remember that there’s only so much you can do. Even if you lived in the same state or house as him, you can’t force him to get help for alcoholism — and his wife knows this, which is why she’s given up! It might be good to suggest Alanon to her, or send or email her pamphlets or links. She’s not completely powerless, though she may feel like it. There are steps she can take to make your brother realize how destructive his drinking is.

    It’s important that you know you’re not alone — and connecting in person or online with people who are struggling with the same issues with alcoholic siblings will help a great deal, I suspect. Google Alanon, and find out if there are any groups near you.

    Best wishes,

  80. Hi there,

    I’m the co-author of the Sober Siblings book. It’s tough when you’re far away from your sibling. I always defer to my co-author specialist for questions like this, but I do know that it’s important to be supportive and let the person know that you love him and care about him and that’s why you brought the subject up.

    There’s a suggestion in the book about asking someone who says they don’t have a problem, “Well, what would it look like if you did have a problem?” If they say they may get a DUI for instance, and they do get one, that gives you the ability to bring it up again. Another expert calls this “carefrontation.”

    You might talk to your siblings who live closer about talking to your brother individually. Sometimes experts say that’s more effective than having a formal intervention, although the latter is a possibility, too.

    Finally, consider attending a support group to share with other people trying to handle this difficult situation, and suggest that your brother’s wife and your other siblings do so, too.

    Good luck!

  81. I have a 54 year old brother, who lives in another state. He is a cancer survivor of 18 years, retired 2 yrs. ago from a very reputable government job, however, still works to support his family at another very good paying job. He has five siblings, including myself who are extremely concerned about his daily drinking of hard alcohol. He has gained weight, has an extended stomach, his face looks swollen….He was always a very handsome man, extremely intelligent and carries on with his life now as if nothing is wrong. His family has witnessed his inexcusable behavior… I have not because I have not been in his presence to experience the effects of his alcoholism. We talked on the phone where I have hinted the idea of his drinking too much. He is very good at denying and covering up everything. At this point, I am scared for my brother and I feel helpless in not doing anything about it. His wife is very passive and has learned to cope with it. She doesn’t confront him any longer as it has caused conflict and anger. Please suggest something that I can do to help.