How to help an alcoholic brother

Alcoholism tears the family apart. If you have a brother who is a practicing alcoholic, you know first hand how painful and frustrating dealing with the illness can be. As a family member, you want to support your brother in his trouble, but this is physically and emotionally exhausting. There’s really nothing you can do to ease his torment except get out of the way and let him realize his own destiny. There are ways to make it easier for yourself, and helping yourself and your own family is really the only way to ultimately have any positive affect on the alcoholic. It may feel like tough love, but your tough love stance may end up being a link in the chain he uses to save himself.

Step away from his problems, and don’t “fix” any of the consequences of his alcoholic behavior. Don’t lie to save his job, his marriage or his apartment. This just keeps him free of responsibility and able to function as an active alcoholic longer.

Explain to him (at a sober moment) that you love him but that you can’t continue being in his life while he’s drinking. You love him, but you need to step away from him for awhile. Let him know that if he ever chooses to get sober and join a program like AA, you will be back in his life in a heartbeat and be supportive of that positive action.

Don’t give him money. Don’t bail him out of jail. Don’t let him live rent-free at your house. Don’t pretend he’s not drinking. If he ever gets sober, he will thank you for loving him enough to force him into becoming honest and responsible.

Don’t pretend that his drinking isn’t serious. It is serious. He will die from drinking if he doesn’t get help. Let him know that you don’t want him to die this way.

After you have detached from him physically and emotionally, turn your focus onto your own life. You have a whole life of your own that deserves nurturing, tending, love and attention. When you feel yourself worrying about the alcoholic, do something nice for yourself. Take a walk. Make a list of what you’re grateful for. Play with your kids. Bring your focus back to your own self, where it belongs. You can’t control any behavior but your own. The less you plug into the alcoholic’s nightmare, the more it becomes his nightmare and not yours. This gives him the dignity to resolve it for himself, if he chooses to. It also frees you to make healthy decisions in your own life, with the relationships you have that are healthy and need your attention and love.

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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.

Need encouragement? Get a beautiful FREE “She Blossoms” 2019 calendar when you sign up for my free weekly Blossom Tips!

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.

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.”

Here’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.

xo

www.theadventurouswriter.com

Last updated on August 16, 2018

2018-08-16T08:55:11+00:00

Watching a loved one become an alcoholic can be hard, especially when it is a sibling. The good news is that you can learn how to help an alcoholic brother, so that he can get his life back on track. The first step to getting help is to recognize that he has a problem. The second step is to help him recognize that he has a problem. The third step is to help him find treatment for his disease.

My Brother Drinks Too Much

Before you can assess whether or not your brother is an alcoholic, you must first determine if he drinks too much. Some men have a can of beer after work every day, but they do not necessarily have a drinking problem. Drinking becomes a problem when it begins to interfere with your life. Here are some signs that your brother may have a drinking problem:

  • He drinks frequently, maybe every day.
  • He likes to drink by himself.
  • He stays away from family and friends, so that he can drink freely.
  • He has taken to a new group of “drinking buddies” and dropped his old friends.
  • He must have a drink in order to have a good time.
  • He is much more assured and may even have an inflated ego when he drinks.
  • He is more social and can easily talk to others when drinking.
  • He feels guilty and possibly even depressed after he drinks.
  • He does things when he drinks that he would not do when sober.
  • He often suffers memory loss when he drinks.
  • He has missed work or school because of his drinking.
  • He involves himself in risky behavior when he has been drinking, endangering his own life or other people’s lives.
  • His friends have abandoned him because of his drinking.

How to Help Others Struggling with Alcohol

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  • Mother

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My Brother is an Alcoholic

Once you have determined that your brother has a drinking problem, you can then begin to assess if he is actually an alcoholic. Remember, not everyone who has a drinking problem is also an alcoholic; however, even people who are not alcoholics can still have problems in their life caused by alcohol.

The main factor in determining if your brother is an alcoholic is if he has a physical dependency on alcohol. Alcoholics cannot abstain from alcohol without going into withdrawal. If your bother can abstain from alcohol, but chooses not to, then he is likely a problem drinker and not an alcoholic; but he still needs help.
Getting help for an alcoholic or problem drinker is possible with a little professional guidance. You and your brother might be close, but he may not want to hear what you have to say about his drinking. Someone who has had experience working with alcoholics and other addicts will be able to give you sound advice on how to talk to your brother about his drinking, so that it does not scare him off.
It can be difficult to convince an alcoholic or problem drinker to seek treatment, so it is helpful to have a professional walk you through the process and tell you what to do and not do, before you try to talk to your brother.
It is never too late to get help for your brother, if you think that he has a drinking problem or may be an alcoholic. You may actually save him from other negative consequences, like job loss and legal trouble. To get help, call our secure hotline to learn how to help an alcoholic brother, today. Our confidential service is open 24 hours a day, allowing you to seek help at a time that is best for you.

www.alcohol.org

If your brother or sister struggles with alcoholism, you may feel helpless. These six ways to help an alcoholic sister or brother are based on a book called Sober Siblings – they may help you understand your sibling’s drinking problem and figure out what you can do to help.

Sober Siblings: How to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister – and Not Lose Yourself  by Patricia Olsen and M.D. Petros Levounis M.D.is an excellent book on family alcoholism. It’s where I found some of these tips on helping a sibling with recover from alcoholism.

One of the first ways to help your alcoholic brother or sister is to learn what a mature relationship is. Psychologist Mary Pipher says, “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. It involves thinking about one’s environment and deciding what one will and won’t accept.” Maturity involves being realistic about what you can and can’t do when you’re coping with toxic family relationships. You can’t rescue or save your brother or sister from alcoholism, but you can reach out in healthy ways and stay true to you.

If you’re struggling to understand how alcoholism is a disease, read my blog post  The Disease of Alcoholism – a Simple Explanation. I wrote it in response to a reader’s question about her alcoholic sister – I posted it on my Counselors’ Corner blog (I’m working in the alcohol and drug addiction recovery program for my counseling practicum).

One of the best ways to help an alcoholic sibling is to attend an Al-Anon meeting, and get support from other siblings who are dealing with alcoholic brothers or sisters.

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 with a drinking problem can apply to most families.

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. “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.

Let go of personality differences. Personality issues may crop up, which may or may not be part of the disease of alcoholism. Separating personality differences from real issues that affect your alcoholic sibling may be part of the healing process for both of you. If your relationship with your alcoholic brother or sister is affected by your mom or dad, read  How to Deal With Difficult Parents.

Stop enabling your alcoholic brother or sister. “Enabling” is allowing or encouraging your alcoholic brother or sister to continue their disease. 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).

Recognize what you’re doing. To stop enabling your brother or sister’s alcohol problem, you need to recognize what you’re doing. “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.” In most alcoholic families, events and behaviors aren’t cut and dried – especially during family celebrations.

Learn about alcoholism treatment options. You can’t help an alcoholic brother or sister by forcing him or her to get treatment, but you can be well-informed about treatment options for drinking problems. If you’re in an alcoholic family, find out about the addiction treatment centers in your area.

how to help an alcoholic brother

“6 Ways to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister”

“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.”

For more tips on helping a family member with alcoholism, read How to Help an Alcoholic Husband.

Here’s an excellent book that will help you figure out how to help alcoholic sister or brother cope with alcoholism 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 about helping an alcoholic brother or sister, please comment below. I can’t offer advice, but it might help to sort through your feelings in writing.

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