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My Brother in an Alcoholic ... I Think. How do I Help Him When He Won't Admit He Needs Help?

by Sheena
(Newport Beach)

My reasons to why I think he is an Alcoholic:
My little brother just turned 21 last week. He has been drinking since he was about 17 or so. He doesn't need a drink to get through the day, but he can't seem to have a good time with friends or family unless he is drinking.

When he wasn't 21, if myself or a family member wouldn't get him a beer he would get frustrated. When I need a favor, he always offers at the price of a 6 pack, or more. He can get smashed then go to bed and not remember anything the next day, and he thinks that is OK. He will drink for several nights in a row and spend every penny he has with out thinking first.

He has stolen money from me and our younger siblings for beer. And lastly when he drinks he doesn't stop. On a positive note, he can go several days or weeks with out drinking and be fine. That is when he does the best.

Reasons why I want to help him: On top of everything above, I feel that he is in desperate need for help and I don't know what to do. He recently quit his job and he was telling me he was OK with it and doesn't care he has no money.

When he has had enough to drink he self mutilates, recently he just burned himself repeatedly with a cigarette and when I asked about it he said "I was drunk and depressed" and he didn't even seem to care that it would scar.

He has gotten violent and put my uncle in the Hospital and doesn't remember why he did it or what exactly happened. On top of all that, he also smokes marijuana when he is drinking to calm him down, and thinks it totally normal.

So with all that said... I have tried to talk to him and he gets mad and will walk away or starts yelling and screaming them will leave. My mother and I both want to get him help with his drinking and getting high, but we don't know how. He lives with my mom and our younger siblings.

Since he moved back in with my mom he has done MUCH better with his control, and his self esteem, but we still need to get his drinking under control. Is there anyway we can get him help or a different way to approach talking to him to make him see that he is ruining his life?


Hi Sheena

You're right in thinking that your brother could be an alcoholic, even though he is so young and doesn't necessarily drink every day. New research has shown that there are different types of alcoholism, with those classified in the 'young adult' and 'young anti-social' making up the largest proportion.

Many people mistakenly think that alcoholism is purely a function of how much and often you drink, but the tell-tale sign is usually the damaging effects alcohol begins to have on your life, as is the case with your brother, and then not being able to stop when you know you should.

The difficulty you however face, is that it's very difficult to get through to someone with a alcohol and/or drug problem if they're not ready to hear what you have to say ... and admit to their problem. Denial is obstacle number one standing in your brother's way to change. That's why people suffering from an addiction are usually only ready to get help once they reach rock-bottom - and there is literally no way to go but up anymore.

The fact that your brother also self-mutilates is cause for concern and so there may be significant underlying reasons that result in your brother binge drinking etc. the way he does. Alcohol and marijuana are likely substances that help him to self-medicate and feel better about himself. So rather than approaching him from the alcoholic/drink too much angle, somehow suggesting he talk to someone about the self-harming and why he gets depressed, may also uncover the reasons for his drinking and lead to solutions being found for that? It's a softer approach that may seem less threatening to him.

But there is simply no guarantee anything you try or say will make any difference. If your brother isn't willing to listen, there is nothing you can do, except make him start experiencing the consequences of his drinking and ensuring that any mess he creates for himself, he has to get himself out of. So no lending money, no covering up for, no allowing him to justify his drinking and consequent bad behavior ... and that way eventually by experiencing the mess his alcohol-related behavior creates, he'll begin to realise he needs to change and get help.

Remember this, because it's crucial in your understanding of what you can do in relation to someone you care about struggling with a alcohol/drug problem: You didn't Cause it, You can't Control it, and You can't Cure it. We are ultimately powerless over the decisions and choices others make. So no one can ultimately save your brother but himself.

All the best and I hope this turns out nothing more than a young man going through a difficult phase, because at his age there is a chance it could just be that.

Comments for My Brother in an Alcoholic ... I Think. How do I Help Him When He Won't Admit He Needs Help?

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Mar 10, 2010
You Can't
by: C-P

You can't help him until he's ready to help himself. Until he acknowledges his addiction and takes responsibility for overcoming it by receiving the necessary help, there isn't a lot you can do unfortunately. It's painful watching someone we love go through that, but you need to make peace with your powerlessness to ensure your own happiness.

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