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My Brother is an Alcoholic but Will Not Admit it. What can I do?

by Deborah Harris
(Salisbury MD)

My brother went through rehab and then was put in a half-way house. Because he started drinking again he was asked to leave the half-way house. His wife has a restraining order against him now. He has been arrested twice because of violating the order.

He is showing signs of dementia and I really don't think he "understands" why there is the order against him. He says he doesn't have a problem and that his wife has convinced everyone that he does. The family had an intervention, he agreed to go to rehab etc. but the minute he was released he started drinking again.

He has always suffered from depression - now, of course, it is worse. How do I help a person who does not think he needs help. It is heart breaking to watch my brother destroy his life and those of his family also.


Hi Deborah

To help a person who does not think they need help is very difficult. In a case like your brother with severe alcoholism and where he is clearly losing touch with reality - you should try and get him into a long-term rehab program - ideally 90 days and longer, not the usual 30 day programs.

Because a month long program is for many just not long enough to make the changes they need to make. There are still no guarantees, but clearly he still needs professional help, so the best thing is to get him into a safe environment away from every day reality for an extended period. That way hopefully he has a more of a chance to realise what he is doing and will then become receptive to making the changes he needs to.

But at the end of the day it all boils down to your brother taking responsibility for his alcoholism and doing what is necessary for overcoming it. Some just don't get it initially and don't realise that relapse prevention and successful recovery from alcoholism requires a lot more than just a stint in rehab. So it takes a couple of failed attempts before the 'light goes on' and they realise what they need to do.

Apart from getting your brother into a long-term treatment program, there isn't a lot you can do, because if he doesn't ultimately want to change, no one can force him to. You can only hope though that a longer stint in professional care will get him to break through his denial and realise what he's actually doing. Because only at that point is he really ready to start doing something about his alcoholism.

Best of Luck and Take Care.

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Sep 08, 2010
Feelimg helpless
by: Anonymous

Hi Deborah,
Your story sound so much like mine except it is my husband. He was detoxed three times finally went to rehab for only 30 days. The counselors at the rehab had his number. They were well aware that he was lying and really did not accept that he is an alcoholic. I went through three really bad times each one lasted longer and longer. The first one I stayed home and it took three months. He stopped drinking for three months and than said "I can control it" The second time it lasted four months I moved out for a while and he destroyed our bedroom and my son and daughter's bedrooms. The third time it lasted six months he almost totally destroyed his business and this time because I moved out for 6 months he destroyed our entire home. He went to rehab came out humble and 90 days after receiving his coin he started drinking. He said once again I can control this, well one year later and guess what he is drinking again and out of control. I know the frustration you are feeling and I have tried to do everything to keep my family together but he has pushed everyone away even his blood cousin. He has no siblings and both his parents and only uncle are deceased. Just last week his cousin came to see him and told him he was wrong for drinking at all he got so angry he through her out of our home and as she left she said I could call her but she would never talk to him again.He has thrown his son out twice and he wonders why no one wants to be around him. He ruined his daughters college graduation and his oldest son's 30th birthday. The destruction goes on and on. The hardest thing to except is why don't they see what they are doing???? You probably want to shake him, hit him over the head and drag him for help.Till today my husband believes he fooled them in rehab but sadly the only one fooled was him. But sadly we live with our frustration and hope and pray that they see the light and stay sober. I wish you luck I hope you brother realizes what a good sister he has. Remember even though we believe they have a mental illness and are depressed it is the alcohol that produce these symptoms and they cannot be diagnosed until they are free of alcohol for at least 6 months. I hate to say this but your sister in law was smart I stuck it out for 31 years and he has dragged me down and destroyed our three children I should have bailed sooner. Sometimes it takes losing everyone for them to wake up and than there are some who never wake up and die. My frustration is so bad that I pray that God Takes him.Good luck and God Bless you.

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