My Partner's Sister Is an Alcoholic: How Do I Help Support Her Through This?
My partner's sister went through a separation in her marriage a couple of years ago. Prior to that, she never drank, even socially. Shortly after her separation, she began to drink and tried to hide it. She has lost her job and now her drinking is completely out of control.
Attempts to get her to go to rehab are met, pretty much with her ignoring the topic or getting off the phone. She has become so bad that she is non functioning. Her legs and body have atrophied, and it's to the point that she doesn't even have the strength to get around on her own or take a shower. She is literally drunk all day.
My partner is heart broken seeing the deterioration of her sister and feels as though she can somehow change this unfortunate circumstance. It's to the point now that she can't even feed herself and she calls my partner nearly everyday asking her to bring her food.
She will be losing her housing soon I imagine, as her unemployment ran out, and I can't imagine her moving in with my partner and her 13 year old son. I don't live with her currently.
In trying to be sensitive and understanding, I explain to her that there is nothing she can do to make her sister make different choices, after at least a year now of her sister getting progressively worse without doing anything differently.
This situation has caused an extreme strain on our relationship because my partner is always stressed about the situation and it's hard for me to not get frustrated that she doesn't give our own relationship any time or attention it needs.
My partner gets upset, in turn, with me, and says I'm not being supportive of her and the situation and that I don't understand. She's right ... I don't understand, but I feel
the one thing I do understand is that she can't allow her sister's continued choices and subsequent consequences take over her life and ruin other good relationships in her life.
It's just hard to see my partner let her sisters life take over her life and now our relationship the way it has...I just don't know what to do anymore.
Unfortunately you're in a no-win situation here. Your partner obviously feels the way she's going about things is the right way, and anything you say that opposes that simply upsets her.
Best thing you can do right now is probably back off and let your partner carrying on doing what she's doing, even though you are right that your partner can't change her sister and should force her to live with the consequences of her choices, because that's the most likely route that will lead to change.
Why don't you suggest going to Al-Anon meeting together? It's for family members and friends of alcoholics, and maybe your partner seeing how other families deal with alcoholic loved one's, will help her realise she's just enabling her sister right now, rather than helping her.
If her sister really is a danger to her own health, there may be a case to have her sectioned on the recommendation of a Doctor, but that really is only for extreme cases, however it could be something worth suggesting.
Maybe in time your partner will also reach the point whereby she realises her sister just doesn't want to change, and will stop putting all her energy into helping her, and start focusing on your relationship again. But it is difficult seeing someone we love destroy themselves so our natural inclination is to want to help, even if our 'helping' ends up doing more harm than good.
Hang in there and hopefully things start changing sooner rather than later.