Should I Have Helped my Alcoholic Sister More?
by Clare Reeves
My sister who is 53 has been an alcoholic for about 25 years and I am 7 years her junior. Whilst my parents were alive there was the monthly descent into abject misery for her family and escape for herself.
She's been hospitalised numerous times and has had every possible psychiatric treatment going. My mother died 5 years ago and at the end she'd had a nervous breakdown and would be physically frightened about seeing my sister - as my sister since my father had died had once beaten her up and had caused her to break her hip by falling on her whilst drunk.
Due to my complete resentment at her effect over our lives and the fact that I had 2 young children(5 and 2) - I then had nothing more to do with her until 2 years later when she seemed to turn her life around helping in charity shops and keeping her flat very well. I got used to having a sister and the children an aunt and I would look forward to seeing her weekly ...
However from the start of 2009 she got involved with a married man and started taking (street bought) diazepam and having regular drinking bouts. She was detoxed twice this year and I have pleaded, begged, cajoled, promised we'd change everything but to no avail - and by now she had stopped getting out of bed and eating, she had another 80 year old alcoholic staying with her who supplied her with drink.
I wrote to her regular doctor explaining how worried I was at her self preservation instinct and asked to talk about it to her but she never replied. I contacted her psychiatrist in the middle of Nov who said that she just though it was psychological that she couldn't walk and that we'd come up with a plan in January.
I had by then stopped going to see my sister as it just seemed she wanted me to look after her which I refused to do and the elderly alcoholic staying with her was berating me that I should as her sister.
She was found a few days ago on the floor covered in excrement and skeletal. She was taken into hospital and can barely talk and has very little motor skills left. I now feel I should have done something more but I'm not really sure what?
The guilt you now feel is fairly normal for loved one's affected by someone else's alcoholism/addiction. You feel you should have done more or done something differently or made more of a difference ...
But the reality of the situation is that there is nothing you could have done. You need to understand that your sister's alcoholism is her disease, and she is ultimately the only one who is responsible for overcoming it by admitting to her problem and then getting the appropriate help.
I say this often in this forum, but let me say it again because it is such a crucial point to understand when dealing with someone else's addiction: You didn't Cause it, You can't Control, and You can't Cure it. So blaming yourself is the last thing you should be doing.
Unfortunately as loved one's to someone suffering from an addiction, blaming ourselves or somehow feeling responsible is naturally what we do - even though we shouldn't and because it's totally counter productive.
Until your sister takes ownership of her addiction and responsibility for getting sober by enlisting the help of those that can help her achieve that (a proper treatment
facility and 12 step program are typically good places to start) - no matter what you do is likely to help her.
I really hope your sister recovers her health and if she does, hopefully the condition she found herself in will have given her sufficient shock to realise she needs to change. The best thing you can probably do is go to Al Anon, which is for the loved one's of alcoholics, where you'll find loads of support from others who have been in your shoes, but apart from that I think you've done everything you can.
God Bless and Take Care