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Dire Situation - Seeking Guidance

Old 11-16-2008, 05:17 PM
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Unhappy Dire Situation - Seeking Guidance

I posted this message at another support and information forum, but have recieved little feedback so far. I'm hoping that maybe someone will read this and have advice/guidance to offer.


My mother is an alcoholic. Within the last year her situation has rapidly declined. I am urgently seeking advice as to how to handle her current situation.

A brief run-down of her history:

My mother has been grappling with her alcoholism the last 23 years. She was mostly sober for a good 18 years with few "relapses" in between. In the last six years (about 2002) her alcoholism has become increasingly worse. She was hiding and consuming large plastic bottles of vodka every day for months. She would go out to a bar down the street almost every night. A year into her resurgence of her addiction she had a stroke at the age of 42 that put her in the hospital for a month. She had extensive nerve damage to her legs and hands and personality/mental function problems as result of her stroke. Almost immediately after coming out of the hospital she was drinking heavily again. She was combining pain pills and vodka on a regular basis. Soon she lost her job and my father divorced her. He forced her to move out of our home and seek her own residence. At that point her addiction was able to "flourish" and her decent into it was even more rapid. She became a recluse in her apartment; her friends all but one or two abandoned her, her parents stopped talking to her. My sister and I were so heartbroken over the situation that we hardly came around to see her.

Around 2005 she was completely broke and decided to move in with a boyfriend who also had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. He did slow down her drinking habits, but all the same he was enabling her addiction. Fast-forward to today, her health is ruined. In the last year her doctors diagnosed her with an eating disorder on top of her alcoholism. She has lost about 15 to 20 lbs in roughly under a year. She is 5'6" tall and currently weighs about 90lbs (possibly less). She is unable to walk for long distance or stand for more than five minutes at a time. She is going blind in one eye. She continues to drink, but at a slower pace.

I think she is nearing a point of no return. Her weight is continuing to drop and she makes no secret of her problems. I'm almost certain that if something isn't done soon she may not be alive a year from now.

I know that if she refuses to seek help for herself then things can not change, but at this point I'm desperate. If someone could offer me guidance or advice, I would deeply appreciate it.
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Old 11-16-2008, 05:30 PM
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Thank you for your reply.

I'm not sure if I can do that because my mother is living in Wisconsin and I am living in New Orleans. I am a legal resident of Louisiana. However I'll still look into it. I am grateful for any suggestions.
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Old 11-16-2008, 05:39 PM
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Hi NOLA,

I'm so sorry you're going through this. We have a little thing we have to repeat around here when things get this crazy: We didn't CAUSE it, we can't CONTROL it, we can't CURE it.

And it stinks.

You have only a few options here, really.
  • Let your mom make her own choices, as sad as they are, because she is going to do that no matter what you decide to do. Practice detachment with love. Al-Anon meetings and a little bit of counseling helped me to do that with my alcoholic family members.
  • You can try to Baker Act her, as tracee mentioned above (get her taken in)
  • You can try to stage an intervention. There are lots of resources online and in the library on proper tactics for this.

The problem is, really, that none of these things will make anything better IF SHE IS NOT READY TO STOP DRINKING. Until she is ready for recovery, any efforts to get her to stop are likely to be wasted. I went through them (before I knew better) and the only thing I got for all of that effort was the knowledge that I was a hero and made myself insane trying to do everything possible to save her from herself. The end result was the same.

Take care of yourself and your own life as best you can -- it's the only life you can really control. I hope that she chooses life.
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Old 11-16-2008, 05:58 PM
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GiveLove - First of all, thank you so much for replying. It's a relief to find someone who can understand my circumstances.

I know you're right in everything you have written and yet the truth is so difficult to swallow. I feel incredibly guilty, because I feel like maybe if I had made that extra push she might not be in the state she is now, but I know that my guilt is unfounded. I have pleaded, threatened, sought counsel from professionals and it was never enough. It's this smothering helplessness that forces me to make a last ditch effort even though I know my mother is unwilling to seek help. I can't stand the idea of standing by idle as she dies.
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Old 11-16-2008, 06:26 PM
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I think a lot of us reach the point where we are doing this for our "future selves" even though the likelihood of success is very small. That's just being realistic.

I'll share a bit of my older sister's story with you. It's similar to your mom's in that she drank alcoholically, off and on, for at least a couple of decades. Toward the end, as she lost her high-paying career, her driver's license, her house, and her husband, she landed repeatedly in the hospital.

Once, she was in a coma for several days. The doctors said, "If you continue drinking it will kill you." She got out of the hospital and went right to the liquor store for another of those huge plastic jugs of vodka you mention.

She became homeless. She slept in shelters at night. She went in and out of rehab and sober houses seven times. We tried everything we knew how to do. We tried intervention. We tried tough love. We tried talking her into coming home where we would then commit her (she didn't, and in hindsight it's probably a godsend)

On one of her hospital trips, the doctors told her her liver and kidneys couldn't handle any more drinking, and if they died, she would die too.

She got out and drank right away.

The last hospital trip was the one she didn't walk away from, two weeks after the one above.

The things I feel best about all of this horrible situation:

--I never stopped loving her, and never stopped telling her so.
--I wrote her letters telling her about my life and letting her know that I feared her drinking was going to kill her, and I wanted her in my life. I didn't push, just told the truth.
--The times when she DID respond to our efforts, for a day or a week or a month, we had good conversations in which I was able to say the things that had been left unsaid between us. I had closure.

These were all things I did for ME, you'll notice.

She didn't get better. You mom may not either. But either way, expressing how you feel can never be a wrong move.

Good luck with all of this, NOLAgirl. Do what you feel is best for your future self.

:ghug3
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Old 11-16-2008, 06:34 PM
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By the way, NOLA, things are a little slower here on the weekends - you may get more responses tomorrow, so hang in there.

Also, there is a Sober Recovery forum (two above this one) for Friends & Family of Alcoholics. There are more people there, and as you might guess, they have lots of experience with dealing with alcoholic loved ones -- you may get a variety of responses/ideas there. Would you like us to move your thread there?

Hang in there,
GL
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Old 11-16-2008, 06:53 PM
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GiveLove, I can't tell you how grateful I am for the story you have shared with me. I feel like my eyes are opening and it's in no small part because of you. The people around me have never (thankfully) had to go through the situation you have or I have so they are unable to console me. They try to listen and offer advice when they can, but I can see they are at a loss for how to help. The last six years have been dreadful and emotionally exhausting. Not really at any point in all that time did I think about myself. I was always fretting over my mother and her actions. Every thought revolved around the decisions she was making and my next move in her ongoing drama. I guess I have been going about this the wrong way and I'm certain I have deep emotional scars as a result.

I think I'm going to take a step back and let this go. I'm not giving up, but just choosing to deal with this in the healthiest way possible. And right now, my freaking out and trying to force a treatment on her she is unwilling to try, is pointless. I know she is not ready yet to seek the help she so desperately needs.

Thank you, so so much for what you have written here. I'm feeling better than I have in quite awhile.

PS-
Don't worry about moving my thread. I think I've already recieved the best possible guidance and advice out there and I'm going to try to follow it.

Last edited by NOLAGirl; 11-16-2008 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 11-16-2008, 08:13 PM
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Hi NOLAGirl,

You are obviously a very intelligent and compassionate person. I was glad to read that you understood, how some people, who would like to help, are "at a loss" to do so.
When I read your post, I was stunned by the complexity of the situation:
The distance between you, the co morbidity, and severity of your mothers health problems...not to mention, (and you don't ), any role your father plays helping you, emotionally, or otherwise, to live through this nightmare...

I truly wanted to provide some useful information, that would help you in any way, but I too, was at a loss.

GiveLove to the rescue though!! Her advice is dead on.
There are very few things in life that can make me cry anymore. GiveLove your gonna be a problem for me. LOL! This the wisest and most moving and advice I have ever read. ^5 GoodLove! Keep on doing what you do, you are so lovely!

God bless NOLAGirl, I pray your mom recovers the will to save her own life, as ultimately, she is the only one who can.
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Old 11-16-2008, 08:51 PM
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Hey NOLAgirl. I definitely second Givelove's advice. There is nothing you can do to stop your mom's drinking. She is an adult and the only one responsible for her decisions - no matter what you do.

Guilt is a terrible effect that alcoholism has on the people who love the alcoholic. We've all felt this - that terrible persistent feeling that *IF* we would have tried harder, asked for less, did better at school, etc. IF we could have been better, maybe they wouldn't have drank so much. This is toxic guilt! - when you start believing that you are responsible for someone else's choices (and feelings). Many of us mistakingly learn this from a very young age. It's not right.

This doesn't mean that you have to sit idle, though. Although you can't effectively change your mom's choices, that doesn't mean you can't help yourself deal with this stressful situation. There's just no good reason for you to be so isolated, torturing yourself, over how you can't fix a problem that you have no control over. For starters, there are many books out there that tackle toxic guilt and coping as an ACoA. Debugging all the crap that gets put in our heads (growing up with an alcoholic) can take time, and happens in stages. The end result is a chance to feel confident in yourself, to know that your instincts are good, and to feel proud and successful. I know reading may not seem like it's doing much, but when you find the right stuff, it can be more validating and therapeutic than any session with a counsellor. Unfortunately for us it just doesn't come easy. But hang in there - you're not alone
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Old 11-17-2008, 11:59 PM
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Wow. I am overwhelmed with gratitude right now. Reaching out to this forum was the best decision I have made in a long time regarding this situation, and I truely mean that. I would go through cycles where I felt emotionally wrecked and would become almost incapacitated for days on end. Reading your replies has snapped me out of my stupor. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The situation may not be resolved, or even close to it for that matter, but I feel like maybe I can handle it. I know I won't always feel this way, but I'll take what I can get.
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Old 11-19-2008, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by NOLAGirl View Post
Thank you for your reply.

I'm not sure if I can do that because my mother is living in Wisconsin and I am living in New Orleans. I am a legal resident of Louisiana. However I'll still look into it. I am grateful for any suggestions.
You may not need to go that far. Call the county elder abuse/elder neglect hotline. They should send out a nurse or social worker to assess her and see what services they can offer her. They work with adults who are at risk for "self neglect" in addition to adults who are at risk for abuse by others.

Here's a list of phone numbers:
http://dhs.wisconsin.gov/aps/Contacts/eaaragencies.htm
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Old 11-25-2008, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by NOLAGirl View Post
Wow. I am overwhelmed with gratitude right now. Reaching out to this forum was the best decision I have made in a long time regarding this situation, and I truely mean that. I would go through cycles where I felt emotionally wrecked and would become almost incapacitated for days on end. Reading your replies has snapped me out of my stupor. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The situation may not be resolved, or even close to it for that matter, but I feel like maybe I can handle it. I know I won't always feel this way, but I'll take what I can get.
My input is both "you can't make her get well" and "you can try an intervention."

About 12 years ago, I was living with someone who was about like your mom, in terms of vodka consumption; and the health consequences were just about as bad. I went to Al-Anon for a few months and found that it helped me a lot -- but she was (of course) still drinking, and her health was getting really bad.

She went into the hospital one night, with gastrointestinal bleeding (I'll spare you the gory details, but that's one symptom of end-stage liver disease). She was in the hospital for a week, during which time I was on the phone almost non-stop, talking to doctors, friends... and a professional intervention counselor.

On the day the patient was due to be discharged, the counselor and I, along with three of her closest friends, descended upon her hospital room and, in about 10 minutes, persuaded her to go to treatment; I brought a plane ticket and a suitcase full of her clothes, which helped. We went straight to the airport and checked her into treatment. She was there for several months, got a healthy dose of 12-step "brainwashing," and she's been healthy ever since (knock wood, ODAAT, YMMV, let's not tempt fate, all usual disclaimers apply).

It can be done -- but the person has to want to get healthy. That's what my relative says -- "I wanted to get better, but it was too scary to do it myself." If your mom really likes vodka better than life itself, an intervention won't work... but that's what I thought we had on our hands, 'til I tried it and it worked!

T
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