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New here and looking for stories about detaching

Old 06-28-2010, 07:38 PM
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New here and looking for stories about detaching

Hi all. I am new here and just started attending Al-Anon. I'm trying to figure out how to tell my brother that I no longer feel comfortable letting my son be around him. My son is two and has never seen my brother drunk. It seems to me that he drinks just enough to be comfortable around people and then gets drunk later by himself and he doesn't drink in front of anyone anymore. A lot of times I can't tell whether he's had a drink or not, but in my mind it really doesn't matter because he's had jaundice for nine months so obviously something is really wrong here.

Regardless of how much he's drinking or whether he's under the influence around my kid, I feel like it's really bad for my son to have a relationship with somebody who's killing himself in front of our eyes and who seems to have no intention of stopping. I just don't want my son to think it's ok to choose to destroy yourself instead of dealing with your issues in a healthy way. I also don't want him to grow up thinking that when you see someone in trouble, you should just ignore it, make excuses, and pretend it's not happening.

I think it's totally reasonable to not want my brother around my kiddo so long as he's drinking but I am struggling with my mom and other family members thinking that I am being mean or trying to punish my brother and that I'm not acknowledging my brother's "accomplishments" - seeing a counselor and not being under the influence at two family events.

I know that I need to do what is healthy for me and my little family. I need to figure out how to set boundaries with my brother the right way - not making it about me controlling him or coercing him to get help like, "you can't see my son unless you..." Sometimes I think it would be easier if he would get fall-down drunk in front of us, or get a DUI, get in trouble some way. I wish I could say, "I'm not comfortable being around you when you've been drinking and I'm going to leave the next time it happens," but it's hard when I'm not 100% if he has been drinking. Even if he's sober, it's so obvious that he's having health problems because of his drinking, I feel like I'm enabling him just by having a conversation with him and pretending like everything is normal when it's so crazy! At this point I just don't want to be around him at all. I feel like I'd rather just say I can't do this and deal with the fallout, but I worry that it will give my family something else to focus on instead of the real problem of alcoholism.

I guess I was hoping that maybe some of you could share your stories about how you detached from a loved one. I am trying to find a way to tell him I can't be around him right now, but still have a chance at having a relationship with him in the future should he decide to get sober. I also don't want to further take the focus off my brother and the alcoholism and put it on myself as the person causing problems and disrupting the harmony of our family. In other words, I need to be reasonable and calm.

Anything you all can share with me particularly about children? I could also use a little pep talk that I'm doing the right thing by trying to protect my son from some real heartache and confusion. I keep doubting myself. I feel like the situation with my family is so different than my version of reality that sometimes I start to think that maybe I'm just crazy!

Anything you could share with me would be awesome. I promise to try to really listen to whatever you are trying to share with me!
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Old 06-28-2010, 07:51 PM
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I feel like the situation with my family is so different than my version of reality that sometimes I start to think that maybe I'm just crazy!
Welcome to the Forum, MzSister.
First, I want to support your decision absolutely to limit your brother's access to your son.
I quoted the above, because I grew up with an alcoholic father, and I knew something was wrong, but no one would talk about it. No one. And I did feel crazy.

If your brother is suffering from jaundice, that is just awful to watch. My father died from cirrhosis, and it is terrible.

Good on you for going to AlAnon, and learning how to protect yourself and your son.
Live in your reality, it is the only one that matters.

Beth
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Old 06-28-2010, 07:55 PM
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Sister,
Heck yeah you are doing the right thing! Good for you for taking these steps!!! Alcoholism is a Family disease so what you are going thru with your parents sounds about 'right.'. I suggest going to the library and reading about the disease of alcoholism and going to Al-Anon.

What you describe you are trying to tell your brother is termed Boundary Setting. There is a current thread on this topic from just this afternoon on this forum. Also, please check out the stickies at the top of the forum. There are distinct steps you can follow to help you communicate your boundaries to your bro.

PS You seem to know this instinctively already, but you are right that you have no responsibility toward your bro Or your family to reward him for EVER being sober. And you are doing the right thing by setting these boundaries. I am truly impressed by your efforts!
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Old 06-29-2010, 05:58 AM
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Hey - thanks for responding to my shameless request for validation! My dad is on the same page as me with all this stuff (parents are divorced) but he lives in another state so I feel like I'm alone in this weirdness. My husband and his family are way supportive and have some experience with alcohol issues (binge drinking) as well so they "get" it. Of course my mom twists that to mean that my husband isn't seeing the situation with my brother clearly because he is damaged from his own family's issues. Hmm...

I have been doing a really lousy job trying to talk to my mom because I get so upset about the contradictions and rationalizations I hear. It doesn't help the situation and it doesn't help me so I'm working on that. I don't know how to express that this isn't sibling rivalry or a difference of opinion but that I am afraid for his life. We have no idea how bad his situation is - I'm worried he doesn't have much time left but we don't know because he hasn't been to a doctor. Mom says he's going to go in a few weeks. Me: "oh, I didn't know he'd made an appointment." Mom: "well, I don't know if he's made an appointment yet." There is a huge list of things he's always just about to do. She and other family members are assuming that he wants to quit drinking because it would be crazy not to. Well, it's not a very logical thing to drink yourself yellow in the first place. They are being "supportive" of him quitting but as far as I know he has no intention of stopping.

I guess I'm just at a point where I don't want to be around him and I don't want my son to be around him at all. I would like to find a way for my son to still see him, but I can't see a way to do that where I'm comfortable without putting all kinds of restrictions on my brother which isn't reasonable either. I mean, I'm not going to treat a grown person like a kid how can't get his allowance unless he does his chores. I'd like to say, I'm going to take my kid home if you've been drinking, but I'm pretty sure he has some level of alcohol in him at all times. I think he's been like this for so long my family has no idea what sober looks like.

Hmm... this kind of sounds like I'm asking you all to give me permission to remove myself from the situation. I know it's up to me. I guess I'm just looking for some ideas of what other people have done. My biggest thing is that I want to be able to come back into his life if he does decide to stop. I feel like I've been burning bridges like crazy with my mom and I've got to get a hold of myself and stop participating in craziness!
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Old 06-29-2010, 06:49 AM
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Hi sister and to SR!

It seems your instincts are already bang on and that you already know what you're going to do. Perhaps you're just struggling with the idea of hurting your brother or creating waves in your family because of your decision. It's a very hard thing to do especially when you're in the habit of just keeping the peace.

From reading your post, it sounds as if your mother is your brother's enabler. She defends him, denies his alcoholism and will lie to protect him. Considering this, it's as useless to talk to her as it is to talk to him. Your brother will continue drinking and your mother will continue pretending that everything is fine, or that if it really isn't, it isn't your brother's fault.

You don't have to make a big statement out of your decision. You can simply stop going to visit your brother or not going to events where he will be present. Since your son is so young, it would be easy to redirect him to other activities or people should you realize that your brother is intoxicated in his presence. If ever you are asked why you are behaving this way, you can respond simply and just walk away.

My only comparison is how I dealt with my alcoholic husband when he was in the presence of our infant daughter. I saw that he was drinking, which was generally in the afternoons and evenings, so I'd take DD into another room, or out for a walk. When he got more drunk, I'd take her to the room we shared together and put on her favourite song to groove to or play a game with her. I basically removed us from the location where XAH was. When he got out of control angry and verbally violent, I informed him that he needed to calm down for the sake of our daughter or I was leaving. Since my statement triggered more aggression, I took our baby girl and walked out the door. I didn't know where I was going at first; I just walked, telling my baby it would be ok.
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Old 06-29-2010, 07:23 AM
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Yeah, I think mom is big-time enabling and co-dependent. I avoided situations with my brother for a long time and would redirect my son to be with other relatives if it was obvious my brother had been drinking. I just feel that now I don't want to be around him at all.

I think I made a mistake in talking to my mom and my grandparents about it. My grandparents (mom's parents) have been respectful of my decision if not understanding. I felt like I needed to explain myself because my grandparents always invite my brother whenever they invite me over, and my brother lives at my mom's house (big shocker, I know). I told them I didn't wasn't asking them to not invite him or change anything they didn't want to, and suggested somethings to my grandparents about maybe I could just "drop by" to see them sometimes or that they could come visit at my house instead. My mom feels that I've made this into my son versus her son.

I'm just feeling like I wish I hadn't said anything and just simply disappeared for awhile. I made the mistake of telling my mom what I was thinking, and she of course told my brother. I just feel like I am doing things to keep myself in the position of villain and troublemaker. I don't want to do that anymore. I'm not worried about upsetting the peace - I've already done that, and if anything, I've always had more trouble keeping my mouth shut when I should than speaking up. Probably as a backlash to always feeling like I was supposed to keep up the illusion that everything is just fine.

Maybe I do just need to not talk to anybody right now. I wish I could find a way for my son to see his uncle but then I worry that even if he's sober around him (doubtful) he's going to die if he doesn't get help, and sooner rather than later. Do I want to put my kid through that loss? I want my son to be able to see his grandmother too because they have a really strong bond and she's probably his favorite person other then mommy and daddy.
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Old 06-29-2010, 07:49 AM
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Perhaps, for now, seeing as your son is so young, it might be good to keep him away from his uncle, who doesn't seem to be anywhere near recovery. He may not understand or be happy about it, but you're going to have to don the Bad Guy Mantle by shielding him from his uncle's choices. As for what's already been said...meh, *someone* had to talk about the elephant in the room.

As for your mother...well, sadly, you can't really take stock in anything she says because she's full on in denial and enabling mode. It might also help to detach from her as well, as hard as it might be on you.

Good for you for putting your son's well-being first!
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Old 06-29-2010, 09:15 AM
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Just got a call from mom. She said she and my stepfather sat my brother down yesterday and talked to him about how he was going to die if he didn't quit drinking. She also told him again that I'm not going to allow my son to be around him at this time. She didn't say it, but it sounded like she respects that decision. It would be ok if she didn't, but it was still nice to hear.

She told me she realized that even though she has said things to him about his drinking in the past, she has always just gone back to acting the same way around him later. She said she now understands that if she acts like everything is ok, it lets my brother believe that he's doing better. She actually used the word "enabling." She also said she's making arrangements to see a psychologist herself.

I remain optimistic, but will be waiting and seeing on this one. My mom and brother have both seemed to have moments of clarity in the past and I get really excited only to see things slip back into their old patterns. I'm going to make sure my mom can come visit my son, but I'm going to make sure to emotionally protect myself. If that means we just can't talk about my brother, I'm ok with that.

I'm going to let my brother know that I love him and will support him if he decides to quit drinking. He can let me know if and when that happens. I feel really good about moving myself out of crazytown and focusing on myself! I'm not going to let my happiness be determined by somebody else's actions anymore. I just feel like I'm finally doing what's right for me. I managed to talk to my mom in a way that I'm proud of. I shared some things that I wanted to share but in a way where I was focusing on ME, not her. In the past I've always said things that I think are right, but I said them in a way I regret. I'm sure I'll have slip-ups, but I'm just going to keep working on me.

I don't know if anyone is reading this... but it feels really good to get it out there! I feel really thankful for this site and the people who share their experiences here.
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Old 06-29-2010, 09:23 AM
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I think you're proceeding exactly as you should, by protecting yourself and not expecting grand things to happen on your mother and brother's side of things. The intention to change may be there, but it takes a lot of hard work to change patterns that have been in place for years. As for you, you got the words out and now you can move on.

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Old 06-29-2010, 09:23 AM
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Hi Mz,

Welcome to SR! You will find a ton of support here; I personally could not have gotten as far as I have without the support of the kindred spirits on here...so we hope you stick around, post, read, and learn.

In my experience, detaching is an ongoing thing, meaning that I have to work on it daily and put myself in "check" when I feel myself slipping back into the "comfortable" (although not necessarily healthy) ways of thinking. It feels awkward and wrong at first, because you care about the person, but you have to at some point for your own sanity and well-being.

We cannot control what others do, but we can control our reactions to their decisions and decide what is best for us and our family.

For me, with my alcoholic sister, I got to the point where it was no longer healthy for me to be around her self-destructive tendencies. I love her with all my heart and hope she will one day find her way back, but it's up to her to do that.

It sounds like you have a healthy concern for your son and yourself, and that's a good first step. Doing the "right" thing is not necessarily easy, but you will know it's right because it will feel right for YOU and YOUR situation.

Wishing you hugs.
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Old 06-29-2010, 02:50 PM
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Sister,

Please stick with the Al-Anon at least for a bit, because you will learn tools there that I have never seen taught anywhere else. Truly, the people I have known who find and work 12-steps for themselves have benefited so much, including me. The differences in my relationships with my parents (alcoholic father, enabling mother) between my siblings and I (I am the ONLY one out of six of us who ever did a 12-step program, even though I recommended it to all of them) are tremendous. It set me on a path of incredible self-awareness and discovery, and I wish it for everyone.

As for getting distance between you and your brother (for WHATEVER reason), it is a good idea and it also sounds like you are a very emotionally healthy person. It is incredible to me that you seem to know instinctively that you need to do this. I truly admire that. My youngest brother and I were very codependent for all of our lives until several years ago when I had to cut all ties with him because of the effecst his demeanor and his decisions about his life were having on me (he is an addict). I went without speaking to him for approximately a year and a half, and somehow, miraculously, after all the decades of trying to make things RIGHT for him so that he could do the right things, after all the suffering I put myself through, it wasn't until I LET GO of him completely that he got clean. It made me a true believer in God and the 12-step saying, "Let Go and Let God." Of course, at first, I was rather hysterical about it but once I got to breathing deep and releasing all my fear, it was ridiculously easy -- it was not until that point in my life, after I let go of my brother, that I began to experience peace and serenity in my life.

I hope something I have shared here is helpful to you. I hope you keep going back.
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