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I need to know what we should be doing *now*

Old 07-25-2010, 09:37 AM
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I need to know what we should be doing *now*

My uncle almost killed himself.

I have a small family. At holidays it consists of my mom, my uncle and aunt, my brother, his girlfriend, their two kids and me and my kids.

My aunt and uncle never had kids, and I always felt like I had a bonus set of parents.

They used to take my youngest brother and I to Geauga Lake, and a lot of other places, too.

They were both teachers, and over the last few years both have retired.

My uncle was an athlete, taught middle school gym class, played sports all of his life.

He is the reason I know there are good men out there, he has healthy boundaries and respects women and children.

He's had both shoulders replaced, and last fall had both knees replaced for the second time.

Two weeks ago he was told he needs both hips replaced.

He's been taking vicodin and sleeping pills for YEARS because it's how he "manages the pain".

My uncle is an alcoholic.

I've known he had a drinking problem before I could even comprehend what that meant.

I'd go over to his house and there were CASES of beer stacked next to his fridge - and he was always pounding them down.

2 weeks ago he put himself in rehab, but he was unwilling to give up the pills, so they discharged him after not even 24 hours.

He went to 3 AA meetings.

Monday night he took 30 vicodin and 30 sleeping pills.

My aunt woke up at 3:45am to find him on the floor in the living room unresponsive.

She called 911 and he was unconscious for 3 days in the ICU. When he woke up he said "the plan was to take all of the pills, then go in the back yard and slit my wrists".

He has liver damage, and kidney damage.

He wants to go to rehab for his alcoholism.

He almost died.

He was big and strong, now he's small and wasting away.

Last night he asked the doctor for a sleeping pill because he can't sleep.




I don't know what to do, and I don't know how to help my aunt. The entire family is looking to me because I went to rehab as a teenager and worked the 12 steps really hard for 5 years - then got married, moved away, had kids, and have stayed sober and healthy without meetings (sober almost 16 years now). I even worked in a drug rehab center from age 18-20, but I'm almost 32 and that seems like another lifetime ago.

He was this big, strong, healthy guy, and now he could be any homeless man.

I'd know better how to guide my aunt if this was her child, but he's her husband and I don't know how to tell her to do nothing when he's so very sick, in the hospital, depressed, recovering from an overdose and on his way to mental health and rehab. When will he be physically well enough and emotionally well enough (can walk, medically stable and not suicidal) to be responsible for his own recovery? I know that *right now* he needs support, but I don't want the short term support to turn into long term codependence. I don't want the emergency "we will hold you up until you can hold yourself up" to turn into a lifetime of propping and excuse making.

When should we (his family, his wife, everyone) let go?

Should we wait until he's a few weeks out of rehab? Support him through getting to meetings, and finding a sponsor? Or is it today, when he's still very sick, looking at liver failure and dialysis, mentally unstable and on suicide watch, so weak he can't walk?

Help me to help my aunt.

Help me to know when to help and not help my uncle!
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Old 07-25-2010, 10:08 AM
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Doesn't sound to me like there is a whole lot you can do to help your uncle at this moment in time. He's getting medical care from professionals, so he's in good hands, hopefully, for the moment.

Seems to me that the best thing the whole family can do is to get to some Al-Anon meetings. Detachment doesn't mean that you don't "support" the alcoholic, it just means you don't let yourself become enmeshed in what should be his or her own recovery. Being positive and encouraging isn't the same as enabling.

Your aunt will have to make her own decisions. It's easy for those of us of the "rescuer" bent to become overly involved in other people's problems. My own alcoholic second husband wound up in a similar state to that of your uncle, only in his case it was a result of acute withdrawal. His liver and kidneys shut down, he almost died, they were talking need for a transplant (of course, he had no insurance and most liver transplants won't happen unless the recipient has a year of sobriety), but miraculously when the biopsy was finally performed (months later, when he had recovered sufficiently), he had EARLY cirrhosis and would be fine if he never drank again. He ultimately did, and I'm amazed he's still alive (we divorced after his relapse).

Al-Anon was SO helpful to me when I was feeling helpless and terrified when he was in the hospital. It reassured me I wasn't going crazy, and helped me to keep my head through his short-lived recovery and eventual relapse.

Encourage your aunt to go to Al-Anon--maybe someone else from the family can go with her, at least to the first couple of meetings.
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Old 07-25-2010, 11:00 AM
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Hello there niece, and welcome to SR

Originally Posted by Niece View Post
.... The entire family is looking to me because I went to rehab as a teenager and worked the 12 steps really hard for 5 years - then got married, moved away, had kids, and have stayed sober and healthy without meetings (sober almost 16 years now). I even worked in a drug rehab center from age 18-20, but I'm almost 32 and that seems like another lifetime ago.....
Good for you. That is awesome that you changed your life around, very well done.

One of the "rules" of being a health care provider is that you can _not_ treat your own family. Like you said, it's been a lifetime ago so you probably forgot that little gem. What you _can_ do is show your family _where_ they can go for help. Al-anon being the first choice.

Originally Posted by Niece View Post
....I know that *right now* he needs support, but I don't want the short term support to turn into long term codependence. ....
exactly right.

Originally Posted by Niece View Post
.... When should we (his family, his wife, everyone) let go?....
There's a difference between "letting go" and "giving up".

Letting go is what happens when the Serenity Prayer results in actions I take in my life. Sometimes there are actions I can take to help another, and sometimes I have to let go and allow that person to help themselves.

Originally Posted by Niece View Post
.... Help me to know when to help and not help my uncle!....
The general rule is "if they can do it for themselves, let them". If you uncle has trouble getting out of bed, you can help him get up. If he can't drive to a meeting, you can let him pick up the phone and call the list of phone numbers he will get at the rehab and ask for another AA to take him to a meet.

If he starts talking about suicide you pick up the phone and call his doctor. If he starts talking about maybe getting a sponsor you say "what a great idea, I think I'll look for one in al-anon for me".

Am I making sense with all that?

Mike
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Old 07-26-2010, 08:46 PM
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Thanks Mike.
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Old 07-26-2010, 09:15 PM
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Show him he is loved, and do for him only what he can't do for himself.
Both you and your aunt could look at Alanon, and learn that love can be shown in detaching.

God bless
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Old 07-26-2010, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by DesertEyes View Post
One of the "rules" of being a health care provider is that you can _not_ treat your own family. Like you said, it's been a lifetime ago so you probably forgot that little gem. What you _can_ do is show your family _where_ they can go for help. Al-anon being the first choice.

The general rule is "if they can do it for themselves, let them". If you uncle has trouble getting out of bed, you can help him get up. If he can't drive to a meeting, you can let him pick up the phone and call the list of phone numbers he will get at the rehab and ask for another AA to take him to a meet.

If he starts talking about suicide you pick up the phone and call his doctor. If he starts talking about maybe getting a sponsor you say "what a great idea, I think I'll look for one in al-anon for me".
As usual, Mike hits the bullseye.

I'm the last person to be able to help my 32-year old AD, and I'm in long-term recovery myself.

Alanon has been a lifesaver for me.
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