Alcoholic brother


Alcoholic brother


your avatar   Dawn, 31-year-old woman

My brother is an alcoholic and his problem has been getting worse. He has been in rehabilitation three times and it does not seem to work. He really enjoys drinking hard alcohol, and gets very mean when he does. He fights with me constantly about very minute things, and has only spoken to me 2 months out of the past two years because he was mad at me the rest of the time.

He is constantly competing for my parents' attention. I have tried to tell him there is no competition between us; he is their son and I am their daughter and there shouldn't be any competing. He will tell our mother all kinds of things so she will side with him. She gets upset with me and will tell me I should just let it all go.

Lately, I have not heard from nor spoken to him. He is upset with me because I would not get off my phone, so he could call my house when his daughter was here. My mom tries to make me feel guilty constantly and acts like he is the victim all the time. I told her he is my brother and I love him, but I don't have to keep taking the verbal lashings from him. He calls me names in front of my children and tells them that their father is no good and lazy. My husband works two jobs! I find it very inappropriate, and tell him that if he can't be nice then he can stay away. So he tells our mom he will not come around for the holidays, and of course, she blames me.

I do not know what to do anymore. We were told by a counselor that as long as he is being enabled he will continue along this path. What should I do about my alcoholic brother? Should I allow him to treat my husband and I in this manner?


    Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, LPC, LISAC, DCC

Hi Dawn,

From what you have written in your e-mail I would agree with the previous counselor. It sounds as if your mother, and to a lesser extent you, have been enabling your brother. It is a very understandable and common thing to do. Whenever someone you love is hurting it is natural to try and lend them a hand. If the person who needs help is a relatively healthy person, they accept the temporary help and then proceed to help themselves. If they are not healthy they begin to develop a dependent relationship with the helper. They start to love and hate the other person's help and begin to depend on it. They eventually help themselves less because of the help. They therefore get worse with each additional hand out.

Sometimes you just can't get your first choice no matter how just it is. I am sure that you wish greatly that your mother would realize how codependent she is being, so that both of you could present a united front and not allow your brother to use or abuse the two of you or your husband. That is always a possibility; however, it does not sound as if it is likely after reading your e-mail.

It sounds as if the most that you can hope for is that you and your husband stand up for yourselves. It is imperative that the two of you become educated in the issue of codependency. I would suggest that you read Melody Beatty's "Codependent No More." It is the basic primer of codependency. Both of you have to know that it is healthy to set good and firm boundaries. It is okay to love someone and yet be firm with them if they have a substance abuse problem.

You are under no obligation to help them when help is no longer helpful. People who were codependent either try to criticize the person for their chemical usage or rescue them from the consequences of their use. Either way, the codependents' noble feelings and actions backfire on them and the abuser is more likely to use.

Don't expect that your mother will ever understand or agree. Simply give her the name of the book and allow her to make her own decisions. If she complains that you were doing something wrong confront her and set appropriate boundaries. Good luck.


This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.For more information visit:


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