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hellolulu's avatar

I think my mom is an alcoholic. What do I do now?

Asked by hellolulu (49points) February 19th, 2011

My mother is completely “normal” in the day time, but it has become clear to me that anytime after 10pm she becomes a different person. I live upstairs, and downstairs I hear her tripping, falling, and knocking things over. She reeks of alcohol in the mornings, and doesn’t have a clue. I just woke up an hour ago to the sound of her knocking over a shelf and had to carry her to her room. My brother is 17, lives at home, and is completely oblivious to her drinking (he thinks she sleep walks). I’m so heart-broken and so afraid that WHEN he finds out, he’ll lose respect for her (just like I have). I feel like I need to continue living at home so I can keep her from hurting herself and prevent my brother from taking up my ‘job’.
We live a very fortunate life, and I can’t understand why she drinks. I’ve tried and tried. I’ve confronted her 3 times about her drinking (the first time I wrote her a letter so it wouldn’t be as embarrassing for her) and each time I do it she gets extremely angry at me and refuses to speak. She threatens to leave, but I’m so afraid that if she did then she would seriously hurt herself. I’ve never seen a bottle of alcohol in the house (and I’ve searched).
The worst part is that, despite this situation, I have an extremely close relationship with my mom. But in my mind I just get so ANGRY and resentful at her sometimes, but can’t deal with it because she gets so offended if I speak to her.
I’m so afraid to leave home. I don’t know if she’s a legitimate alcoholic, or if her “bad nights” only occur after a bad day. My father completely ignores the drinking, and also gets angry if I bring it up. So, in turn, I’m resentful of him as well.
I don’t want to make this too long, but I also have found myself despising alcohol and I get really anxious if my friends or boyfriend gets drunk. I’ve never told anyone about my mother’s problem, so I can’t be honest to anyone about hating alcohol.
I feel so messed up. I feel like I’m the only ‘sane’ person in my house (other than my oblivious brother) and I can’t handle this anymore. I’m just so terrified that she’ll hurt herself and I’ll have done nothing.
What can I do for someone who REFUSES to listen? Is this what alcoholics are like?
There’s not a single person in my life that I trust with this kind of information. I have no clue what to do.

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28 Answers

cheebdragon's avatar

Wait, how old are you?

Jeruba's avatar

Darlin’, get yourself to an Al-Anon meeting, or Alateen if you’re under 18. You can find listings for your area through Google. You are not alone in having to deal with something like this at home, and those are the folks who can help you learn the tools you need. They also understand exactly how you feel. It’s a great comfort and relief.

The main thing you need to know is you didn’t Cause it, you can’t Control it, and you can’t Cure it. But you can take care of yourself, and that’s what you need to do in this situation.

hellolulu's avatar

@cheebdragon I’m 20
@Jeruba I’m going to go look up Al-Anon. Thank you for your advice! I’d thought about it before, but I just don’t know if this qualifies as alcoholism. But I might go and see

Jeruba's avatar

It does. You’ll hear “If someone’s drinking bothers you, you’re in the right place.”

Where are you?

hellolulu's avatar

@Jeruba Definitely a hard pill to swallow, but thank you. And I’m in Ontario Canada

hellolulu's avatar

@Jeruba Thank you so much

Jeruba's avatar

Many people on this site know what you’re going through. Stick around. But a meeting in your area—or several; the first one isn’t always the one that clicks—is the best place to start.

cheebdragon's avatar

Is your brothers safety at risk in any way? You could call CPS since your brother is only 17, she has no business being drunk around him. That’s really the only way for you to force her into getting help. Of course you should only do this if there is someone else your brother can live with.

hellolulu's avatar

@Jeruba I think acknowledging the problem (by going to a meeting) would be difficult but potentially the only thing I can do. Thank you for your guidance – I truly appreciate it.
@cheebdragon Thank you for that, but the only person my mom is damaging is herself at this point. Everything is very hush hush and always happens when he is not around. But the moment he is at any potential risk, I’ll remove him myself.

cheebdragon's avatar

Why is it hush hush?.....Just keep in mind that you don’t have much time left to be able to do this. Once your brother turns 18 you won’t be able to do anything more than suggest getting help.

hellolulu's avatar

@cheebdragon By hush hush I mean there’s absolutely no proof of it, and both of my parents vehemently deny it and refuse to speak of it, and all of it occurs late at night. She isn’t violent, I just know that she’s hurting herself internally and she could trip or choke or anything. But what you’re suggesting is definitely something to consider. Even if I used it as a threat. Thank you for your input

jazzticity's avatar

Be careful before you rush to conclusions here. Falling down and knocking things over, if attributable to alcohol, would indicate a serious level of drinking. Does she show up to work and get things done? Is she dependable? Is she productive?

If the scenario you paint is someone living a perfectly normal and productive life, getting totally smashed after 10PM, and then completely recovering by the next morning… well, drinking doesn’t work that way. Drugs maybe. But not alcohol. The payback is swift and severe. Bodies just can’t take that kind of abuse.

hellolulu's avatar

@jazzticity That’s what’s bothering me too! It doesn’t make sense for her to not be completely hung over in the mornings. I mean, I can smell the alcohol on her, but she seems to be “normal” in the mornings. I’ve never witnessed her experience any symptoms that I’d expect. But I know from the smell at there just HAS to be alcohol involved. I wonder if people can build up like an immunity to it if they do it enough? I don’t know. I just know that tonight she legitimately couldn’t stand up on her own and she smelled like she had been drinking

zenvelo's avatar

@hellolulu You are doing the right thing by asking for help. Your father, and perhaps your brother, are in denial about your mother, that’s why they don’t want to talk about it.

The people at Al Anon will help you realize it is not your job to sacrifice your life to care for you mother. Your mother may never get sober; but you can grow to live your own life and be responsible for yourself, and let her be responsible for her self.

Good luck and let us know how you are doing.

Judi's avatar

Family secrets. I am so sorry you’re going through this but you should know that this is common. The picture perfect family with the dirty little secret. I wouldn’t even sell your brother short. He probably has a clue but is playing unto the denial role that is expected of him. Please follow @Jeruba ‘s sound advice and get hooked into alanon. They will give you help and advice. This is a family disease and everyone needs help. You need to learn what enabling is, and you need to learn what you can do to deal with it.
The hard part is, your mom will mot seek help until she hits bottom. The family efforts to hide it and cover for her or make excuses only serve to delay that. Good luck. Thake care of YOU!!!

Ladymia69's avatar

I have seen various similar scenarios in my friends’ families quite often. It seems to be a pattern in certain affluent suburban households. It might be something carried down through the generations. You sound like you have your head on straight, and that’s wonderful. Please seek help locally through Al-anon, as Jeruba suggested. When a family is in denial and heavily guarded, it is twice as hard to confront the situation, so realize that you may not be able to control anything either of your parents do. But you can help yourself. It is not your responsibility to hold the family together or make your mother well.

A few websites:

hellolulu's avatar

@zenvelo @Judi Thank you so much for your guidance as well. It’s definitely a bad case of denial and a bad family secret. I can’t understand it, and it seems selfish for me to move on (or move out!) when this is going on, but I just want to do the right thing. The idea that other people are in this situation is very saddening, but I guess that’s another good reason to try Al-Anon.
Thank you so much for your input. I can’t believe how relieving it is to put this “out there”.

hellolulu's avatar

@ladymia69 Thank you so much for your reply. I can totally appreciate how this could be a generational/social pattern. I’m so disturbed by the idea of not having control and not being able to help, and simultaneously frustrated because I don’t know why I’m the only one worried about her. I’ve been on the al-anon site for a while and I’m going to give it a try. Thank you so much again for the sites you posted – I’m going to go check them out for sure.

lillycoyote's avatar

I haven’t read the whole thread but I agree with everyone and anyone, @Jeruba et al., who have said that the place to start is with Al-Anon and Al-Ateen, if you are younger. Those groups, the people in those groups will not only give you support and listen to you in a way that only people who have gone through or are going through what you are going through, that is, having an alcoholic parent, but they can refer you to resources that, if it is possible, might allow you to help and support your mom. The important thing though, and this is not selfish, because first of all, you have a right to be healthy yourself and a right to get support if your mom’s drinking is damaging you but also because you can’t even begin to help your mom if you are damaged; if you are not strong and healthy yourself.

Judi's avatar

Another resource could be ACA
(Adult Children of Alcoholics)

hellolulu's avatar

@lillycoyote Thank you very much for your reply – I’m hoping Al-Anon could point me in the right direction. There’s so much guilt involved in all of this
@Judi Oh thank you for the site link. What a powerful homepage. Thanks for showing this to me!

Jeruba's avatar

@hellolulu, don’t get distracted with trying to monitor her behavior to the point of being able to describe it exactly and then measure that against some absolute yardstick of alcoholism. For one thing, she’s not letting you see her drinking behavior. For another, she may very well be taking a hit in the morning just to steady herself for the day. And finally, it isn’t up to you to document what she does; that’s part of the impossible attempt to control. What you know is that she is drinking and that the effects of this are causing serious problems in your life as well as hers. That’s enough.

I’ve heard a number of people call upon the analogy of the instructions you get on an airplane about the use of the oxygen mask: first put yours on before you attempt to help another person. When they cite this analogy, they’re talking about a principle they learned in Al-Anon.

Bellatrix's avatar

You have been given some great advice here and I am glad you are going to take it. I can understand you being angry with your mum and your dad too. My sister was an alcoholic and it broke my heart but also made me very angry to watch her drink herself into an early grave. You can’t make your mum change. That has to come from her and that’s why going to Al-Anon is a good idea for you. People there will be able to support you and help you deal with the frustration. I hope your family does start to face your mother’s drinking, but there are no guarantees. So as has been said, make sure you are okay and you get support.

rooeytoo's avatar

You have to remember the 3 c’s, you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it.
Al-anon is where to start, it that doesn’t feel quite right, then ACOA or ACA as i think they call it now. Al-anon teaches you how to cope but never quite touched the right chord for me. In my family my brother was the drunk and I hated him with a passion. ACOA deals with the anger much more than the other groups. So look around, try different meetings until you find one that feels like home. You will be astounded at the power of the group and how it will help you find out about yourself. It is impossible to live in a house as you describe and not be affected, meetings will teach you how to lessen the effects.

hellolulu's avatar

@Jeruba Thank you so much again for your words of wisdom. The airplane mask analogy is one that will certainly stick with me. It’s hard to put yourself first in this kind of situation, but hopefully that’s a realization that comes with time. Thank you so much again
@Mz_Lizzy I’m so sorry to hear about your sister – it is truly a horrible thing to have to witness and deal with, and the simultaneous love / anger seems just insurmountable. Thank you so much for your message
@rooeytoo Thank you for telling me about ACOA and ACA as well and for sharing your experience. I’m so sorry to hear about your brother and for the pain you have gone through. The anger is something I’m definitely trying to work on, but it’s hard to tame when you’re dealing with someone you care about so much. I’ll definitely keep the ACOA in mind as well for that very reason. Thank you so much

Judi's avatar

I wonder how @hellolulu is doing?

Jeruba's avatar

@Judi I wonder too when I run across some of these old posts describing serious problems. This OP hasn’t been seen in 4½ years. I hope she found the help she needed.

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