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rOs's avatar

What do I do about my girlfriend's brother?

Asked by rOs (3519points) June 8th, 2011

As I’ve mentioned before, my girlfriend’s father took his life after some tough times where he was battling addiction and various mental disorders. She mostly stays at my place, her mother has to work most of the time now, and her brother, Clay, still goes to school. He is just 17 and I’m worried about how he is dealing with his father’s death.

He has turned to mixing xanax and muscle relaxers on a regular basis, sometimes with alcohol. He parties irresponsibly, letting his “friends” tear up the house and eat all of the food while he gets faded. His school work is suffering and he skips a lot because he is always “sick”. He is mean, short-tempered, and quiet most of the time. He spends way too much money on recreational drugs, concerts, gas, food, cigarettes (money given to him by his mom, who is terrible at budgeting). Even his close friends have started to notice that he is having a hard time coping.

Their mom has basically has given up on them except to give them money and put food in the fridge. She offers little guidance and when Clay gets upset she just throws her hands up in a “Why are you doing this to me?” kind of way. She may not see it, but her selfishness is hurting her kids in a bad way. I convinced my girlfriend to talk to her mother about her brother’s xanax problem, but he talked his way out of it and its worse than ever. How do I get this woman to take care of her kids?

I understand that all three of them will have to deal with the suicide of the father in their own way, but I really think its time to do something. My girl has a chance, because she is smart and stays with me away from the family drama. Her brother though, is heading down a really dark road, and I would really like to help. He really likes and respects me, but I don’t know if its my place to talk to him. Their family is currently in crisis, with no real sign of hope. Of course family therapy would be an easy answer, but I doubt they would listen to me. I can’t let this continue, and I know if I could snap their mom out of her daze, she would be the mother they need right now.

Do I let things run their course, or should I intervene? If so, how?

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15 Answers

Blueroses's avatar

It sounds like your concern is coming from a sincere place. If the boy likes and respects you, what is the problem with talking to him yourself? Any friend can demonstrate caring for another friend. It doesn’t have to be “your place” to do so.

What are you afraid the negative outcome might be if you intervened?

jrpowell's avatar

You simply don’t. I will say this as a person that has been through addiction (I’m still a drunk) and some super fucked up family shit. When I was at the bottom I just stopped talking to everyone that had good intentions but seemed to offer nothing but criticism. If my sisters boyfriend tried to give me a lecture I would walk the fuck away and avoid him.

rOs's avatar

To Blueroses – I’ve seen how defensive he can get (e.g. “I do what I want”), and I’m afraid he will deny that there is even a problem in the first place.

*note – I’ve been addicted too, I know what its like to prefer the comfort of a foggy mind to the harsh realities of the world. It just that I know that Clay is a really smart, sweet kid. I’d hate for him to push the envelope too far and ruin his chances at being a doctor like he wants.

Blueroses's avatar

I get that. It’s a hard situation and as @johnpowell says, denial and avoidance is a large part of addictive behavior. How much worse would you feel if the boy overdoses and you never tried anything? Maybe a support group for you and your girlfriend to attend to get help with approaching him?
@johnpowell makes a really good point about not lecturing.

Zaku's avatar

Best thing would be for him to get grief- and substance-abuse- counseling. The mother and daughter would also do well to get grief counseling.

blueiiznh's avatar

There is a lot going on and for quite some period of time. There is certainly no magic answer for it all.
It will take hard work and possibly more time than it took to get to the place they are at.
Therapy as others have noted are obvious.
Be careful where and how you step as the vortex sounds pretty wide.

zenvelo's avatar

If he is underage (17 is underage in California), a referral to Child Protective Services will at least force the issue into the open and raise the mother’s awareness. It may not solve anything, but at least it is not being ignored.

@rOs, I am more concerned/curious about your involvement in this situation. Your concern is admirable to a degree, but you cannot fix this family. The comments posted in your previous question about your girlfriend also apply here. You are exhibiting classic signs of co-dependance, and perhaps you might explore that side of yourself.

funkdaddy's avatar

I’m sorry for everyone involved, it’s a lot to take in.

I understand @johnpowell‘s point about just leaving him alone but I always think you have to try. If he shuts you out initially, then that’s just how it goes and it’s sometimes unavoidable.

The one thing I’ve noticed that might help is that no one gets over their addiction until there’s something they are looking forward to. Something in the future they’re planning for that’s worth more to them than what they have now.

Maybe just plant that seed to find something he wants for himself. It doesn’t have to be grand plans, maybe he wants to go on a trip, or get a dog, or move into his own place, or do something when he graduates. It just has to be something beyond what’s right in front of him, something beyond himself.

It’s a tough sell, especially for teenagers, but if you can get him somewhere where he can help someone else that can help him see outside himself as well. One day in a hospital or a homeless shelter can show you a lot about the world. It’s not just raining on him.

Good luck.

Hibernate's avatar

This is not the best idea but you could go talk some sense in the mother to take some measures for the kid.

marinelife's avatar

Talk to his school counselor about the drug use. maybe they can spot it when he is on campus.

Turn him in if he is driving under the influence. (Tell the cops where he is going and his license plate number).

Try talking to him first before you do this. Tell him he needs help. Tell him that you care about him and are worried. (Chances are he won’t respond.)

When he gets caught, be there for him and help him see there is another way.

sarahsugs's avatar

You can also make an anonymous call to Child Protective Services and if nothing else discuss the situation and your concerns with them. They can help decide if this is an abusive situation for a 17-year-old to be living in, under the category of “neglect” (I don’t have hard data on this but as a teacher I remember learning that the majority of documented abuse cases are neglect). If the person you talk with thinks this is a reportable situation, they will ask you to fill out a form with a little more information. It can still be anonymous. And after that it will be in the hands of CPS to follow through with a home visit, etc. It may sound extreme to take this route, but it doesn’t need to be. In my experience, when in doubt just making the call to CPS can be very helpful, and the counselors there are trained to listen and help decide whether it is appropriate for them to step in or not.

And while I agree with @zenvelo that you alone cannot fix an entire family, I do think that it is always a good idea to tell someone who is in trouble that you are worried about them, that you care about them, and that you are there for them if they need you. Sometimes that simple message can go a really long way.

BarnacleBill's avatar

It sounds like he’s feeling abandoned. His sister’s at your place 24/7, his mom’s at work, his dad checked out on him. Can you include him? Is having his sister with you 24/7 perhaps actually making things worse than better, all the way around? I agree that you cannot fix the whole family, but what you can do is make an appointment for counseling for yourself, his sister and him, and the three of you go. It sounds like you are part of the equation, at least as a support for your girlfriend. There are lots of suicide survivors support services, many at no cost. He’s got to know what he’s doing is destructive. Pushing the envelope with his choices is one way to find out what’s left of his family.

stardust's avatar

It’s a terrible situation and very sad for all involved. It sounds like you really care about him so I think it’s definitely worth talking to him. He needs to know he has people who aren’t going to give up on him. He’s just a kid at the end of the day. I wouldn’t approach it from a lecturing point of view, although it doesn’t seem like you intend to. Let him know you’re concerned about him. Most of all let him know he’s loved and you’re there for him and tell him you know of a few supports that might help. You could even go along to a support group with him. I think @BarnacleBill hit the nail on the head there. He needs people around him.

rOs's avatar


I talked to their mother and got her to admit that there was a problem. She released me from the responsibility I was shouldering by taking the reigns back, and being a mother. I suggested she could re-assert herself by being around more and taking Clay’s truck away if he doesn’t follow some basic rules. He is more clear-headed now, and in a much happier mood.

I just moved in with them temporarily. I will be staying for two months to save up for an apartment with my girlfriend; her mom will be paying for half of the rent while tOri goes to college. Things are looking up!

Their house is much more calm now, I’m glad that you all gave me the advise I needed. Thanks Jellies!

blueiiznh's avatar

great follow-up and glad to hear. So nice to be part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem.

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