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How to Help an Alcoholic Brother

by Juliet Myfanwy Johnson

Alcoholism tears the family apart. If you have a brother who is a practicing alcoholic, you know first hand how painful and frustrating dealing with the illness can be. As a family member, you want to support your brother in his trouble, but this is physically and emotionally exhausting. There's really nothing you can do to ease his torment except get out of the way and let him realize his own destiny. There are ways to make it easier for yourself, and helping yourself and your own family is really the only way to ultimately have any positive affect on the alcoholic. It may feel like tough love, but your tough love stance may end up being a link in the chain he uses to save himself.

Step away from his problems, and don't "fix" any of the consequences of his alcoholic behavior. Don't lie to save his job, his marriage or his apartment. This just keeps him free of responsibility and able to function as an active alcoholic longer.

Explain to him (at a sober moment) that you love him but that you can't continue being in his life while he's drinking. You love him, but you need to step away from him for awhile. Let him know that if he ever chooses to get sober and join a program like AA, you will be back in his life in a heartbeat and be supportive of that positive action.

Don't give him money. Don't bail him out of jail. Don't let him live rent-free at your house. Don't pretend he's not drinking. If he ever gets sober, he will thank you for loving him enough to force him into becoming honest and responsible.

Don't pretend that his drinking isn't serious. It is serious. He will die from drinking if he doesn't get help. Let him know that you don't want him to die this way.

After you have detached from him physically and emotionally, turn your focus onto your own life. You have a whole life of your own that deserves nurturing, tending, love and attention. When you feel yourself worrying about the alcoholic, do something nice for yourself. Take a walk. Make a list of what you're grateful for. Play with your kids. Bring your focus back to your own self, where it belongs. You can't control any behavior but your own. The less you plug into the alcoholic's nightmare, the more it becomes his nightmare and not yours. This gives him the dignity to resolve it for himself, if he chooses to. It also frees you to make healthy decisions in your own life, with the relationships you have that are healthy and need your attention and love.

Tip

  • Join Alanon to talk to people who are going through the same thing you are. You may find yourself laughing about it.

About the Author

I'd love to write for more Demand Media sites. Ehow has been a blast.