Family member's alcohol problem affecting my mental health

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dysthymia
Regular Member


Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 79
   Posted 10/11/2009 2:19 AM (GMT -7)   
Apologies if this is not an appropriate subject for this site---if it isn't,if anyone can recommend a source of help for me(I'm in the UK),I'd be very grateful.
I have a serious anxiety/depression problem,and have had lots of support from this site in the past. I'm just emerging from a very bad phase,but now have another stress.My sister has had mental health issues since adolescence,and I have usually been the one to offer her support.We both suffered an abusive childhood,but she is especially damaged.Has had a series of relationships which have been both physically and mentally abusive,
She has always used alcohol(and sometimes drugs),as a means of coping,and has had spells in psychiatric hospitals,but she has difficulty in seeing herself as worthy of help,and tends instead to take on a caring role with her fellow patients,refusing to discuss her own past.
The irony of all this is that I am a qualified psychiatric nurse,and also a social worker---I actually specialised in addiction,so I know a bit about my sister's problems from both sides of the fence,as a helper,but also a patient.I just seem to have held it together a bit better,and I've had the support of a wonderful husband,and a good Dr. Things have deteriorated recently----we have always been so close,but last week she rang me,very drunk,talking of how we didn't deserve the abuse we suffered,and accusing me of not keeping in touch with her(I write regularly,and send surprise presents often).This has affected me very badly---my husband has always loved and supported me through my periods of illness,but I fear for him,as I now seem to be spiralling downwards from anxiety to serious depression again.
There are help groups for the relatives of alcoholics,and I spoke to someone involved in this,but my current anxiety levels are so high that I couldn't attend a group at present.I feel a need to withdraw from my sister(on the phone,at any rate)but this makes me feel so sad and guilty.
Apologies for the length of this post,also if it isn't appropriate.How can I maintain my mental health in the face of what is a terrible tragedy?
Thank you for listening.

stkitt
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 10/11/2009 8:45 AM (GMT -7)   
 
Good Morning and you are posting in the right place..........so please do know we care and we are here to support you.
 
I am so sorry about your sister and I do understand your feelings but I think you are on the right track in pulling back from her as you must take care of yourself first.  You also have your husband to be concerned about so please no guilt as guilt is a wasted emotion.
 
Try to remember that alcoholism can turn a normal person into someone you no longer know. Not only can the disease destroy the alcoholic's life, but in most cases it destroys families, friendships,  and the lives of others close to them -- dragging everyone into the quagmire of the addiction. In most cases there is little, if any hope until they admit there is a problem!
 
The best help you may offer is by understanding that alcoholism is your sister's  disease and it is not your disease.  Therefore if you need to pull back, give yourself permission to do so. :-)
There is a book that you may want to look into purchasing and it is available from Amazon.com.
 

Sober Siblings: How to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister-and Not Lose Yourself By Patricia Olsen and M.D. Petros Levounis

I admire you for caring so deeply for your family but I am concerned that you will be sure to take the steps necessary to protect your own mental health.
 
I wish you peace,
Kitt

 

Kitt,
Moderator: Osteoarthritis, GERD/Heartburn  &
Anxiety/Panic
*~*
http://www.healingwell.com/donate *~*
"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
"I am not a mental health professional, nor do I play one on TV, I just kind of talk like one!"



dysthymia
Regular Member


Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 79
   Posted 10/12/2009 3:21 AM (GMT -7)   
Thank you so much for your kind words.I will be taking a look at the book you recommended.It's a weird situation;I must have counselled and helped thousands of people through detox,and I've tried to help my sister from every angle,but you're right---alcohol changes people,and it's that which destroys me.
My sister is a kind ,gentle,person who empathises strongly with the abused and down-trodden.She is a fantastic musician,and has made her living from this,but tragically the alcohol has affected her voice,and I fear that won't come back.
She has an 11 year old son,and seems to use him as a confidante(she is separated from his father,so doesn't see her son as much as she should).I literally weep at the damage she is doing my nephew,who is a very quiet,intelligent child,who has already seen more than a kid his age should.My sister has become very selfish---I hardly know her anymore.
Anyway,thanks for giving me a chance to vent some of these feelings.
All good wishes to you.

stkitt
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 10/12/2009 6:32 AM (GMT -7)   
 
I am so sorry your sister has to have this nasty disease and I will say a prayer that she will reach out and get help. 
 
As you know children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk for emotional problems.  It makes me feel sad to hear of your nephew living in this situation.
 
Gentle Hugs,
 
Kitt
 

Kitt,
Moderator: Osteoarthritis, GERD/Heartburn  &
Anxiety/Panic
*~*
http://www.healingwell.com/donate *~*
"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
"I am not a mental health professional, nor do I play one on TV, I just kind of talk like one!"



dysthymia
Regular Member


Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 79
   Posted 10/12/2009 8:13 AM (GMT -7)   
Dear Kitt,
Thanks for what you say---I too fear for my nephew,and it's a measure of how my sister has changed;I would never have believed that she would behave in front of him as she has.
For myself---I seem to be losing it on a grand scale.I rang my Dr,and she is going to call me sometime today,to discuss how to handle the situation,re sedation etc.I also contacted an organisation here,who provide counselling and support for relatives of alcoholics,but whether my anxiety will permit me to keep the appointment,is anybody's guess.Better take this one day at a time.
Your offer of prayer is gratefully accepted,and I will reciprocate.

dysthymia
Regular Member


Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 79
   Posted 10/14/2009 4:14 AM (GMT -7)   
Dear Kitt,
Things have improved a bit----I'm back on large doses of Valium,which are taking the edge off my anxiety. I have also had better news from my sister.I was told she had ended up in hospital again,but I have spoken to her,and she says after being taken to hospital,very unwell,her blood tests showed that her kidneys and liver are fine---this is extraordinary,given the amounts she has been drinking for years.
I still feel she is not being entirely honest about what is happening,but that kind of behaviour seems to go with her particular problem.She has serious short-term memory damage,and has no memory whatsoever of the cruel things she said last week.I didn't feel up to confronting her about this---I think we're both too fragile for that,and I think any upset between us would give her an excuse to drink.Not that she needs one.
If my mental health was in better shape,I would deal with this quite differently,but I feel I have to look after my own mental health.
I expect there will be another crisis some time soon,but I may deal with that better if my anxiety levels have gone down.I'm also talking to my other siblings about the situation,so I don't feel I'm alone with it.Here's hoping I have a respite period,and regain some mental strength.
Thanks for your help,and peace and prayers to you.

stkitt
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 10/14/2009 4:38 AM (GMT -7)   
I am glad to hear you have upped your dose of Valium.  If you need it right now and it is working for you I think that is a good thing.  I still use mine when needed as it beats sitting around crying all day or afraid to go out the front door of my house ( my safe place).
 
It is truly amazing your sister has no major damage to any organs and your right to not try to talk with her right now re how you are feeling as it may cause your house of cards to come crashing down.
 
I am glad you are enlisting the help of your siblings as this is a burden nobody should have to deal with alone if others are available to help.
 
Please do make sure you take care of you first.  Know when it is time to take a step back and just make sure your OK.  Your mental health is most important as I have found out.  smhair I do understand how we want to be all things to everyone and when we cannot it makes us feel inadequate but I learned the hard way that I cannot save the world............but I can save myself.
 
I admire your devotion to your family and how lucky they all are to have you.  Your one awesome person !
I hope your day is a good one.
 
Gentle Hugs
Kitt

 

Kitt,
Moderator: Osteoarthritis, GERD/Heartburn  &
Anxiety/Panic
*~*
http://www.healingwell.com/donate *~*
"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
"I am not a mental health professional, nor do I play one on TV, I just kind of talk like one!"



dysthymia
Regular Member


Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 79
   Posted 10/16/2009 8:25 AM (GMT -7)   
Hi Kitt,
I have good news and bad-----the bad news is that my sister has phoned me several times again,always drunk,telling lies, had been sent home from work drunk,and adamant that the last person she is going to be completely honest with is her partner(who also has a drink problem,but holding things together better than Rose does).
I got into social work mode,and while telling her at intervals how much she is loved,I gave her a very straight assessment of where her life is going.I didn't pull any punches,especially about the damage her behaviour is doing her son.She kept saying "Do you really think so?",as if this was all news to her.I have low self-esteem,but I know I did a good job.
Once I got off the phone,however,I fell apart completely. Ended up having to ring my Dr----Valium increased to 15mg three times a day. STILL no calmness,just a terrible fear,crying,all the usual horrible stuff.
Now the good news-----I contacted 3 of my siblings,and put them fullly in the picture.Thank God,I'm no longer alone with this,and one of my sisters spoke to Rose,and told her kindly but firmly,that I am too fragile to deal with her problems at present.Rose said she had made an appointment for counselling,as I had suggested(is that true though?) but as she intends to take her partner with her,and that he must NOT know the full truth,how can that work?
I took my sorry self to the Dr today,and the Valium is being phased out,and some more heavy duty stuff(Thorazine) phased in.I've been on it many times over the decades,and am hoping this will sedate me a bit,and lessen the misery.
Sorry for a long post,but needed to talk to someone who knows what I'm talking about.Thank you so much for the support you have already shown me.
Prayers and peace to you.

jujub
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Mar 2003
Total Posts : 10392
   Posted 10/16/2009 8:47 AM (GMT -7)   
May I suggest Al-anon? If you're not familiar with it, it is a group for family members of alcoholics and the goal is to help you learn how to live your life rather than having your alcoholic family member direct it for you. The philosophy is not negative about the alcoholic, merely affirming to the family members.

I have had several friends who found this program to be very helpful in dealing with this situation. My step-mother used it in her first marriage, and when she and my father married she would use some of the techniques on my dad even though he didn't drink at all. She was amazingly effective in not entering into his rants.
Judy
Co-moderator, Ulcerative Colitis
 
Diagnosed in 2001, finally in remission since March 2006.
Mesalamine is not my friend and steroids are from the devil. Remicade has been my miracle drug.


dysthymia
Regular Member


Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 79
   Posted 10/16/2009 10:13 AM (GMT -7)   
Dear Judy,
Thanks for your kind message. I did speak to a very helpful person at Al-non,and there are meetings in my home town.My problem at the moment is that I am very unwell mentally,and couldn't cope with a group situation.I mean to go to a meeting as soon as I'm well enough.
I really need to develop some strategies to cope with my sister's selfish,manipulative behaviour---it sounds like your Step-mother really benefitted,from the group.
I wish you health and peace,
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