By Danielle Owen, IIIC director of Wellness and Education Services
Question: “My sister has been sober for nearly 6 months and seems to be doing okay. We used to live together but finally I couldn’t deal with her constant mood swings, bringing home strange people and drinking on the couch all day.
I was constantly worrying about her lit cigarettes burning my apartment down! Eventually I gave her an ultimatum; unless she got treatment, she would have to move out or go into a shelter. Thankfully, she did stop, got help and now has a part-time job.
She has been sharing an apartment with a friend who’s also in recovery. I’m still very worried about her though. In her treatment center, they said that Alcoholics should go to AA meetings to stop them going back drinking. Yet she insists that she isn’t an alcoholic and doesn’t need the meetings. I also recently saw her roommate outside the off-license near their apartment.
I’m terrified that she has gone back drinking especially if her roommate has! Every time I call her and try to reason with her, we end up fighting. I am awake most nights terrified that I will get a phone call telling me that she has been injured or even killed when driving with one of her drunk friends! What can I do?
Response: It sounds like you have been worrying about your sister for a long time and that you did her a huge favor by telling her to leave! It also seems like she used the opportunity she was offered, with your ultimatum, to get sober. It can feel impossible to just stop being concerned once someone we love stops drinking! Her recovery is now her own responsibility. So how come you’re still losing sleep? Whether or not your sister sees herself as an alcoholic or goes to AA meetings, staying sober is HER responsibility alone. People do stay sober without meetings and without calling themselves alcoholic. Sometimes they don’t. They need to learn what will work to keep them sober!
Do you think that staying awake worrying and stressing at night will stop her from drinking if she has started again? Did it stop her before? Remember how you put yourself first when you finally asked her to leave your apartment? You didn’t wait till she got sober to protect yourself and your own peace of mind then, so why now? Putting yourself first is not rejecting the person we love. It may seem impossible to let go of your sister and her decisions but you have your life too! Do you really want to spend the rest of your life wondering what she is or isn’t doing? It can help to talk about it with someone you trust, get some counseling or maybe go to Al-Anon meetings. Everyone there knows exactly what you are afraid of and may share some ideas that helped them. Those who love an alcoholic can and should find peace of mind too!
Call Danielle at the Irish International Immigrant Center, in confidence, to go over all your options. Phone: 617-542-7654 ext: 14 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out: www.al-anon.alateen.org