Dear Annie: An alcoholic family member causes distress
Dear Annie: My mother-in-law is a very good person deep down. She is a joy to be around — when she’s sober. But more and more lately, she is not. And when she’s not, she is hateful and vindictive and blames everyone else for her problems. She has gone so far recently as to tell me something happened to my 2-year-old son when she was watching him that would require medical attention — just to get me to leave work early and pick him up sooner than planned so she could start drinking. Annie, there was nothing wrong at all with my son.
Whenever we call her out on her drinking, she spews hateful things at my husband and me. She threatens to cut him out of her will. She brings up things he did decades ago (before he got smart and sobered up and stopped drinking), and she has physically put her hands on me. (This was years ago, before we knew she had a problem; she was very good at hiding it.)
She now has the love of a man who is wonderful to her, unlike her former husband of two decades, who cheated multiple times on her. But she is even pushing this man away and is hateful toward him when she’s drinking. On numerous occasions, we have had to cut her off from seeing our sons because she is choosing drinking over spending time with them and us.
Of course, when we do this, we are the ones at fault, and she doesn’t have a problem and doesn’t need help — and so on and so forth. I hate what this is doing to my husband, and my sons don’t understand why they can’t see her sometimes. We have told the eldest one (he’s 10) what the real situation is, and it absolutely breaks his heart. Which I guess does actually lead me to a question: Why? Why is the pull to drink so strong that people will mess up perfectly good relationships with friends and family? I understand that it is an addiction, but why can’t she and others see what they are missing out on and losing just to fill a void for only a little while? And why does she want to potentially kill herself by drinking so much? Doesn’t her future matter to her? I just don’t understand, and I guess I never will. I know that only she can choose to help herself and that she will only do so if and when she’s ready. But the pain that we are going through right now will inevitably become irreversible. And I don’t want that — for my husband, my sons or me. Thank you for taking the time to read this. — Depressed Daughter-in-Law of a Drinker
Dear Depressed Daughter-in-Law of a Drinker: I am so sorry that you’re going through this. To ask “Why?” is to try to ascribe rationale where there is none. The disease of alcoholism does not operate on logical terms.
I urge you to attend an Al-Anon Family Groups meeting. I think you’ll find it can be a great relief just to be in a room full of people who know exactly what you’re going through. The meetings are free and anonymous; you don’t even have to talk if you don’t want to. And if you don’t like your first meeting, don’t give up. Al-Anon recommends trying at least six different meetings before deciding that the program isn’t for you. Visit https://al-anon.org to find a meeting near you. It just might change your life.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now. Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Go to http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.