The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

My brother has been in rehab two weeks today. From all accounts, he’s doing well. He’s not complaining. He’s not in a hurry to get out. He’s going to meetings and learning. He told his daughter he’s never going to drink again. He’s never said that before. In fact, just the opposite:”I’m not going to lie to you; I’m not going to stop drinking.” He told me that on Christmas Day. And three days later, we intervened.

I have spoken with him briefly once since I kissed him goodbye and told him I love him. I’m pulling for him. He cried. Like me, he’s always been very emotional. (At least when you get to know us.) So I left him with the rehab nurse, and I’ve talked to him only once, since. He was still in detox. I called to see how he was doing and the nurse handed him the phone. He sounded puny. I got the distinct sense he was glad to be safe. He was glad to be ridding his body of the poison that was killing him. That was day 3. He hasn’t called me. I’m trying to let go. To let him do his thing and have faith. But I want him to know I’m thinking about him; I haven’t abandoned him. So I told my niece, when she was on her way to visit him and to meet with the counselor, to have him call me if he wanted to. He told her he would, but he hasn’t called. So I have let go.

Last night my mother told me she heard he’s supposed to get out a week from today. She thinks it’s too soon. It’s only been two weeks. I got annoyed and cut the call short. Tonight, again, she commented that if he gets out next Friday, it will have been only 3 weeks. She wanted me to call the facility and find out what’s going on, why they’re letting him out early, what’s the plan. I told her he’d tell her when he’s ready. I wasn’t going to call and undermine him.

“But he won’t know you’ve called and I’ve got to know! I can’t having coming and going as he pleases!”

“Mom, calm down. Listen to yourself. You wanted him to go to rehab. You expected him to stay a month! He’s not doing anything you didn’t want or expect!”

“But he’s getting out early!”

“Mom, you cannot control this. He’s either going to continue recovery, or he’s not. You can’t do anything about it.”

“But you could call and find out what’s going on.”

“Mom, if you want to help him, go to an Al-Anon meeting. I sent you the schedule. Make an appointment with the counselor I got a referral for. Take care of you.”

She doesn’t hear me. She makes excuses why a meeting or a counselor aren’t what she needs; won’t solve her problems.

“Mom, I cannot be your counselor!” I’m yelling now. The cat is upset. I don’t yell. I don’t like where this family breakdown is taking me. I don’t want to go there. I was free dammit. I was free of all this.

She’s pleading now. “Can’t you just call and find out what they’re doing?”

I wish they’d all just leave me the hell alone and solve their own problems. I hate that I’m suddenly responsible for my mother. Is this a requirement? If you’re a decent person, you let yourself get sucked back into the family dysfunction you’d escaped at least a decade ago? Is this the right thing to do? What if hypothetically it is right for my mother, but it’s not right for me? Then what? Who wins? Whose happiness and sanity goes first?

Is it wrong to put yourself first?

All I can do is yell, “Mom, go to the counselor! Go to a meeting! I’m tired. I’m going to bed.”

And now I feel shitty.


  • I’ve heard it said, “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” Sometimes family can test one’s patience, but because they are family we’re expected to love them anyway, regardless of how they make us feel at times. Ultimately though, we do need to “look out for number one” and make sure that our own sanity is intact. Sometimes that means taking a step back for a minute or two for a breather, before diving right back into the thick of things. Take a little time for yourself. Maybe turn your phone off for a couple of hours and luxuriate in a nice bubble bath or something, before getting back on that horse that is “family problems.” Maybe it will make things seem a little better if you’re in a more relaxed state of mind.

    I think all of us certainly must have felt some impatience with our families at one point or another, some more than others, so we can sympathize. I hope your brother finishes rehab successfully, and sticks to it, so that your family can finally have a little peace for a while.


    • I hope he sticks to it, too. But I’ve got to figure out how to feel peace in the midst of these crises. A breather is excellent advice. I have scheduled a massage for later today. And I’ll get some outdoor exercise. Fresh air and increased heart rate can do wonders. And after that, a bubble bath? Thanks, Blue Viking. 🙂


  • families are messy! they do because they can! doesn’t make it right of course, and sometimes you must take a stand, for yourself, I had to do so with my own daughter and not allow her to abuse my ‘motherhood’ (she was a teen but I saw the writing on the wall and stopped IT cold), today we are okay with each other. I have a sister whom is a socio-path, I divorced her, will never allow her to abuse me, then or now.

    you have the right to have your own mountain, never feel shitty for taking time for yourself

    OM Shanti!


  • the one thing i’m left wondering is why can’t your mother call the rehab herself if she’s desperate to know? you don’t need to do it. sounds like you’ve done plenty to set her up with her own resources. you don’t have to live anyone’s life for them, and that’s the truth. the only life you’re in control of is yours. if your family is dysfunctional and saps you of the life force to create a good life for yourself – gently but firmly detach. it doesn’t mean you never speak to them, but you are not responsible for anyone else’s sobriety, choices, mental health, comfort, anxiety – none of it. politely hand them back their garbage and take good care of you.


    • She’s not on the list of people to whom they can release information. For good reason! Your advice is exactly what I needed to hear. Now to work on the gentle but firm detachment. Last night I was anything but gentle. Thank you!


  • bitesizelove stated that perfectly.. slowly start to detach before you wind up back in the middle of the hurricane.. you deserve a breather, bubble bath and few more treats..


    • I detached with a massage and Ina Garten’s shrimp linguini. And not one call with my mother today. I’m guessing she’s pouting. The thought of which makes me feel guilty and annoyed. Hell, I might need another massage tomorrow.


  • It all seems to depend on your character and the character you are dealing with. Sometimes a gentle word with a reasonable person is enough, and then there is the controller which you may have to be strong enough to go to war against, for that person to respect and listen to you. it’s so difficult…..or have your say then just put the phone down xox


  • I feel your pain. I have an addict teenage daughter and I have found the following words helpful, “Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing.” ~ Eckhart Tolle


    • Not knowing where your daughter is or how she’s doing must be difficult. I commend you on your strength. Hugs. Oddly, I’m growing comfortable not knowing how my brother will do. Either way, there’s nothing I can do except be there for him in his sobriety. If he asks.


  • This is a very familiar conversation. It is so hard for us to Let Go and Let God, but it is more than a slogan. I am writing a blog about my dysfunctional family and we also have alcohol issues. Our blog is called Far From Normal and can be found at


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