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Alcoholic Friends & Family

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Parenting, Families, & the Community > Alcoholic Friends & Family



My alcoholic girlfriend has moved in with us

Oct 2008

I am at my wit's end about the situation that I put myself and my family. My girlfriend from NY (we I grew up together and used to be like sisters) asked if she can come and stay with us till she finds a job in Bay Area. She had a very abusive relationship with her boyfriend of 6 years, no job, no money, no health insurance, nowhere to go.... So I agreed for her to stay for a couple of month. My husband didn't like that at all, but I assured him that it's just for a month or so, till she find a job...We are by no means rich, my husband is single bread winner as I am at home with our small son.

Now I feel that I put myself and my family in a hole. I didn't know that she was an alcoholic. She drinks every day, can't function without a glass of wine, then becomes very aggressive and combative, couple of time it's been really ugly. She can't find a job, it's been almost 2 months, my husband doesn't want her in our house, period. I just simply can't kick her out on the street, she really has nowhere to go, she is young too, 37, smart, pretty, professional, just can't function without a bottle of wine a day.

At the same time I am concerned that my 4 year son sees her drunk and incoherent almost every day and afraid that it will cause him some psychological trauma later in life... She really needs help, and I don't know what else I can do for her, I also I feel that I am putting my own family at risk. Do you know what services are available for alcoholics in Bay Area? She tried AA on and off, but lacks discipline to attend meeting. Can you recommend a good doctor? She doesn't have insurance but I will have to pay for it. Can you recommend any detox centers around Bay area free or low cost? What shall I do??? Thank you for any advice. Lola


Bad situation!! Having known a few alcoholics in my past, I can tell you that your friend will not budge till you kick her out. Buy her a plane ticket to go back to NY if you need to and take her to the airport. Get her out now or you'll still have this problem in a year and it'll only get worse. Sorry to sound so harsh, but it's true. And you won't be able to help her to stop drinking unless she wants to stop. You can get in touch with Alcoholics Anonymous for info, and you might also go to an AlAnon meeting (friends and family of alcoholics) for support and advice. Good luck. anon
It must be really difficult to see your friend going through this, especially while being concerned with the impact on your own family. She needs help, she can't do this alone as you have probably figured out. Options Recovery Services is a completely free program based in Berkeley. They have 12-step as well as classes in anger-management, relapse prevention, life- skills etc. Salvation Army also has a free live-in program in San Francisco. you might want to attend some Al-Anon meetings yourself, helps with the day-to- day of knowing an alcoholic. anon
Lola, Lola, Lola...wake up! First, get yourself a copy RIGHT NOW of CODEPENDENT NO MORE by Melodie Beattie, as you're being codependent to this woman. Secondly, she's 37 years old. I'm sure she speaks English and is educated enough to speak up seeking resources out there for herself. If there's a way, she will find a way, even if it's in her drunken way. She needs to get out of your house, NOW! Lastly, speaking from an alcoholic point of view, going to AA is not a matter of ''discipline,'' really. By making that statement, it's obvious you're not an alocholic, which is a great thing. But if you want to participate and change your life, AA will provide those tools once you find the conviction in yourself to change and the path of kicking the habit one day at a time will follow, but that's only a decision your friend can make, as you CANNOT make it for her! Her lifestyle has been conveyed to you and the bottom line is she doesn't want to stop what she's doing. Why would she? She's living for free without a job and not being held accountable for drinking everyday! What an ideal situation for a drunk. Please read the book asap, go to Al-Anon if you have to, and open the door and let her go. I'd also suggest you rent the movie, Days of Wine and Roses with Jack Lemmon (an old movie) and watch it with her just for the heck of it. Bottom line is she's a drunk and drunks have a finicky way of making people feel sorry for them because they're great manipulators. I know because I'm a drunk and I am now a reformed AA drunk. Good luck and take care of YOURSELF first! Your family will thank you especially your little child who does not need to be exposed to this woman's dark habits and do it for the sanctity and sanity of your marriage! Good luck and hope you follow through with my suggestions! anon
Hi Lola, I couldn't help but respond to your plea. I am a person who has trouble saying no people in need and once found myself helping a friend who was ''stuck'' like yours.It wound up being 4 months instead of 1 and it also got ugly on occasion but there was no alcohol and I wasn't yet a mother. My advice is to get her out of your home as soon as possible. She doesn't care much about you or your friendship if she is exposing your child (not to mention you, your husband and your marriage)to her alcoholism and abusive ways.I am trying not to speak too strongly but it really isn't fair to anyone and she is taking advantage of your generous spirit. Your child and your marriage should come first. I apologize if I am being too forward but I have learned things the hard way by being taken advantage of and therapy has helped me to help myself. Your friend is acting 17 not 37. I wish I had a suggestion about where she could go (besides a homeless shelter)because I wish I could help YOU more. SHE has gotten help from you and hasn't done too much with it. Good luck, Bridget
Dear friend of an alcoholic, I'm sorry you're going through this. It sounds like your kindness is backfiring. In my opinion, the best thing you can do for your friend is to set boundaries. This might sound tough, but the more you caretake her (by paying for a doctor for her or by allowing her to behave this way with your family) the more you are disempowering her. I know you mean well, and one thing you could do is to be honest with her and tell her exactly how you feel with compassion and from your heart. How hard her behavior is on your family and how you feel you're really not helping her by supporting her this way (if that's the truth for you). I would try to talk early in the day, before she starts drinking. A friend of mine was an alcoholic and worked for a friend of his. He was often late and didn't work as expected because of his drinking problem. To make a long story short, his friend (and boss) gave him an ultimatum and said he would have to fire him if this continued, and did. My alcoholic friend was very angry at him at first. But a year later he went back to his old boss and said he was so grateful because if he hadn't been fired he wouldn't have hit rock bottom and would still be drinking. So sometimes ''tough love'' is the best gift we can give someone we love. I hope this helps. Hang in there.
You CAN ''just kick her out.'' Yes, you can. She is an adult. She is choosing to drink. She is choosing not to seek help. I hate this word, but you are really enabling her by letting her stay. You are also putting your son at risk; children who witness violence in early childhood (and this includes drunk and combative behavior as you described) can suffer from PTSD, ADHD, higher violence in their own activities, and other undesirable qualities.

You can no longer choose this woman, no matter how dear a friend, over your son, your husband and your marriage. What you CAN do is let her fall (and she WILL fall) and offer support (but not in your home!) when she decides on her own to get up.

Good luck--I know how painful this can be. anon


Tell your girlfriend that her drinking is a problem. Tell her that she has one week to find alternate plans. That is it. You cannot save her. The only person that can do this is your friend. My ex husband is a recovering alcoholic so I know a lot about this stuff. If she makes excuses etc you need to pack her stuff and have it on the front porch once one week is up. There is no other way to do this. She has to figure it out on her own. You need to focus on your husband and child. good luck ex wife of an alcoholic
Get her out of the house - right now. As much as she is a friend, and very sadly, has a bad drinking problem and is not in a good situation, you have an obligation as a parent to not have your 4 year old live in under the daily stress of alcoholism. That is asking way too much of your son and it's not ok.

You could offer her an ultimatum of getting help or leaving, but that's as nice as you need to be. If you wanted to be very nice, you could buy her a ticket back to NYC, where she has friends she can likely stay with.

Your son is learning from this situation how it's ok for alcoholics to act this way. That's not a good lesson. He'll still recover from this situation, but get her out quickly. You sound like a really nice person, and it's very unfortunate that this is happening, but your son needs you to act on his behalf. Give her the boot!


This is a very difficult situation - I know, because I was in your place a couple of years ago. In my case, she wasn't a close friend, she was someone I had known for a long time but didn't see often. But I was the only friend left who would take her in. When another friend called me about her, she was in the hospital where she had been taken by ambulance after being found by another friend passed out in his house. I hadn't seen her in a few years. She was a gorgeous woman, a head turner. Now she was very, very ill, malnourished and yellow and bloated from liver damage. She had no job left, no house, no friends. The hospital was going to discharge her to a homeless shelter, so I took her in. But our agreement was that she would stay with me only until a spot opened up for her at a rehab place, which was supposed to be a week or two. And in the meantime she agreed to attend AA meetings.

I had many conversations with friends and family about what to do, and it was not an easy decision. My husband and I have taken in many friends & family members over the years, and we almost always have someone living in our spare room who needs a bed for a day or a week or a month. But I did not want to be the alcohol police for a grown person. I didn't want to be looking under the bed and in the closet to see if she was stashing alcohol. I also didn't want to give up my wine and beer while she was here. Well, we stopped buying alcohol while she was here, and I told her that no alcohol was allowed and I could not be her mom, and she agreed.

She ended up being at our house for a couple of months. Initially she was angry with everyone, and in denial about her alcoholism, and very disparaging of AA, which she was sure could not help her. But she did find some AA meetings in Berkeley that she was willing to go to, and she did get into the rehab place that she wanted, after waiting for a few weeks. She was in rehab for a couple months and it was life changing for her. She seems to be doing OK now, two years later, slowly building her life again.

I don't think things would have worked out this happily if she didn't have an ulimatum, though. By the time she came to stay with us, she had two DUI arrests, and a court order to either enter rehab or else go to jail. She only had a couple of months left to enter rehab when she was discharged from the hospital. She did put it off until the very last possible day - she did not want to go into rehab even though she had absolutely no other place to go. But in the end she did not want to go to jail, so she went to rehab. Rehab was the only thing that could have saved her, I think.

Your friend does not sound as far gone as mine was, but like me, you have a friend living with you who has pretty much ruined her life with alcohol, and she is living with you because she has no other resources. I think you are going to have to give her an ultimatum and be prepared to follow through on it. There are resources, she can get help. There are free and low-cost rehab centers. My friend also had no money and no insurance, and she found more than one place to help her. AA is free. You can find out about them from AA if she won't do it herself. But you can't help your friend just by yourself - if she won't take the initiative herself then you will have to give her an ultimatum. Are you willing to have her stay with you if she stops drinking and goes to AA meetings every day? And are you willing to "police" her to make sure she is living up to t he agreement? If not, give her a deadline, and tell her about resources you know about. And make a plan (and tell her the plan) for what happens when the deadline comes up. All the best to you and your friend.


Visiting Alcoholic Parents with Baby

Oct 2004

We had a baby two months ago and my husband’s parents who are alcoholics came to see their new grandchild, while they were here we told them that we do not want them to be intoxicated around the baby, they agreed to our conviction, so they stayed in a hotel and when they wanted to start drinking they would just leave and go back to the hotel so it worked out fine, but this December we are planning on going home to Arizona for the Christmas break to see them and we do not know how to handle the situation because we can not afford to stay in a hotel and usually always stay with them because in the past it has only been my husband and I and we can deal with their drunkenness, but we now have a baby to think about. We do not feel we can ask such demands on them not drinking in their own home and even if we did make such a request we feel that they would not be able to follow through in abstaining from get drunk while we are there. So we are looking for advice on what to do? What boundaries are ok to ask in wanting to protect our child yet still respecting my husband’s parent’s personal life and choices? concerned mother


We have had a similar experience in our family where we went once to my parents' house in Florida and my mom went on one of her obnoxious drunk spells. Thereafter, we only stay in a nearby hotel. I do not want my three children going through what I went through as a child. Anyway, with alcoholoics, the holidays are always the worst as far as drinking goes. The reason I like a hotel is you can leave the dinner table at any time and just leave. We did this once and spent the rst of the five day vacation in the hotel with just my immediate family. I suggest you do not go to Arizona to visit them unless you have a hotel to stay in. If the cost is not affordable, I think you should stay here for the holidays. You also should not have to go through the experience yourself let alone your children.
Been there , done that
It sounds like you can be upfront with your in-laws about their drinking, so you might ask what is resonable to them? Can they realistically not drink while the baby is up? Or is this too much to ask? I, personally, would find a cheap hotel or ask a friend nearby if you can stay a few nights. It would take the pressure off all of you. Also, you won't have to be around them when they are hitting the bottle. Good luck, Adult child of...
A good question to ask yourself is why you are going to visit these people if you feel unsafe around them? Your job as a parent is to keep your baby safe. Alcholics who are drinking are not safe people, period. If you are unable to ask them to stop drinking while you visit, and/or they are unable to stop drinking while you visit, I don't think going is a wise idea. My advice is stay home & let them come to you. Until they are able to be sober, what sort of grandparents are they - unpredicitable and unsafe. Maybe this seems harsh but I am in a similar situation but have chosen to have quite firm boundries. Maybe attending an ACOA meeting would help you and your husband with your boundries around this issue. good luck
The toughest thing about alcoholics is knowing that they're not going to stop, not for you, your child, or anyone else. Without specific information about their drunken behavior, I can't really tell you what might be the best course of action. As the daughter of an alcoholic, I will tell you that I have not visited my mother's home is 15 years. She comes to visit us, and I can control things better at my house, though she still drinks (hides bottles, etc) but I would not take my child to her house because the drunk behavior is disturbing, and cannot be concealed even for a small child. If they're quiet drunks who have their martinis and creep off to bed, then your baby will probably not be disturbed, but if they get loud, argumentative, or are otherwise belligerant, even a small baby will pick up on it. Drunk behavior is weird, and babies and kids are the most susceptible to picking up ''vibes'' -- weird or not. I'm sure your baby would not be damaged for life, but I'd really guage what their drinking behaviors are like, and work from there.

Also, many alcoholics smoke and have every rational why it's okay to smoke in the house. Given your concerns, perhaps you should just rethink your holiday plans. You certainly don't won't want to get stuck at their house with no options. heather


My best suggestion is ALANON meetings for support and suggestions. If you are not into the ''tough love'' approach of NOT interacting with family members who are addicted to substance, then maybe friends and family could give you early holiday gift of a donation towards a hotel room. It's what I often had to do when I had to visit dysfunctional family members and had no resources for a hotel room on my own...many churches have a ''rector's/priest's/minister's/pastor's discretionary fund''--i am sure all faiths have such a fund for their leaders--a fund that allows that leader to give/donate funds that can help out in such situations; the funding may not be enough for more than a day or even half a day, but it's a start towards your much-needed independence.
Because you didn't give any specifics about your parents' drinking problem, I'm going to assume what's going on is that they down a few martinis and get loud, stupid and embarrassing, rather than that they are getting out weapons, setting the house on fire, or engaging in behavior that would endanger their house guests. I'm also assuming this because it sounds like you personally are willing to stay at their house rather than go to a hotel, and I would assume if there were safety issues, the wallet wouldn't be a consideration. It sounds like your concern is whether it would affect your infant's safety and peace of mind to be around drunk people. If there is really a lot of yelling, I'd say don't stay there, although even that is unlikely to bother an infant as young as yours. If it's just a matter of alcohol on the breath and acting stupid, I don't think this will affect your infant at all. A child would have to be much older to even notice this. And I agree with you; I don't think you can dictate their behavior in their own home. Of course, don't let them drive any of you anywhere after they've had even one drink, but as far as being under the same roof, I can't see any problem. Non-teetotaler
My mother became an alcoholic in her later years, and I know how difficult it was to visit her- my sympathies, and congratulations on being able to deal with it, and your ability to still respect them as people. It sounds like your in-laws at least acknowledge that they get drunk, which my mother didn't and which many alcoloholics don't, so it wasn't exactly the same. Also, my mother often became verbally abusive when she was drunk, which you don't mention as as a problem. The only control I really had was insisting that I drive when we went out, which she went along with, and refusing to buy her any alcohol. Also, I wasn't visiting with kids. My sister was, and would cut the visit short if abuse began. Neither of us visited for more than 2 or 3 days at a time- it was just too difficult.

In your situation, I would suggest making as short a visit as you feel can work for you- make any excuses necessary. In terms of protecting your child while you are there, I would think that close contact with, including any lifting and holding and carrying, your baby should be very limited when they start to drink, and stopped when they are actually drunk. This may hurt their feelings and frustrate them, but since they acknowledge their drinking, it might not be too hard to accomplish.

If they are basically good people who love their grandchild, I do not see anything to protect the baby from other than loud behaviour close to her- common when anyone is drunk- and the possibility of dropping the baby. Good luck to you. Cecelia


I don't envy you; it's hard, and harder still with a baby. After trying to stay with my alcoholic parents a few times and running into trouble, we try to stay in a hotel or with other relatives. it just makes for more harmony than trying to demand change for a short time. anon
I would strongly recommend that you find somewhere else to stay. If this is not possible, don't go. Perhaps your in-laws will pay for your hotel so that you can come for the holiday. There is no other way to deal with their behavior. Burr
My inlaws are not alcoholics but have their own set of problems we found scary for our children. We stay at a hotel when visiting. There is comfort having a place to "escape to". Carrie
I didn't see the original post, so I hope this is to the point -- I have an alcoholic grandmother, who I very much love and like to visit. She did get rather drunk, and sometimes obnoxious, by early evening, though. I grew up understanding that this was just something she did; it was basically ok with me except for the time period when she was mourning my grandfather's death, and would get very weepy and sort of abusive towards my father when she drank. It was actually most upsetting when I started learning about alcoholism in school, and I realized that she had a problem and wasn't getting help for it. My parents never talked to me about it, so as a 10 or 12-year-old, I didn't realize that they were aware of the problem. It was upsetting to me that she had this problem and it appeared that no one realized. Once I brought it up to my parents, and they explained that she had had the problem for a very long time, and that we couldn't make her get help, but she would probably be ok anyway, I felt much calmer about it. We often just visited for the day because evenings could be much less pleasant, but we did sometimes stay over one night, with my parents and all 3 kids. I can assure you it didn't do any damage to us, even if it was sometimes unpleasant; actually, it kept the 3 of us kids away from alcohol during high school and college, because we had a very intimate understanding of the risk of alcoholism that ran in our family. anonymous

Several of my kid's friends' parents are alchoholics

Nov 2002

I have come to the realization that several of my kid's friends parents are alchoholics. My husband and I socialize with these people on a semi-regular basis. Being with people who drink to excess makes me uncomfortable, yet my husband and I always have a good time when we're with this group. I don't know whether I'm seeking specific advice or not, but I don't know what to do/or not do about this situation. Can anyone share their thoughts on how they have handled a similar situation?
anon on this one


Regarding alcoholic friends: As a nurse who has worked in drug & alcohol treatment (New Bridge in Berkeley & HAART, also Highland ER), I'd start here by defining alcoholic. There may be cultural factors at play too: some cultures, like European, drink wine with meals perhaps daily, and would not be thought of as alcoholic, though alcoholism is more prevalent in some countries with this daily pattern. Ask yourself or observe if the imbibing interferes with normal functioning. Can they NOT drink and still have a good time? Is drinking a feature of EVERY event? When in the day does drinking start? Are there blackouts? Are people driving after drinking? (my kids would never ride in THAT parent's car!) Is there a pattern of weekend bingeing, then non-drinking during the work week (another cultural pattern which is still alcoholism)? Sounds like some more homework may be in order. And, even though you like the folks, the world is full of people who do not drink at all, or drink less, and if it's not to your liking, and makes you uncomfortable, I would start developing other friends....Also, if you are very close to the people involved, you may decide, as a friend, to question them about it and reveal your concern. Many alcoholics are saved from death by persistent friends who are supportive yet insistent that the person get help. I know someone who was responsible for such a save by encouraging the drinker to get help over a long period. Your call, ultimately. Good luck to you! Christine
The fact that you say ''several'' of your kids' friends seem to be ''alcoholic'' makes me wonder a little. Is it more the kind of thing where YOU are uncomfortable with the fact they drink, than that their drinking is having any sort of negative consequences to themselves or others? (I understand the definition of alcholism is alcohol consumption -- in any quantity -- that creates a problem of some sort in the drinker's life.) If they don't meet this definition of alcoholism, it doesn't mean that you can't speak up and say ''It bothers me that you drink,'' but it casts a slightly different light on the issue. I think you need to explain (or decide) what exactly is bothering you about their behavior.
anonymous
If the parents are truly alcoholics (and it was difficult to tell from your post how you determined this), it is probable that their behavior will veer from the ''fun'' to the inappropriate or even dangerous at times. My father is a no-longer-drinking alcoholic, and he is a social animal. He loves parties and is a great dancer and story-teller. But people under the regular influence of alcohol often go further than just losing inhibitions in order to have a good time. They say hurtful things and forget that they said them, they break/lose/forget their own and other peoples' possessions, they make inappropriate and/or unwanted sexual advances and liaisons, they get into cars and injure or kill themselves and others. Remember that it is not always obvious when an alcoholic has been drinking, for they sometimes seem ''sober'' when actually quite impaired. It is especially devastating for children to be around alcoholics, because they do not model responsible behavior, and they often disappoint, insult, or hurt children. If you think that these people are really alcoholics, it would be wisest for you to avoid their company and certainly important for you to keep your child away from them. That's painful, perhaps, but not as painful as being close to alcoholism can be.
an alcoholic's daughter
I have not been in this situation, so I hope others will have more specific advice for you, but something to think about is that children learn by example. Hopefully these people stop drinking and it will be a valuable lesson for all. I remember thinking smoking was a great thing to do because my parents smoked. Then one day they quit and explained about its dangers. I don't think their words would have been as effective if they had continued smoking. (I have never smoked.)
good luck
My advice comes from my experience as the wife of an alcoholic, who has observed different friends' responses to my husband's behavior. I think it's important for you to try to understand what it is that's bothering you about given people's drinking first. Then, if it's with people who are good friends, it can be good for them and for your relationship with them to let them know how their behavior bothers you. And make your own decisions about whether you want to be around them and in what circumstances. Some people you may not wish to confront at all. I have seen several friends become very uncomfortable with my husband's drinking and drift away from the friendship, without my husband having any idea of why it is happening. A couple of friends have talked to him about it. While it hasn't made a huge difference in his behavior so far, I think it has been positive for both these friends and for my family. It can be a difficult subject to bring up, though, so you have to make your own choice, and much depends on how close your relationships are with these people. You don't have to stay quiet or put up with behavior that makes you uncomfortable though. Good luck. Anonymous
This is indeed a painful issue. I have no great advice, other than facing up to reality at all times, especially as your children get older and playdates become an issue. As much as you like these friends, you are not going to be able to trust them to look after your children. db
All of my friends in college were alcoholics, so I went to Al- Anon to learn about how to deal with them. Six months later I realized that my problem with my friends drinking was actually my own drinking problem. After more than a decade of AA and no drinking, I have learned to look inside myself when others' behavior bothers me and learned something about myself. Twelve step programs help with a lot stuff besides dealing with alcoholism and addiction. Consider it. Anonymous
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