|Current mood:|| frustrated|
Life is never simple
So I get a bit of unwanted information this morning.
My sister, an alcoholic with a mild mental illness, has been going downhill lately. She has an emotional disability; although an intelligent and functional 38 year old, she has the emotional development of a 5-7 year old. She has difficulty tempering her emotions, is prone to outbursts (especially when drinking), has no impulse control and cannot seem to understand the long-term effects of her actions. This is something very hard to pick up on unless you know her well. She appears far more functional and aware then she actually is, and this has made getting treatment difficult. Add to that that she has no official diagnosis for her condition, and treatment is difficult, indeed. At least the SSI people see that she is unable to work and so she is on benefits, but then, the mental health and physical healthcare she gets is state run, and substandard. She is an alcoholic, and has been for the majority of her life. She has also been addicted to many drugs, and has kicked them all but the bottle.
About a year ago, she ended a relationship, and left the part-time, under the counter job she was working at; this job was more of a social outlet for her then anything else. Things really started getting bad, although there has always been a problem with alcohol. She began to get drunk and call the crisis line, which resulted in police being summoned to my parent's house (she lives with them) and almost bi-monthly trips to the mental ward at the hospital. The first few times, it was huge, we were all worried and at her side. However, she didn't seem interested in preventing this from happening, although she did make some effort. She began seeing a therapist, we hoped this would help and discussed the best way the family could be involved in her treatment, what we could do to help things for her. Problem was, nothing seemed to work. No matter what method, what avenue we tried, things kept getting worse and worse. On one of the late night occurrences, she became belligerent with the police and attempted to kick one- fortunately the officer moved and my sister only dented their car, yet she was still ticketed for attempted assault and damaging police property. This resulted in a community service sentence that was never completed. If the mental health group she was working with had been unable to find work and sign off on her service, she would have served a small amount of jail time.
We kept our hopes up. She finally got onto a medication programme that seemed to help her depression and anxiety without adverse side effects. She seemed to be bonding with her counselor, ready to try new things and help manage. But time and time again, we would come home and she would be drunk. Rules were made: while home, she was not allowed to have a closed door. It didn't help. Random searches of her room would turn up empty bottles that she was "saving for nostalgic reasons" or that were "very old". She would be so drunk she was stumbling, and she would lie, lie, lie about drinking even when you pulled out the half empty bottle from her room in front of her. Her finances were cut off; she could no longer make purchases without obtaining the money from my mother and with a receipt- and she began hocking her movies, the collection which numbers in the high hundreds and are her main source of entertainment. We encouraged her to get out, get involved in classes with the rec center, activities with friends; she resisted, though I still believe her main trigger is boredom. My parents own a business and cannot be there for her 24/7, and I work and go to school and cannot, either. She (willingly) went into a 30-day inpatient rehab programme, which seemed to be working at the time- we all came for family therapy and she truly seemed to be getting better, to want to get better. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to be effective in teaching her how to make good decisions in the outside world, because within a weak of being out of rehab, she lost her 30-day chip. My suggestions of taking the pill that makes you sick if you drink alcohol were shot down because she "wouldn't be able to wear deodorant or cologne (which contains alcohol)". She began discussing wanting to move out on her own, and we cringed. Though we'd all love to see my sister self-sufficient and living a healthy life, we know she is not ready for it. She's lived at home since she was kicked out of her last section 8 apartment, not long after she kicked meth. She's talked about a halfway house, but nothing has yet materialized.
As a teenager, these problems had begun to develop; I was very young but remember a lot of fighting and shouting, and her running away from home. I later learned that this was the effects of tough love on her- she turned her back on us and wouldn't speak to us. Even when in the hospital after a serious accident, she literally turned her back to my mother, breaking her heart. She lived on the streets, by choice, had a hard life- hitchhiked across country, was raped, beaten, got involved in a multitude of drugs, before finally returning to Portland and starting to get her life together. Kicked everything but the alcohol and was living with the folks again. There was always this underlying problem of alcohol, but it was easily ignored- it was rare and never violent, like she gets when drinking hard alcohol. My sister is the sweetest person in the world, but I will not stand in front of her when drunk, she is very likely to seriously injure anyone who upsets her. She's been going faster and faster on her downward spiral lately though, and we are at a loss.
I'm angry. Angry at her for being an alcoholic. I've never had a normal sister, and was basically an only child growing up due to her absence. I'm pissed that liquor is more important to her then me, my mom, my dad. I want to scream at her for what this is doing to my parents. I hate the fact that she is mentally and functionally more like my younger sister then older, even though she has 9 years on me. I want to rage at her for lying to my face time and time again, for risking that my parents will have to bury her, something no parent should ever have to do.
I know it isn't all her fault. Alcoholism is a disease, and she can't help her mental issues, she is not to blame for her depression. I know this. That doesn’t mean there isn't a tiny unreasonable little piece of me that is angry everything can't be normal.
Even if we knew what to do, had some direction, could see improvement over the long term, it would be enough. But these issues she is going through, we wonder, or fear, that she does not have the capacity to recover. That this will simply be something that is a part of her for the rest of her short life. She got over the drugs, yes, but the consequences for drugs are much more noticeable. As she once said, one too many times waking up in the emergency room. She can't see the consequences for her drinking, or they don't seem that strong, or maybe it's just all she has left.
Today mom drove me to work and told me she's been stealing dad's beer and alcohol; they now have none in the house. Mom just found out she stole $20.00. This is something my parents will not tolerate; she is on the verge of being kicked out. This happened when I was younger, and they cannot risk she will hock family heirlooms, possessions that aren't hers, for a quick buzz. It will come to that, without turnaround. Even if she is accepted into the halfway house/rehab she can't get in for at least 3 months. She cannot come live with me- I won't put up with her stealing, either, won't put up with her lying to me again and again and again. Won't trust her not to burn the house down, or hurt my pets in a drunken state. Besides, that is enabling, and we have to stand firm as a family else she will just cycle through us until we are bled dry. And still live on the streets. It's a hairy line, tough love with my sister. Mom always used to say, "Don't cut off your nose to spite your face", and that phrase seems to describe my sister to a tee. Like a petulant 5-year-old, she will imagine how sorry we would all be if she was dead. She will live on the street and ruin her life, her health, her future, to spite us if she is pushed too far in a direction she refuses to go. What can we choose? How do we know that tough love won't make it worse, lead to her destruction or death?
We need a freakin' guidebook for her.
I called mom and told her, maybe we should revisit the anti-drinking pill idea. Speak with my sister's counselors, maybe set up an intervention-style thing with a mediator, to discuss with her the thin ice she is on; after all, it does no good to throw her out without a clear warning of the consequences. I said, maybe we can give her a choice: pills or she is on her own. Then it is her choice, her decision, and she can either commit in truth or choose not to. At least then, some of the anguish would be lifted from us. I could stand behind my parents and let her know I love her, but unless she agrees, she will get no succor from me. It's a dangerous path, but it beats my dad exploding at her without warning after she's pushed too far, and sending her to the streets. That would be the worst outcome. At least this way, we all, including my sister, have some control in the situation.