My brother the addict

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. My older brother is 18. He starting doing drugs and drinking in the 8th grade. Over the past 5 years he has stolen money from me and my parents as well as others in my family. Recently, though, it has been getting a lot worse. He also began to steal electronics and DVDs from our home and selling them for drug money. 2 years ago he went to rehab for a month. It did not work. Last summer he went again to rehab for a month and again it did not work. This year, he went to a different rehab for 4 1/2 months. All 3 times were court ordered. He has also been to jail already. As part of probation, he went every weekend for 10 weeks last year.

This past April, my brother’s best friend and cousin died of alcohol, drugs, and hypothermia. He was only 17. I thought for sure that that would straighten my brother out for good. It did not work. As I write, my brother is outside with 4 others drinking beer. A few days ago, I needed the foil to cook something. I went into my brother’s bedroom to look for it and found: baking soda, 2 spoons, a baggie of Aleve, 2 bottles of beer, a homemade water bong, and a bowl. When confronted, my brother said none of it was his but took the bowl and put it in his pocket. A while later, I noticed all those things were gone.

I feel like I need to watch out for my big brother and take care of him. I have always felt that way. I want him so badly to get better but he just keeps going back to drugs. My parents try to ground him and keep him home but he always ends up leaving the same night anyway. I have spent too many nights crying over this and don’t know what to do. I just wish he could see what he is doing to me. I just wanted someone to tell this to. I’m not good at expressing feelings to people

A. If only your brother could know what his drug use is doing to you. It is extremely trying to watch someone you love essentially ruin their life in such a deliberate manner. The use of drugs by a family member or a friend can hurt so many people even if that was not the intention.

This is a difficult situation to face on your own. You should try engaging in some of the Al-Anon support groups that are specifically designed to help friends and family members grapple with seeing their loved one use drugs and alcohol. Do an Internet search, talk to your parents or look them up in the phone book for more information about these groups. Al-Anon could help you learn not to bear the burden for your brother’s decision to use drugs and alcohol.

It is extremely challenging to continue living your life while you worry about what your brother is doing to his. It is important, however, that you do try to maintain a healthy and stable life and that you try not to let his choice to use, for the sake of your own mental health, become the focal point of your life. I know you worry about your brother but understand that he will have to deal with his problem on his own terms and only when he is ready, and this could take years. It’s the tragic reality of drug and alcohol use. Try Al-Anon for support. They can help you. Take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Jul 2007

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2007). My brother the addict. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/07/29/my-brother-the-addict/