My brother has had addiction and behavioral problems since he was 13 and I was 11. His problems began to dictate how we (my parents and I) lived, or -attempetd- to live, our lives from day to day. My family has fallen apart in the 9 years that my brother has had his addiction. My memories of my early childhood are golden; vactions, laughs, and just endless love. But as soon as my brother’s life turned, My golden memories became one’s of my intoxicated brother screaming outside of my house in the early morning hours, police at my door, just chaos. and me just left to watch it go down. My parents soon began neglecting me. at the time I was very motivated and focused on my future, so I assume they thought I could ‘handle my own’. But the truth is, i couldn’t, and now, 8 years later, I’m suffering.

I now have many unresolved issues with my parents that ‘lay under my skin.’ My parents have never seeked helped in the past, this is because they deny they have developed bad habits, or just general bad thinking from handling my brother. They treat me like I’m a problem, for an example, I’ve been in college for almost two years now, and not once have they asked to see my work, rather they yell at me and demand that i clean up my drafting area, shouldn’t they be grateful that I have not caused them any problems? (perhaps I -am- causing them a problem by asking them to admit that -WE- need help) I hold more resentment towards my mom (which i know is not healthy) because when I was growing up, my dad had my brother, and I was the ‘momas boy’ who always had mommy. My dad has made hundreds of phone calls, written over 100 letters all in an attempt to help my brother. My mom did nothing. My mom now deny’s she has a drinking problem, even though she drinks 3-4 glasses of wine as soon as she gets home from work because it ‘helps her sleep’ (even though alcohol is proven to disrupt R.E.M sleep, and when I tell her this, she tells me to shut up). She complains about everything my brother me and my father do, she demands I clean “Her” house, and tells me i’m ‘crazy’ when I plead to get family counceling. I’m starting to see a side of my mom that is effecting me and making me depressed. what should I do to help my family? can they be helped? should I write them a letter? i’m lost. My mom is depressed and she doesn’t know it

A: I’m so very sorry that your family has been through so much. You’re right that everyone is in trouble. Your father has used everything he had to save your brother’s life. My guess is that your mother has been depressed for a long time and perhaps felt abandoned by your dad even though she appreciated what he was doing for your brother. So there you were, a teen with an out of control brother, a preoccupied father, and a depressed mom. No wonder you felt like you lost your family. You did. It’s to your credit that you didn’t go down the same road as your brother. Your own more optimistic temperament and those golden early years probably gave you the inner strength to withstand what came next.

You can’t make other people get help. What you can do is start with yourself and pull them in later. Find a therapist for yourself to help sort out what you can and can’t do for the people you love. Hopefully your therapist will then help you figure out how to draw your family into therapy with you so the family can do the healing work it needs to do to reclaim at least some of the good feelings and togetherness of your memories.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Dec 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). brother’s addiction problem has damaged family. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/12/13/brothers-addiction-problem-has-damaged-family/