Alcohol Psychosis

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I’m concerned about my mother in law’s “Alcohol Psychosis?” This issue is mainly of concern for my mother in law. I don’t necessarily know how to describe her alcohol issue; since it’s unlike others. My husband gets VERY upset & embarrassed if his parents drinking problem is brought up. He hides it any way he can. He has a very small family. (Mom, Dad, Sister, & nephew.) We’re the only ones who know about her problem. His parents don’t drink daily. They go weeks with out it. His dad is somewhat normal when he drinks. BUT.. Something SNAPS when his mom gets ahold of alcohol. She turns into a whole different person. She screams, yells, sobs uncontrollably, says nasty & hurtful things, hits, talks nonsense that makes NO sense, is delirious, breaks things, calls our phones several times, leaves hate msgs, walks down the street knocking on people’s doors, & calls 911 REPEATEDLY asking to send an officer out for “imaginary” emergencies AND to “feed her fish and take care of her dog!” She’s had police called on her 100′s of times, arrested many times, taken to a psych facility, & has been rushed to the hospital for false emergencies! Then, doesn’t remember the next day. My mother in law has never had a driver’s license. So the only way she gets alcohol is if she walks somewhere, or if my father in law brings it home. He knows better than that. But still brings it home? My husband & sister in law are so fed up, that they just say, “Whatever happens happens, it’s their own fault.” They’ve thrown so much $ away due to their parents drinking, they AND the police had a crisis group come over, a psych facility, & took her to AA meetings. If she’s not drunk & causing mayhem, we have a good relationship with his parents! We even have breakfast together on Sundays! She doesn’t associate with her family, has NO friends, & doesn’t leave home unless she’s walking the dog. It’s just when she drinks, she turns psycho! She admits to having a problem, but won’t let anyone help! (She also refuses any medications of any kind; so if maybe it’s psychological too, she’ll refuse ANY medical treatment.) It’s been going on for so long, my husband gave up. He says, “If she’s put in jail, maybe she’ll learn her lesson.” We already have to help their bills because they’re so broke. I’m always the one that does a “drive by” at night if I know she’s drinking. I just want to help. My husband shuts down & gets mad if it’s brought up between us. Like, if I ask about it or try to offer help/ideas. He gets furious, & says, “I don’t care if they screw up, & it’s got nothing to do with you, so drop it!” So after this problem description, I want to know what I can do? I have a couple alcoholics in my family as well. So I know what the common behaviors are. In this case with my mother in law, I’ve never seen or heard of alcohol having this kind of effect! I know my husband like, gave up. It doesn’t have to be this way. She can hurt herself, or even worse! She handed her debit card to a stranger to go buy her liquor. (And obviously never got it back.) I’m out of ideas, & don’t know or understand her behavior very well. Do you have any suggestions? Sites to look up, an explanation of how this “insanity” works? Thank you so much!
Sincerely,
“Concerned Wife!”

A: It sounds to me like there may be a few things going on, but of course it would be too difficult for me to try to accurately identify all the possibilities. What I can say is that there is something you can do directly to begin coping with this. You don’t need permission or need your husband to be onboard with it: Al-Anon. Al-Anon is for family and friends of people who are having problems drinking. Your mother-in-law needs help, but at this point the best thing you can do is learn how to take care of yourself and hope that your husband and others can be inspired by you going.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Jun 2012

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2012). Alcohol Psychosis. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/06/15/alcohol-psychosis/