How do I approach this?



My sister announced that she is an alcoholic November 2018 which I was not aware of or believed since she lives in Hoboken, NJ and our family and I live elsewhere. We don’t see her daily struggle so it is hard to believe and when we are with her it does not seem like she needs alcohol, but I finally saw her drunk which honestly was traumatizing. I have some PTSD from alcoholics since my dad was a horrible drunk. I am trying to support her and get her to go to AA since she wanted to go straight to rehab but I feel their are small steps that need to be tried before full out rehab. She went to one meeting then I was on top of her to continue going but she just started getting annoyed of me and not going since I don’t live their motivating over the phone is hard. I went to alanon meetings so she is motivated to go. I feel like she dropped this huge ball on me which is changing my life and feelings and thoughts but she is not doing anything. Before she announced this we agreed for her to move out of NJ to where I live in Colorado and we are planning to live together but I was not prepared for the alcohol part. I just don’t know what to do or how to feel.


Hi @cmcline :slight_smile:
Oh girl, I have been where you are!! And am still working through many of those feelings as well. About a year ago, my long distance boyfriend (now fiancé) came out to me as an alcoholic and decided he wanted to quit drinking. I was very excited because I had noticed (as much as I could from far away) that I thought his drinking was excessive, but because of the distance I was unsure how to approach it, or if it was even my place. When he told me he wanted to stop drinking and start going to meetings, I was thrilled and because I had no knowledge of addiction, I figured it was a done deal.

He went to a couple meetings, and slowly slipped back into a place of defensiveness and distance—I began to get extreme anxiety because my gut was telling me he was drinking again, and I knew he wasn’t going to meetings anymore. I was able to tell almost immediately if he’d had a drink just by the tone of his voice, and I pushed him harder and harder to go to meetings, therapy, talk about it, etc. He maintained that AA made him feel worse and was unhelpful, but I pushed him to keep going because I had heard (as so many of us have) that it’s the ONLY way to recovery.

It was a long while (probably about 6 months) of MANY mistakes on my part, and I realized that my “encouraging” (really pressuring) him to seek help was not helping, and not productive.

I began to read and read and read, a lot on Instagram, stories of people who recovered in many different ways, with and without AA, and had to come to grips that although his substance use affects me, it’s not about me. I’ve realized that nothing I do or don’t do will affect whether or not he uses, including reading, getting help, not drinking, etc. His journey is his, and if I want to support him through it, I have to listen to what he wants and needs, and respect his process.

Since I’ve backed off, and really started focusing on myself with no ulterior motive (ie. “if I stop drinking, maybe he will”), we have come leaps and bounds in our communication, and he feels much more comfortable and less judged sharing with me.

We are now engaged, and I’ve moved with my two sons to be with him and his son, and that was a scary feeling, but I just stuck to my work, and trusted my intuition, and so far it’s been very positive.

He still slips sometimes, and it sucks, but each time we talk through it, we come together a little more. What I wasn’t expecting at the beginning is how SLOWLY recovery can go: it’s literally the tiniest baby steps, but when I look back at it as a whole journey, I see how far we have both come, and it gives me hope and optimism for the journey ahead.

The Playbook on this site really helped to affirm and put into words what my intuition was telling me about how to support my fiancé. I repeat to myself multiple times a day: “connection is the opposite of addiction,” and remind myself that what he is going through has nothing to do with me, and cannot be “fixed” or hindered by anything that I do or do not do.

I am standing with you—just know that you are at the very beginning of a long marathon with your sister… but your love and support can only help. As a friend (whose husband is also in recovery) once told me: she’s decided she wants to stop, and so however that looks, eventually she will stop. It just might not look the way you expect it to.

Sending love, light, and strength your way!


It’s very overwhelming at first when someone you care for comes out as an alcoholic/addict. I’m in recovery and it was a shock to my family. I hid my addictions as well as justified them by having a career, homes, vehicles, etc. The fact that she has accepted that she could very well be alcoholic is a huge step, and a huge plus. It is in fact the first step in the 12 step program. A.A. is a highly invaluable tool, yet it is only so if it is worked properly. When started in 1939, they had no inpatient treatment centers, only alcoholics working with other alcoholics through 12 step work and sponsorship. Having said that, she might benefit from only seeking out a sponsor at an A.A. group, or she could benefit from Intensive Outpatient Treatment which is what I went through in order to sustain my job and my academic career. If she is of the weekend warrior/binge drinking type and can manage to string together a few days a week of sobriety on her own, then perhaps establishing fellowship within a recovery community and seeking out a sponsor to work the 12 steps would be the more prudent approach. Definitely stick with alanon so that you can network with others in your position and feed off of their suggestions. Always remember, you cannot help someone until they want to help themselves. I have had several counselors tell me that you cannot drown yourself attempting to save someone. They have to have willingness.


Hi @cmcline. This community actually introduced me to the book Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change. I just finished the section on the stages of change, which you can also read about here. I found it really helpful in understanding how/why individuals change, and how to meet them where they are. For example, the way you approach difficult conversations with someone in the precontemplation stage would be different than with someone in the maintenance stage. I really recommend the book. Al-Anon has also been really helpful for me in taking care of myself - being able to find peace, work on my own unhealthy behaviors that have resulted from my husband’s addiction, and think before I react. :pray:t4::sparkles:


Thank you for the helpful advice and to know there are other options that may work for my sister!


I read what was in the link and it really struck a cord with me, I definitely feel a part of the problem is how I am the rest of our family are approaching the situation. I am going to buy the book! Thank you.