Q: My sister, who lives 1000 miles away, visited me, got drunk, and confided that she’s an alcoholic (has tried AA but not now), is cheating on her husband with 2 men, tried crack recently, drives drunk, and has no friends. She has a 7 year old son. I told our parents and brother to garner support for her. Now she’s furious with me and won’t talk to any of us about it. What do we do now?

A: What you do now is protect that seven year old from his mother, regardless of all other factors. Since the child’s physical safety is greatly compromised (by the drinking and driving for sure, and probably by various other dangers), you might even need to go to local authorities for the child’s protection.

You and your family should probably talk to a therapist who is experienced at working with families and with addictions.

In these situations it’s common for the addicted family member to hate their addiction, but also to be extremely angry at anyone who forces them to see the truth about how their life is going. They might attempt to get family members “on their side” against other family members, etc. To deal with this, each person in the family needs to have clear priorities, and focus on them rather exclusively.

I’m suggesting that protection of the child should be your number one priority. Some others in the family might think that supporting the mother is their first priority. Others might want “peace in the family” as their first priority. Still others might want no priorities at all and basically take the position that everything is hopeless so there’s nothing for them to do!

A good start would be to call your local Family Services Agency and tell them what you told me. They have offices in all larger cities. You could also call any psychiatric hospital or addiction treatment facility.

I certainly do appreciate your concern and I wish the boy, the mother, you, and everyone else the very best.

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