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Is He Drinking Himself to Death?

man from behind sitting on bench sidewalk

cdollard is struggling. Her brother has been living with her for a year, drinking 12-16 beers a day and having given up on engaging with life? She’s not sure if the Allies program can help.

man from behind sitting on bench sidewalk
© jose antonio gallego vazquez via unsplash

“My alcoholic and depressed brother has been living with me for over a year. Antidepressants are not helping. He says he does not want to live but does not have a suicide plan. His plan is basically keep drinking and wait to die. I can’t live with this any more…he has totally given up on even little ways he was engaging in life. He refuses to consider even drinking less. He refuses any kind of therapy or groups. He drinks 12-16 beers a day. I considered section 35 but I am concerned that they will just detox him and not deal with the underlying depression. Do you have any advice for me? I have watched all of your videos which are somewhat helpful but do not seem to apply to him. Thanks.”

Thanks so much for writing in. We have just recently published a post for another sister, catair, who’s in a similar situation: she is deeply concerned about her brother who seems to be “drinking himself to death.” Please take a look at our answer to her, when you can. It will also address your questions about Section 35.

While your fears are similar to those expressed by catair, I have the impression that your brother may actually be moderating his drinking (see this post in Resource Supplement). How sure are you that your brother drinks between 12-16 beers a day?

At 65 years of age, serious active beer drinkers are drinking more like a case and a half a day of beer a day. Two six-packs spaced out over the day, doesn’t get a seasoned drinker high. It is a baseline, a strategy of sorts, the minimum that will get and keep you in a slightly uplifted mood.

The first step may be practicing acceptance

What if you left him and his drinking alone? In practice, and in your mind. Can you put down what your brother is doing for now? Focus on accepting for now the level at which he is drinking.

If you could practice dropping the idea that he is drinking, and follow our suggestions for rewarding Non-Use in Module 5, your attitude would shift some, and you might move towards a lighter, more open space. Find and reward any and all moments of non-use.

Take the space that will open up in your mind and begin filling it up with efforts aimed at taking gentle care of yourself — your body, your mind, your spirit. Visit our Sanctuary for ideas, guided yoga and meditation, comic relief, poetry…

Key Observations exercise #20 from our eLearning program helps you think through what feels good to you and could help you get through difficult moments. You’ll identify activities that you can add to your go-to list, and begin to integrate them little by little into your daily routine.

In fact, rewatching Module 7 on caring for yourself might be another good use of your time. After a year of living with a family member and watching them in a self-destructive holding pattern, anyone would be feeling the hopelessness creeping in, and feeling generally worn down.

We can guide you to help shepherd your brother towards treatment, even with the level of drinking and non-engagement with life you describe. But to do the work, you’ll need to be strong, centered, and have some of your own supports in place to keep you solid.

Please keep us posted.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)