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Should I Take the Risk of Sectioning Her?


Allies member diezil is hoping to try to have her sister civilly committed, but wonders if the husband will/can stand in her way.

"Hi, I am looking for information on a Section 35. I did find how it is done. I need to know how likely I am to get one so I can weigh the risks of going down that path.

I have a sister, 53yo, who cannot stop drinking once she starts. When she drinks it is always to passing out with BAC routinely over .40. We brothers and sisters would commit her in a moment, as she no longer has the functioning to make good decisions. She is end-stage in her alcoholism.

Her husband is her biggest enabler. A top-level manager, he manages her. I saw him this past weekend and inquired about my sister. He explained the past 72 hours had been good. This is after 20 years of her active drinking and routinely being unable to function when she does – he still sees this as something he will manage. Can we get the Section without him? Will we have to supply documentation of her many hospitalizations and detoxes or will the Judge listen to us?

We will all go to Court, and recognize this may alienate our sister and brother-in-law, but do not know what else would potentially be helpful. She won't last much longer."

You want to civilly commit ("Section") your sister without the help of her husband. Sectioning someone can indeed create friction within the family, in this case between you, your Loved One and her husband. There is no way around it.

For information and the experience of others, see the tab along the right side of this posting “Section 35”.  Our Massachusetts Message Board also has a section on Section 35 (near the bottom, under Documentation) If you are in Massachusetts, find out first what the space availability is in the woman’s treatment center. It used to be that women were sent to Framingham jail. A treatment center now accommodates women but I do not know what happens when the center is full.

You will need to provide support for your request that includes documentation of prior treatment. I don’t know whether a spouse has a greater say in what the court does. I would think not.

Can others on this site share details of their sectioning experience with diezil?

Sectioning will provide your sister a break from her drinking. She will be safely detoxified and will have some time to address her addiction. It is a break in the action and signals to your sister the level of danger she is in. Sectioning, however, isn’t a panacea. She might be held against her wishes for a short time period and may still be resistant to getting further treatment once released.

I have seen individuals be sectioned and go on to long-term treatment. I have seen others take off as soon as was possible and go back to their substance abuse.

Treatment is what the family can do. Your sister is a chronic alcoholic and her husband supports her drinking. Sectioning can be a way to break up this dyad. It is a bold move, a signal that things are serious and that your family is willing to bring in outside forces to save your sister.

Please let us know what you learn about the sectioning process and how it goes.



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"...)