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Will They Live Long Enough to Get a Shot at Sobriety?

Passed Out

Allies in Recovery member diezil wants to use CRAFT with her twin sisters (53), both alcoholics, but is running into some roadblocks…

"Hi, I am writing on the recommendation of Laurie and with the support of my brothers and sister. We are struggling with the end stage alcoholism of our sisters, identical twins.

They are 53, and reading through the CRAFT material, to embrace CRAFT requires that we have closer access to them than we have. Their husbands, while generally able to control their frustration, keep knowledge and our sisters removed from us. They have listened to our sisters, who described to their spouses a negative picture of our family of origin. This was not true, but enabled them to use us as a way to drink longer.

All of our sisters' decisions are driven by getting to the next drink. I took one to detox Christmas eve when she was passed out in the back of my car. Her BAC was low for her upon admission – only .30. She routinely is 4.0 or higher, and often hurts herself. In fact, 2 hours before I took her in, she told the police that my brother in law had caused her cuts and black eye. (Not at all true). That brother in law took her out of detox on Christmas day.

The other sister made it to Christmas lunch, without her daughter, who that morning had discovered 18 large bottles of alcohol in her dresser. She has had a mini-stroke, did not pass a MOCA 6 weeks after a detox, and is the color of a cherry all over, and is itchy.

We have made use of a great interventionist. We believe that every detox opportunity might be the one that could work. We are not judgmental of the disease (I have 27 years in sobriety). We do not have the legal power to Section.

Paradoxically, the longer one is active in the disease, the harder it is to implement CRAFT. Right now, our goal is for them to live long enough to have a shot at sobriety. At this point, the brothers in law don't even return our calls.

We recommended AIR (our interventionist recommended it) to no avail."

Dear diezil:

There are definite limits to what a family can do. What a difficult and complicated situation your family is in. To watch two sisters fight and resist critical help when they are obviously in much difficulty has got to be gut wrenching. It is simply crushing that their husbands have reversed actions that could have helped when you engaged them into treatment.

I agree with you that every detox admission is an opportunity. Multiple treatment episodes are the norm, yet they can add up quickly and be disappointing. One admission could also be the moment your sister decides she is completely fed up and becomes more willing to continue treatment after detox, perhaps a few days without drinking, maybe a month, maybe more. Maybe both sisters will come to this decision.

You just don’t know. What you can do is what you have been doing.

CRAFT helps you communicate in a way that quiets anger and resistance. It helps the family see where they may still be inadvertently supporting the use and how to pay attention to moments when your sisters are trying not to drink, even if it’s just for the day. It teaches families how to intervene and get the Loved One into treatment.

The eLearning modules on this site can be viewed by all family members. In fact, it is extremely helpful if everyone can get on board. It doesn’t sound like this is happening with your sisters’ husbands. They are the ones with the most access and the most potential influence. Provide them with a membership for this site already in place (username/password) and how to log on (use the Contact the AiR Team form if you're not sure how to set up their memberships for them). Suggest they watch the introductory video to start. Use the site's suggestions on how to engage into treatment when trying to engage them to learn CRAFT.

You wrote the following phrase: “….our goal is for them to live long enough to have a shot at sobriety.”

This point is the essential rub for the majority of us, isn’t it? The longer someone is active with alcohol, the further the disease progresses. There are other family members on this site who also see every moment of use as potentially deadly, like with an opioid, even when the addiction hasn’t necessarily progressed over a long period of time. There are several factors at work that make it extremely hard to navigate the principles laid out in CRAFT.

The question, then, is how to walk the line between protecting them from potential danger while allowing the natural consequences that can lead someone to want to make a change. How do you protect without inadvertently reinforcing the use?

This is the conversation to have with your siblings and your niece. If the circumstance is in anyway in your control, when is it safe to let things happen and not step in? When do you step in? The goal is clear: keep facilitating treatment. Advanced alcoholics cannot stop on their own. It’s medically dangerous.

As you have done, everyone should be using the first response system: the emergency rooms, ambulances, police, and transporting to detox when they pass out. The husbands need the forms filled out and the details of a civil commitment. They, too, must have their moments when they are scared and want change. If they won’t talk to you, send them the information. The explanation of the cognitive test (MoCA) that your one sister cannot pass. Keep giving them detailed information about the treatments available.

This post is in itself a first response. There is more to say about the help your whole family may need to break through this impasse and the deeper ones that lie below it.

For now, it’s about treatment. Whatever else is going on, put it down and keep your focus on treatment.

Thank you for writing in. Our thoughts are with you. 



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"...)