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Your Loved One Has a Major Drinking Problem — And a Young Child

man holding baby woman frightened

Treatment Expert, Dr. Tom Horvath from Practical Recovery, responds below to AiR member Cdpt's comment, from November 18, 2015:

"My sister has had an alcohol binge addition for about 30 years, she is now 49 years old with a 4 year old daughter. After several scary situations of my sister being passed out while caring for her daughter we did an intervention with the help of someone in recovery. We told her she could not see her daughter until she got help it was 3:00pm and she was drunk to the point of not being able to stand. She agreed to do a 30 day program while one of my other sister cared for her daughter. Unable to find a bed that night to our great relief she called and found a bed for a 5 day detox the next morning, which she then was able with her insurance to extend for another 15 days. Her plan when she gets out is to get her daughter back and go to one weekly meeting from 11-2 and continue to see her therapist for one hour a week. We are concerned that she's not giving her treatment enough time and the welfare of our niece. We are trying to do this without a second offense with DCF. Are we in over our heads? Can we tell her we want more before she takes on full time care of her daughter?? She is and can be very angry when she is not getting what she wants."

This situation is indeed challenging. What follows are some ideas to consider (and they should not be taken as specific advice). 

The concept of natural consequences suggests that if she continues to behave in a way that makes government involvement appropriate, then your standing in the way of that involvement would lessen the long-term power it could have on your sister's motivation for recovery.

Of course, you may still have reasons to wish to deal with the situation yourself. It's your call.

Focusing on HOW someone changes is often counterproductive.

To be sure, the low level of services she is suggesting is not commensurate with the size of her problems, but a fascinating fact about addiction recovery is that there is no strong correlation between the amount of treatment and the progress in recovery. Most people, even those with substantial problems, recover on their own (meaning no treatment or mutual help groups at all). In this case, focusing not on on how you get results, but on what the results are, seems more helpful.

Do you care if she attends treatment or a meeting daily, but is still drinking excessively? What you care about most is that she is not impaired as a parent.

Supervised Anatabuse (a drug that makes you sick if you drink), a Soberlink (a hi-tech breathalyzer), or regular (2-3 times per week) EtG testing (it looks at the last 80 hours) would provide the information you really want. How she accomplishes the goal can be left up to her.

Improving her functioning as a parent will also have the effect of improving her life, so you would only need to focus on the welfare of the child (which I hope someone does!).

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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"...)