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I Fear That My Brother May Go to Jail if I Don’t Intervene

go to jail monopoly

Allies member Angelica79 is at her wit’s end. Her brother is facing a felony DUI charge and may end up going to jail. His mental and physical health are deteriorating, while his drug and alcohol use continue to escalate. She desperately wants to see her brother get the treatment he needs. And while she worries that it might damage their relationship, she believes that petitioning the court on his behalf could save her brother’s life. But there’s a lot to consider before taking such an irreversible step. 

©Suzy Hazelwood/

“I know mandating someone to treatment is a last option. I live in Florida where we have the Marchman Act that allows concerned friends or family to get someone into treatment against their will. My brother is facing a felony DUI charge, which means that he may go to jail for up to 5 years. Two doctors have told him that his alcohol intake is damaging his liver and advised him to stop. He’s been prescribed medications to help with his depression and drinking but refuses to take them. He self-medicates with alcohol and occasionally takes cocaine, mushrooms, and LSD. Some days he only gets out of bed to go to the bar or to get more alcohol. He works from home and is able to do most of his work drunk apparently. He has no friends and no life.  

I have been doing CRAFT for a long time without any real results. He expresses the occasional wish/dip but has a lot of reasons he won’t get treatment. I don’t think he wants to live like this, and I would love to see him sober for 90 days—so that he can make a decision about how he wants to live with a clearer head. He is drunk 24/7 and has been for years. I know there’s hope that anyone could change on their own, but I feel like we have a time limit since his court date is on the horizon. I would love to see him get some help before he goes to jail, but I think the only way that will happen is if I take legal action. I know this could damage our relationship. I also know it might save his life. What do you think?” 

CRAFT: Your Best Defense Is a Good Offense  

You pose a very difficult question: to what lengths should you go to help your brother enter treatment when it seems like he has given up? As you well know, ambivalence toward change and resistance to treatment are part of the recovery process. The CRAFT model is specifically designed to help families whose Loved Ones are resistant to help. You acknowledge the fact that your brother will occasionally express a wish or dip, and you have responded by using the CRAFT approach. This is a very good sign. I realize it may not feel this way right now, but it means that neither one of you has lost the will to fight. 

Even though it seems like he is determined to continue on this path, there are moments when he wishes he could stop. Module 8 segment 1, How Do I Get My Loved One into Treatmentcan help to guide you through those times. By helping you identify and prepare for his brief moments of willingness, you’ll be more ready to step in with encouragement, support, and solutions.     

I wonder if you would be open to continuing to apply the CRAFT approach and reward moments of non-use with smaller, more specific rewards. Visit Rewarding Non-Use in Module 5. Ensure that the rewards you provide are meaningful to him by completing exercise #16. Despite how dire the situation appears, there is still a real chance that your brother will decide to seek treatment on his own. Remember that this happens in 65-70% of cases where family members apply the CRAFT approach.  

Court Mandated Treatment May or May Not Be the Best Option 

Pursuing a court mandate is a very personal choice. Once it’s done, you must be able to live with the consequences. There are both positive and negative aspects to taking legal action, and only you know what is best for your family. The most important thing to remember is to do your homework on the process and learn as much as you can about the legal ramifications and treatment options available in your area. With the Marchman Act in particular, there are many points to consider. You can learn more about Marchman through both private organizations in Florida and official state channels. You may also want to consult with a private attorney on the matter.   

It is also important to note that your brother’s rights are protected by HIPPA, regardless of whether he enters treatment on his own or is mandated. Therefore, he would need to sign a release of information (ROI) form with each provider in order for you to be able to communicate with the facility and advocate on his behalf.  

When it comes to alcohol, the priority is to detox him safely. Once he completes the withdrawal and stabilization program, his treatment team will recommend an inpatient and/or residential program. They will present his options and work to secure a bed in the facility of his choosing, depending on his insurance. If you decide to mandate him to treatment, the court will likely dictate the time frame, the level of care, and the facility. You may not have any say in where he goes or for how long. Either way, treatment isn’t free. The cost must be covered either by insurance, self-payment, or by a state funded facility. 

How Do You Care For Yourself While Continuing to Support Your Loved One?  

Whatever you decide, remember that there are no guarantees. The ideal scenario will always be to encourage your Loved One to find treatment and recovery support on their own, and the best way to do that is through CRAFT.  

Let me also encourage you to set an example for your Loved One by taking care of your own well-being. This is not selfish; it is necessary. If we expect our Loved Ones to care for themselves, we must lead by example. I’d ask that you review Module 7 to learn to identify and cope with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. Follow the exercises and learn ways to care for yourself during this difficult time. 

We are here for you every step of the way. Please continue to reach out and ask for help anytime you need to. Keep us posted on his progress.  

P.S. Your question made us think of other members whose Loved Ones are in very serious situations. You might find more that’s helpful by taking a look at our exchanges with them:



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"...)