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Ask Stavroula:My Sister's Husband Is an Alcoholic

The National Herald Archive

Dear Stavroula, 

My twin sister and I turn 38 this year. She is married, while I am not. My problem is with my brother-in-law. This man drinks a lot and without being an expert, I think he is addicted to alcohol. Many times, when he drinks, his behavior changes. Unfortunately, my sister refuses to see his problem. Every time his behavior gets out of control, she becomes distressed and downcast – she tells me that she will divorce him, but then she forgets. When the situation is normal with him, if I try to talk to her about the negative side of her husband, she defends him, gets angry and sometimes is unfair to me and accuses me of being jealous of her since she has her husband, while I am alone. I do not know how to help her, and most of all I am afraid that her husband might become violent at some point. How can I help her understand that this man can become dangerous and that she must divorce him? 

Chris 

Dear Chris, 

The first thing I would advise you to do is turn to an addiction specialist and express your fears. He will understand exactly what stage of alcoholism your brother-in-law is in, and if he talks to your sister he will be able to give her a better understanding of what the situation is and how she should deal with it. 

Alcoholism is a dangerous disease that can affect the whole family and the biggest problem is that alcoholics usually are not aware of their condition and do not understand that they are sick. The same attitude is often found in the people around them who refuse to see reality, because they are afraid to face the consequences and prefer to hide their head in the sand. Unfortunately, this attitude does not help anyone. Many experts emphasize that the first step in treating an alcoholic is to stop those around him from covering up for him. It is important for the alcoholic to suffer and realize the consequences of his actions related to alcohol consumption. Only if he is convinced that he has a problem will he be able to deal with it. 

That is why it is very important for your sister to gain more knowledge on this subject. So she will accept the situation herself and will then be able to help her husband overcome his illness. You can also contact self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and ask for advice and guidance. 

You write to me that you are afraid that your brother-in-law will become violent. If this means that you have some specific indications that this person is abusing your sister, then it would be good to talk to your family, or to people you trust so that you can convince your sister to follow all legal procedures and protect herself. 

But if this is not the case, it certainly does not help to try to persuade your sister to divorce her husband. Obviously, she has feelings for him and does not want to break up her marriage. For this reason, she may refuse to accept her husband's alcoholism diagnosis. Speak to her with love and understanding and assure her that you want to help her overcome this difficult situation and help her husband get well. Give her hope to fight this struggle alongside her husband.