It is not easy to deal with an active drinker, especially when the active drinker in my life is my brother. When I visit him, I feel badly to see how his drinking problem is affecting him. I always try to communicate with him, but when he is sober, he avoids me most of the time. The only time he talks to me—and he is very talkative—is when he has a buzz. The problem is that the next day, he barely remembers what we talked about and again avoids any conversation with me. Sometimes he goes through periods of time when he drinks constantly—for days and sometimes weeks.
However, in Al‑Anon I have found hope. I have learned that my brother has a disease called alcoholism. It has been very helpful to read about the characteristics of this disease and remember that how he reacts to things is because of his disease, not because he doesn’t love me. I have learned that I didn’t cause his disease, that I cannot control it or cure him. I have also learned that today I have choices when it comes to reacting to his behavior—drunk or sober. I can either treat him with respect, understanding and compassion or I can try to control and scold him. The first option takes courage and lots of serenity. However, I know that if I react negatively, sooner rather than later I will feel resentful, ashamed and guilty.
In Al‑Anon, I have learned phrases I can use to establish boundaries with my brother in a firm, yet loving way. Although it is difficult to remember them in a confrontation or difficult situation, they help me avoid reacting to his behavior. I have also learned not to do for him things that he needs to do for himself, like taking care of his financial responsibilities. However, when I do talk to him, I let him know that I am just a phone call away in case he needs anything that is in my power to do. This boundary is a fine line that I have to be careful not to cross, and maintaining it is difficult sometimes. But talking about my feelings with fellow members and listening to their experiences gives me courage and helps me remember that I am not alone.
When I focus on myself instead of my brother, I can see that alcoholism is a family disease because it has affected me. The good news is that I can use the tools Al‑Anon has given me to improve myself and get better. Now I know that my brother will stop drinking when he is ready to ask for help. In the meantime, I can either suffer or remain positive about my recovery and my own life.
By Sergio Z.
The Forum, September 2018