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Family Issues... (again), how can I help my brother?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by brina, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. brina

    brina Well-Known Member

    So, I have posted about family issues before. Some of you may remember a thread I posted a few months ago about my mother having emotional issues, how she gets very argumentative, and how I eventually left and lived with my grandparents.

    Well now that things between my parents and I seemed to have calmed down, and now that we get along well enough, something else has occurred, this time with my brother. My brother is eighteen and a freshman in college, appeared to be loving the university life and claimed he was doing great in his classes. He always seemed to be in a great mood when I saw him on campus. A couple of months ago my parents found out he was stashing alcohol away in his room, apparently was drinking frequently, and even stole a significant amount of gin from my grandfather. When asked about it he insisted he wasn't drinking, that the alcohol wasn't his, and he didn't steal anything. Even though all of the evidence pointed to him, it was hard to believe he did any of that because on the exterior, he just didn't appear like a person that would be binge drinking or stealing. The matter was swept under the rug and things were normal for a couple of months.

    Last Friday my mother discovered that 1500 dollars was missing from her account, 500 from my sister's (who needs that money to pay for her tuition soon), and that the money was being transferred to my brother's account and quickly withdrawn. Supposedly he's been abusing prescription drugs (he was on ritalin in high school) and is doing poorly in school. My mother is distraught, and is planning on having him drop out of school, stay home with her, and work to earn back the money. I am concerned about this decision because my brother apparently doesn't outwardly show any remorse about stealing the money. I think if he stays home and is coddled (like I know my mother will), he won't understand why what he did is wrong. I am concerned that there is something psychologically wrong with my brother. I want to give my mother good advice on what to do, but I am not quite certain myself. I have a feeling he shouldn't stay at home, but at the same time if he leaves he might get worse. What should happen to my brother?

    You all always give me good advice. Thanks so much for reading and I appreciate any opinions you all have about this situation.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2010
    AxelAnnie and (deleted member) like this.
  2. Jayar

    Jayar Well-Known Member

    Let it alone. It's not your scab to pick.
  3. bardtoob

    bardtoob Former Choreographer for Anna Maria Tragikova

    brina, you're the child not the parent, so not offering parenting advice is a good way to start a healthy boundary.

    Just make sure you do not let him get to you (emotionally, financially, etc.) He is your brother, so you can care, but that does not mean you owe him anything.
  4. haribobo

    haribobo Well-Known Member

    I'm with Jayar (for once). :D

    Also, college right out of high school isn't always the best situation- working is good because it teaches them how much money is worth and how hard it is to actually earn $1500, for example. Then maybe he'll think twice before stealing that much. But that is really devious behavior. I'd be concerned too!
  5. ballettmaus

    ballettmaus Well-Known Member

    My aunt is an alcoholic and has ruined the entire family. As long as your brother is guarded and will be caught when he falls, he won't ever realize he has a problem. Addicts need to hit rock bottom and beneath that. They need to be left alone but also need to be told that if they seek help, people are there to see them through that.
    The best way your family can help is to not ignore the problem and seek professional help - ask a counselor how to best handle the situation so all of you concerned don't feel bad when not helping. It's difficult not to help because you'll reach the point when you're willing to do anything (My cousin often played with the idea of provocing her mother to get her to become violent so she could call the police. Her brothers prevented her from doing so as they feared it was too dangerous).
    Addictions are very complicated situations. You want to help but you can't unless the addict himself admits to having a problem.
    But I can assure you that it's not going to be pretty. If your parents aren't willing to do what's best for your brother, meaning they'll protect him and pretend that everything's alright and will support him, then you need to let go. Get distance between you and your family and accept that there's nothing you can do. Which is the hardest part.
  6. soxxy

    soxxy Guest

    Very good point. Eighteen year-olds are not all the same. There's nothing wrong with waiting a year or two or three before entering college, for a variety of reasons.
  7. susan6

    susan6 Well-Known Member

    Your mother will probably end up enabling your brother's addiction. Addicts will not change until THEY decide it is time, basically when they hit rock bottom. Your mother will be providing a nice place to live and probably funding his addiction if he can't find a job. Unless she can really lay down the law and force him to find work (and make him pay rent as well as pay back the money he stole), he's not going to feel any hardship.

    Take care of yourself....make sure he can't get into your finances. There are support groups for families of addicts out there that can give you advice.
  8. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    I will echo - make sure that your brother does not have any access to your financial information. Your parents should also not have access, if he is going to live at home with them.

    That's a tough row to hoe. :(
  9. JOHIO2

    JOHIO2 Well-Known Member

    brina, you are overlooking the best option...have him look into counseling thru the college/university. They usually provide excellent service and the cost is usually included in school fees or at low cost.

    Young college students, especially away from home for the first time, have all sorts of issues and colleges and unis are used to helping their students get thru many issues. Have mom get in touch with the college counseling service, especially if he will be continuing classes.

    Problem is not yours. If asked for advice and/or help, do what you can and don't feel pressured into doing more than you can handle. Let us know if you need more support!
  10. JerseySlore

    JerseySlore Active Member

    One of my best friends in my freshman year of college had the exactly same issue. He did hit the rock bottom toward the end of the year and checked himself into a rehab, and now he's one of the healthiest, both mentally and physically, people I know. Still, I feel guilty that I could not stop him even though I knew all along that he was having problems.

    I'm sorry Brina that I don't have any constructive advice to give you, but I just wanted to say plenty of young people go through this and come out fine.
  11. AxelAnnie

    AxelAnnie Well-Known Member

    Save yourself.......and I am not kidding. You can't fix your brother or your family...but you can look out for yourself. I tried to help/cover up/offer solutions/lie/loan money/hope/pray for my youngest daughter. I have a black belt in enabling. The most difficult thing to discover is that I have no power over her, and she has to find her own way. If you do nothing else, read The Lost Years: Surviving a Mother and Daughter's Worst Nightmare by Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry...or watch this video of Kristina and her Mom doing a book reading and review. I have come to learn (through a family intervention, my daughter's re-hab, and my own work) that when there is an addict/alcoholic in the family, it is really the entire family that is in need of help.

    Good luck to you and your family.

    BTW - after two years we are all doing so much better.
  12. Louis

    Louis Well-Known Member

    Advise your parents to call the police and have him arrested. Seriously. Fraud is no laughing matter. There's nothing like a few hours in jail and an appearance before a judge to make the point that actions have consequences. If he agrees that he'll make restitution and go to rehab, they can drop the charges. Otherwise, since he's presumably a first-time offender, he'll get a slap on the wrist, but he'll be ordered to make restitution and may have to spend some time on probation.

    This is how it all started with my sister. Then checks were forged. Then my young niece's savings account from baptism and communion was emptied. Then my mom's engagement ring was stolen, pawned and melted. Then we went to bury my grandmother, who had been in a nursing home, and discovered that all of her Italian gold jewelry -- which we kept at home so it wouldn't be taken in the nursing home -- had long ago been taken and pawned, melted away. I'll spend the rest of my life horrified that my grandmother, who was a proud and particular woman, had to be buried in jewelry that she would've never worn. And that her granddaughter showed up high to the funeral.

    If that wasn't bad enough, then my parents' house was burglarized multiple times by my sister and her druggie friends. Anything of value would disappear. The last straw was when my sister's meth-head friends managed to get a 200 lb. safe out of the house and busted it open, probably with dynamite or something crazy like that. Bonds, stock certificates, cash.... all gone to who knows where. Up someone's nose no doubt.

    People on my parents' block have gotten alarm systems, guns, or even MOVED because they are so scared that my sister's unsavory drug addict "friends" are going to come around and start shooting up or burning down the neighborhood. I wouldn't put it past them either if they suspected my sister would inherit something.

    If you suspect someone is stealing to fund a drug habit, get the police involved early and often for your own safety and for theirs. (My crazy sister is now on trial for three counts of felony, but she still has custody of her kids, somehow :rolleyes:.)
  13. Auntie

    Auntie Well-Known Member

    We have a situation in our family where substance problems were swept under the rug/ignored/enabled for many years. As long as the abuser could live the "appearance" of a normal life, enabled by the family, he was in denial that he had a problem. By the time everyone had enough of the mess, it was basically too late to repair the damage. The handsome, smart, charming, athlete is a shell of his former self and now lives in a shelter.

    My advice is similar to Louis's. Let him suffer the consequences of his actions. Denial and enabling are not helpful and make things worse.
  14. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    I really don't understand how your brother had access to both your parents' and your sister's bank account. :huh: I don't know anyone who would share bank account information with their family, especially not to the point of large withdrawals (obviously they have access to your brother's too because they knew it was being quickly withdrawn). I find this really strange.

    I'd get counselling information, give it to your brother, your sister, and your parents and then walk away. If I was your parents or your sister, I would have your brother charged if possible. It's hard with your brother having all of the bank account details - what's to prove your parents and sister didn't let him access and give him the money? Sharing bank account details with others is really not smart.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2010
  15. skatemommy

    skatemommy Well-Known Member

    If there is illegal activity involved you are best to remove yourself from the situtation. Agree that you can't help someone that doesn't know they need help or doesn't want it. The banks should be notified of fraudulant activity and holds placed on all accounts. You should also put a freeze on everyone in the family's credit bureaus so no credit can be opened. Tough love is the hardest...
  16. Gypsy

    Gypsy Watching the Leaves Change!

    Our family has had it share of problems with alcoholism and addiction and it is so easy to want to "fix" things.

    The hardest thing for family members is to let go and realize that the person will only get better when they hit rock bottom.

    It is heartbreaking to see someone destroy their life, but ultimately they are the only one who can change the things.

    Sometimes the best thing is to let them know you love them and will support them if they get help, but that you will not enable their behavior.

    I am so sorry your family is going thru this. Stay strong and do whatever you can to protect yourself. As for the rest of your family, all you can do is talk to them about the situation and the fact he needs to rescue himself. But remember, you cannot stop them either.
    Sparks and (deleted member) like this.
  17. millyskate

    millyskate Well-Known Member

    The brother could well have stolen that as well.
    My parents have all of my bank information and a procuration for the account. I travel and change address so often that it's really necessary to have someone living near the bank to sort problems out when they happen.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2010
  18. CynicElle

    CynicElle Well-Known Member

    I'm in agreement with the "You cannot help this person if he doesn't want to be helped, so look out for yourself" side, as gloomy as that seems. You can make some of the suggestions in this thread to your mother, but if she isn't willing to crack down on him and he isn't willing to admit he's in trouble, then you're going to need to focus on protecting yourself. Make sure he cannot get access to your finances. Don't even leave your purse unattended around him.

    I truly hope your brother and your family get through this.
  19. ArtisticFan

    ArtisticFan Well-Known Member

    When I opened my college checking account, I did so at the bank where my parents and I had always banked. My mother was on the account with me so that she could deposit money easier and transfer funds in when I had those moments of stupidity regarding my finances.

    I wasn't that mature or responsible about the money and would often run dangerously low. Come to find out because my mom's name was on the account, the bank automatically linked the account with my parents' regular account. I found this out while I was on a spending spree (before debit cards). I expected the check to bounce, but the bank just took the money from my parents' account. Needless to say that was they were on the phone with the bank to unlink the accounts the very next day.


    I know you want to help and stop your brother from destroying himself and your family, but the truth is that there is very little that can be done. When one is on that path to destruction, they are usually very determined. The best thing you can do is get prepared for the fallout that will eventually happen.
  20. brina

    brina Well-Known Member

    Angelskates, I asked my sister re: the account information. It turns out she, my brother, and my mother had joint accounts. I am not certain about all of the details regarding what exactly he had to go through in order to transfer the money from one account to the other, but I am under the impression that it is much simpler with a joint account than otherwise.

    A part of me wants to leave it alone and let him and the rest of my family deal with the issue, but at the same time I am worried that if the right decision isn't made now, it will result in more problems down the road for all of us. I know that it isn't really my place to decide how my brother should be disciplined (especially now that things just got better between me and my parents), but I don't think my mother knows how to say tough luck, deal with the consequences in this sort of situation. I am convinced that she thinks he was desperate and didn't have a choice for some reason. My father only knows how to turn to prayer and church to deal with problems. If someone doesn't indicate to her that she could perhaps only enable him more, who will?

    Last night my mother requested that I attend church with everyone, and I agreed to go. To my surprise, my brother was there with everyone, and he appeared perfectly normal. My mother didn't seem outwardly sad or upset. I think she's in shock. The whole time after I wanted to turn to him and say, what were you thinking? But it was just so difficult to attribute the event, the theft, and the allegations of drug/alcohol abuse with his face. It was a very surreal event.

    AxelAnnie, I watched the review and ordered the book. If I think it might help my mom, I will give it to her to read as well. Thank you very much.

    I have gotten more paranoid about my brother somehow getting my account information. It sucks to think that your own brother would be willing to steal from you, but he already did it to my younger sister, so why wouldn't he do it to me?

    re: the counseling idea. I think my brother had been initially getting his prescriptions from some sort of therapist that he had been seeing (and according to my sister, he had been paying for these sessions himself). I am predicting that my parents will be less inclined to send him to a counselor/therapist of any sort due to this development, unfortuantely.. Maybe they will be more inclined to trust a rehabilitation center.

    Thank you all so very much for your insight. I have been able to take on a lot of helpful perspectives from this.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2010
  21. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    I have to wonder if there is some jumping to conclusions here. Is it certain that brother stole the gin? Has he made any explanation about the money, because is it possible that because it was a joint account he honestly thought he was entitled to it, or fully planned to pay it back?

    And what evidence is there that he's an "addict" in need of rehab? Drinking, having alcohol in one's room, and sometimes drinking to excess is something very common among first year college students. Further, the instinct to lie about it is common for kids who grew up in homes where there was little alcohol, or that are strongly religious. Prescription drugs are another thing, but without knowing more about his history, it's hard to know if he may or may not be going too far with them - as brina said, he's "supposedly" abusing - what is the truth?

    I think it's important to get the brother's side of all this, not assume the worst (prepare for it, but don't assume it), give him some credit and support for what is often a difficult time of transition, and *then* see if something needs to be done about it.

    We can't parent our siblings, or tell our parents how to do it, but we can be there for our siblings and be good sisters and brothers to them.
  22. brina

    brina Well-Known Member

    He admitted to stealing the gin to me. He felt guilty because grandpa was accusing me after he denied it. He also admitted to spending all of the money trying to buy drugs, but he "was ripped off." I'm not saying there may be a more reasonable explanation, but he did admit to those things. And he currently doesn't have a job so he couldn't expect to pay it back, and is aware that our sister pays tuition regularly with the little money she makes throughout the year.
  23. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    You can't parent your brother, but you can be a sister to him and tell him honestly that he's being an a-hole for doing those things to his own family. Then it's up to him to decide to change. In the meantime, definitely watch out for yourself.

    IMO, family doesn't mean you enable. Family means you give them tough love to be the best self-sufficient person they can be.

    I mean, if his family isn't going to be honest with him, who is? His friends who might be enabling him?
    genevieve and (deleted member) like this.
  24. Civic

    Civic New Member

    Brina, how is your brother doing academically?
  25. Civic

    Civic New Member

    Oops, you mentioned this earlier. Sorry. I agree with other posters that your first priority should be to take care of yourself. Be prepared for your parents to expend most of their time, energy and money on your brother. Also, be prepared for them to blame you for protecting yourself from him. It's not fair but I've seen this play out in other families.

    Otoh, your sister could probably use your advice and support right now. Like you, she needs to take care of herself, even if your parents pressure her to "not be so hard" on your brother. One bit of sisterly advice you might want to pass on if you haven't already done so: She needs to open her own bank account that only she can access ASAP.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2010
  26. brina

    brina Well-Known Member

    Yeah, you all were right about just leaving this one alone. My parents and my grandparents are going to treat my brother however they see fit, whether it is best for him or not, and it would be wise of me to not waste much energy on it. I still care about my brother, but I can't fix things out of my control.