Sasha Answers: My Deadbeat Brother
Hi Sasha. I have a problem that absolutely no one seems to know how to solve. My younger brother is 33 and still living at home. My Mum is in her 70s and was widowed a few years ago. She lives in a nice (but small) house and is quite conservative and set in her ways. My brother generally means well, but he is sporadically unemployed, always broke and binge drinks (regularly does coke) and then staggers home at all hours. He's not abusive, but he's sloppy, mean when he doesn't get what he wants and generally pretty pathetic. Obviously it upsets mum a lot to see him like this and she has to deal with spilled booze, general messes, being woken up late at night and potentially dangerous things like him accidentally leaving the oven on all night. She won't even go away on holiday because she doesn't want to leave him in the house alone. He rarely pays mum rent and the last time he lived in his own place (my dad forced him out that time) it only lasted about nine months before the landlord cut his electricity.
He doesn't seem to have any ambitions, aspirations or interests. He's never had a serious relationship. And he's now in debt with collection agencies calling my mum's landline constantly. Right now he does have a full time job and if he didn't blow all his money on weekends could feasibly afford to live in his own place. The problem is that although I know he’s not happy, he continues on the way he is. He keeps saying he'll move out when he's got his debts sorted, but it never happens. He also makes promises to change, but he never does. He won't agree to see a therapist or counselor. My mum has repeatedly asked him to move out, but she's too softhearted to force it. My older brother and I have both tried talking to him but it never gets us anywhere. Now my older brother has washed his hands of him and they barely speak. His behavior is seriously upsetting for us because of the effect it has on our mum. I guess my question is, how can we force him to move out, grow up, and take responsibility for his own life? Thanks so much,M.
I’ve watched enough Intervention in my life to know that there's some serious enabling going on here. Your bro has it way too easy. Every time he takes a stumble your mom is there with a warm hug and a homemade meal. It’s got to stop – it’s the only way he’ll grow some balls and take control of his life.
Your family has obviously made many attempts to help him, but the reality is that he’s taking a piss on all of your efforts. He’s been given the opportunity to man-up and he hasn’t. Now, it’s also pretty clear that he has a drinking problem. I’m guessing you’ve already asked him to get help, but just in case you haven’t, your next step is to see if you can get him into some sort of treatment facility, counseling session, or AA program. And of course, you know how these things go down – like on Intervention he should have two choices: get help or get out.
In terms of your mom it sounds like she probably needs some help as well. I can’t imagine the stress, guilt and sadness she feels, but she needs to know that there's only one option if she wants things to get better. I’d suggest going with her to meet an intervention counselor or hit up some Al-Anon meetings – or better yet, do both.
Right now your brother has all the control – he’s calling the shots and taking you all down with him, and it’s time to take that that power away from him. It’s not going to be fun or easy, but if you really want to see some changes this is the only way to go.
Hope this helps and keep me posted. And of course if you need any help in sourcing people to talk to in your city, let me now and I’ll gladly help. Xx