Ask Kari: How can I convince my mother to cut off my brother financially?

Dear Kari,

My older brother is addicted to drugs and alcohol. He has been using drugs since he was 14 and is now 44. He has been in rehab 8 times and is unemployed. He moved back in with my mom and is using her yet again for money, which she does not have a lot of. He lives rent-free in her house and takes what he needs from her. I have tried repeatedly to get her to see the light and realize that he is using her and that she is codependent to his drug habit but it all falls on deaf ears. How can I make my mother realize that he needs to be cut off?

Desperate Daughter

Desperate Daughter,

Thirty years is a long, long time to be dealing with a family member with substance abuse. I am sorry that your family has had to endure this challenging situation. From the dynamics stated in your letter it appears that your mother is co-dependent in your brother’s life of continued substance use. Unfortunately, that probably will not change. Your mother has her reasons for supporting your brother and while they may not benefit her or your brother in the long term, they are her choosing. Most parents support their children out of love and a need to make sure that their child is safe and well, not matter what their age or circumstance. I recommended that you continue to keep your boundaries up in regards to what you believe should be done to help him. Also, you could recommend that your mother seek information from Al-Anon (a great organization that helps support families of problem drinkers and substance users). I wish you peace as you continue to address this very difficult situation moving forward.


As published in the May 2014 issue of Connections.


About Kari:

Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and a resident of Issaquah Highlands.

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