- Get the biscuits ready… alcoholic brother steals at least £50k from parents
I wrote on here some years ago about a situation developing with my brother, who had an alcohol problem. Well… it turns out that was the early stage!
I’ve tried to keep the following short – but you will be needing biscuits!
In August 2017, one of my two brothers returned to the family home – having been sacked from his job after 9 months of very visible alcoholism. My dad had a severe stroke the morning after, which has affected his speech and left him reliant on my mum. It also meant that my dad could no longer tackle my brother’s problems.
Said brother had a huge alcoholic episode the night of my dad’s stroke, hounding my mum to her bedroom and necessitating me to step in and be subject to the same. He fled to China a few weeks afterwards, but only after my mum paid for his plane tickets twice – he didn’t make it out of Amsterdam for the first week.
My mum has always struggled to accept that there are serious issues. While abroad in 2017-18, my brother began asking my mum for large sums of money. I spent a long time with her, talking gently about taking steps to protect herself and my dad and thinking about how she could get perspective on the apparently compelling stories that accompanied these requests.
However, in spring 2018, my brother returned home to live with my parents abruptly. This was accompanied by more lies about jobs and future prospects that were very clearly fake to anyone external to the household of my mum, dad and brother. We have subsequently found out that there were problems for him in China, not least his landlady finding 50 bottles of pee kept in his flat and issues with his conduct at a school, where he was teaching.
Having returned to my parents’ home, but with no action taken on his problems – especially aggressive alcoholism – I had to stop staying overnight at my parents’ place, nor send our children to stay with them on their own. I was very aware of the impact this had on my relationship with my mum, but this was consistent with advice and support I was getting from addiction practitioners (“offer support to addict, but protect yourself with barriers”). Throughout, I offered support for my brother in taking steps to deal with his alcoholism, often in the face of highly abusive denial.
Over the rest of 2018 and into early 2019, my brother continued living at home without a job. With my dad no longer being able to help around the house (after the stroke), my mum clearly valued my brother’s help and the independence she had by way of him being around. Although I remained hugely uncomfortable, I stayed in close contact.
And now for the biscuits moment…
In late April 2019, my other brother and I had an email from our “problem” brother. Summing it up: he’d stolen / gambled £25k on my parents’ credit cards “again” and asked us to immediately stump up £3k to help them. He said he was on a plane back to China.
At this stage, my other brother told me about another, earlier episode of £25k being stolen in the same way in November 2018… which had been concealed from me. I later found out that there was also another occasion in 2017, coinciding with my dad’s stroke.
Being hugely concerned (and having lost a friend to suicide) I wrote to my brother, in what I thought could be a moment of crisis for him… telling him that I loved him no matter what. It was very difficult to do this, given the absolutely heinous abuse of trust – but it felt right at the time.
I then went straight away to my parents’ house. My mum was visibly very unhappy to see me and obviously hadn’t told my dad about any of this. It was becoming apparent to me that she was having to weave increasingly complex lies to hide things from my dad… and me. After a very upsetting and surreal conversation about how she trusted my problem brother and was very upset about my coming, she told me to go home. I did this – as a grown man of 38 at the time – in tears. My brother returned to their house, at 5am, drunk.
Over the coming weeks, contact with my mum (my dad can’t speak well) was difficult and she sent me some very unreasonable messages covering topics like me “preventing my dad from seeing his grandchildren”. She didn’t return my calls.
I am forever grateful for a happy childhood, so I’m still coming to terms with the fact that my relationship with my mum changed – probably for ever – at this point.
The latest situation is that my problem brother has finally moved out of home, but has since deceived my parents out of many more thousands of pounds. My mum is barely speaking to me: showing very little interest in my family and increasingly out of touch with my life. I am still visiting, often with my hugely supportive other brother, but these are typically “empty” and uncomfortable emotionally.
I’ve had to cut much of the detail out of this. Needless to say, I have considered social services and police intervention – it wouldn’t be helpful to tell me that I need to get a bit tougher with my parents. I’ve tried… and you can’t take this path without their consent.
But it’s clear that, despite being cleared out of their life savings, suffering horrendous alcoholic abuse and very likely my dad’s stroke being triggered as a result of these issues, my mum especially does not recognise that there is a problem. She is a product of a very traditional upbringing (much of it by a nanny, I might add) and places huge value on “face” and things being seen to be ok. She’s expecting us all to have Christmas together!!!
It’s taken me 6 months to process what’s gone on. I have had great support from my wife, in-laws, other brother, colleagues, friends and my mum’s sister – my aunt – who has had concerns for a very long time. I am very open to getting counselling help for myself, although it’s hard to find time given that I have a national job, a lovely family of my own…and bikes to ride! I am aware that the whole affair has affected my physical health, too.
I am struggling to balance wanting to safeguard my parents and, given my mum’s response so far, wanting to close myself off from this awful situation and simply focus on my own family.
Sorry for the long post… and thanks if you got this far!Posted 7 months ago
There’s been enough alcoholics in my family for me to be cynical about anything helping the situation other than them removing themselves permanently from family contact, or being ejected.
That doesn’t help them, but it reduces the collateral damage for the innocent.
But, and this is important, just remember you’re not the arsehole in this because anything you do to help will result in you getting painted with shit.Posted 7 months ago
I’m not able to offer much apart from my support in what sounds like a awful situation.
It sounds like you could do with two things – some external advice and support about how to move forward in the situation (CAB? CAP?) and some personal support to check in with what must be really difficult for you emotionally.Posted 7 months ago
This is a safeguarding issue, no?Posted 7 months ago
I dont usually bother reading posts that are that long but believe me, you are twice the man I’d ever be.Posted 7 months ago
Never having been in that position I have no useful advice to give, but just hang in there and do whatever you think is right because you sound like you have your head fully screwed on. It’s a tragic situation to be in but your parents sound like they need some pretty tough love.
A tough place to be for you and your family.
My 2p worth from what I have been through with my own family….your brother is one of your mums children and she loves him as such. she may also (wrongly) feel responsible for his behaviors / see them as her failings as a parent hence her fueling his issues as a way of righting what she sees as her wrongs as a parent. No matter what you say she still does what she thinks is right (and easiest to avoid confrontation). This was how it was for us anyway which made it very hard to make any inroads into my brothers in laws behavior. He was given almost €50k about 20yrs ago to set him up up with a house at age 30, this was squandered within a few years, mortgage payments missed and ultimately house reposesed as he moved back in with the parents. Over the years he never had a job and lived off the parents (2 failed engagements/weddings also paid for and private surgery for associated health issues during the years and god knows what else) as they enabled his behavior. We could do nothing but watch as the years passed. Sadly as my father in law was dying with cancer things started to come to a head, resulting in him assualting his dad, who died a few weeks later (due to his cancer). The mother in law then had a break down and was in hospital for a number of weeks, during this time the brother trashed the family home (pulled down walls etc), police could do nothing as it was a family home and the mother refused to press charges etc. over the next few months and after many many conversations with the mother we eventually convinced her (aged 75+)to take a barring order out against him as she could no longer live with him and his behavior. This was about 5+ years ago now and during this time the brother, now in his 50s has been homeless, spent time on the streets etc and continues to throw away any help / support given by various agencies and no doubt will continue to do so until he seeks help himself, if he doesn’t I think we know what the outcome will be for him. we have had no contact at all since but his brother tries to keep in touch with him from time to time but that is it. As epicyclo said above, it doesn’t help him but reduces the collateral damage.
Dont really know what I am trying to say (but I have found writing this rather cathartic), I guess just be there and support your mum/family and hang on in there. Look after your family, which sadly may not include your brother.Posted 7 months ago
There is not much I can say to help, but if I were to ever meet you in person I would offer you a giant hug and remind you that self care is very important.Posted 7 months ago
OP, you have my deepest sympathies. It’s a horrible situation to be in.
I think Epicyclo has pretty much summed up the only advice I could offer from experience with my own brother.Posted 7 months ago
We had similar with my brother, though the sums were far lower.
First wife kicked him out, due to being pi**ed whenever he was off work (Oil rig worker, 2 weeks on, 2 off).
Was sacked from work, moved back in with Mum and Dad, continued his drunken ways, but amazingly after a couple of years got a new wife who was quite nice. 2 more children in the next few years, but the alcoholism persisted, we’d go out rabbiting, and he’d reek of booze at 6pm.
Second wife chucked him out after he continued being drunk at all hours.From there he went rapidly downhill. Mum and Dad by this point would not allow him back to stay, I dont know the story, but something had happened.Posted 7 months ago
Even after that, they still didnt think he had a bad problem. At one time he could not stand up due to the alcohol affecting his legs, (not drunk, a medical condition), yet they would not admit he was alcoholic, ‘he has medical problems’.
He eventually died a couple of years ago, as the result of long term alcohol abuse.
My Mum still says he didnt die because of the booze, he had caught pneumonia. (He had, but his body was so weak due to the alcohol, he couldnt fight off the disease.)
I’ve never found out how much they gave him, but it was definitely in the many thousands, they have told me I’m getting more in the Will now as he had his share when he was alive. Not that I want the Will money when they die. The money they gave him helped him to kill himself in my view. He just bought more vodka to get into his stupor everyday. Being parents , they thought they were helping him. I’m more hard skinned and cynical.
Number one priority – do what you need to, to look after and protect yourself and your own immediate family. Everything else pales behind that.
You can’t force your alcoholic brother to get help, he has to want to, and it doesn’t sound like he is even at the stage of admitting the problem yet. His behaviour is being enabled by your mum, and nothing will change until that stops. At some point, as and when that happens, and your mum figures out she has to stop letting him off the hook for being a shit, then and only then (and it may never even happen if your parents are elderly) you might be able to start helping, first with your mum and dad and really only then with your brother.Posted 7 months ago
Don’t attatch any blame to yourself it’s your brothers fault. Look after yourself and parents. Your brothers beyond help unless he looks for it himself. I’d say personally ban him from your parents house and do this forcibly even if it involves throwing him out on his head and bouncing him down the road. Not a pleasant situation but people will drag everyone down in their chaos and believe it’s not their fault. I’ve seen it through heroin and alcohol and users will abuse their drug of choice and all those around them. Good luck try and stay positive.Posted 7 months ago
Social Services – think you and your ‘supportive’ brother need to get tough with your mum as she can’t put up with the abuse. So unfair on them at their age. Also remember to look after yourself and your family – this is key.Posted 7 months ago
…The money they gave him helped him to kill himself in my view….
Maybe the OP should ask his mother if she realises she is helping him kill himself.Posted 7 months ago
Wow, what a difficult position to find yourself in.
Unfortunately there are parents out there who really can’t see or won’t see the truth. No amount of talking cajoling or anything for that matter can get through to that parent.
All I can say is you’ve kept your head where many others haven’t and you should be proud of yourself.
Maybe seek some advice from citizen’s advice bureau.
If you feel strong enough, go and leave this situation, however you will probably feel guilty and regret it if you do.
I’m in a funny situation where my health has been affected by a family member, really I want to walk away, but the kind of up bringing I had and the guilt is not allowing this.
Good luck with everything. Stay strong and I really hope there is some way you can cope with this.Posted 7 months ago
The only thing I can add to this, as a lesson I learned far too late myself, is:
Whatever happens, look after yourself first and foremost. It may seem like the most selfish thing in the world, but in fact it’s the opposite. As the person I was caring for at the time told me, “if you fall over then you’re no help to me or anyone else.”
Do whatever you can to preserve your mental and physical health. In my case that was grabbing a small tent and spending a night up a bloody big hill miles away from the rest of the world save from a couple of other idiots with the same idea and a few inquisitive sheep. You can only provide efficient support for someone if you’re strong yourself, you can’t pour anything out of an empty jug.Posted 7 months ago
There are support services for you and your parents. My (ex)wife is an alcoholic and I have found the support from social services, citizens advice and doctors excellent.
Short version is that I had to move myself and our children out of the house as they were no longer safe and couldn’t be left alone with her. My own mental health was suffering, and the more I did to try to help her the worse her issues got.
You need to look after yourself and your parents. I’ve learnt a lot from Al-Anon ( https://www.al-anonuk.org.uk/ ) I would highly recommend looking up a local meeting as it has been a huge help for me, and for the rest of the people who go. Ignore the god stuff if you want (I do!) It’s about the support.
KeithPosted 7 months ago
Not much to say as it’s already been said but look after yourself, wife and kids first.Posted 7 months ago
OP, have you considered contacting a local AlAnon (not AA) group? They provide support to relatives/friends of alcoholics and they were a massive source of advice and comfort for my wife when her mum was in the last years of her alcoholism. She was pretty similar to your brother by the sounds of it, sacked from job, gambling away life savings, violent episodes. She died in 2015. If you could somehow persuade your mum to go along as well it might help her to see your brother as a person with a problem rather than a son that needs mothering.Posted 7 months ago
**** alcohol, I know it’s seen as a social lubricant and your seen as odd if you don’t drink 10 pints of stella at the weekend but in my experience it’s a vile life-sucking, personality changing drug yet which is still seen as aspirational by most (see gin/vodka adverts etc).Posted 7 months ago
I’m sorry to read all that.
It seems your Mum can’t give up on her Son, which if just human nature I guess.
It’s a sort of bad symbiotic relationship, I’m sure your Mum fears caring for your Dad alone and losing her Son, but she’s enabling him, by providing somewhere to stay, food and money for booze and whatever else she’s allowing him to lie to himself that things are okay. Sadly you can’t force addicts to get help, they have to want to and your mum is stopping him ‘reaching rock bottom’ which is sometimes the only way for addicts to want help.
One aspect I’d want to know more about is why he’s getting through so much money, Booze is cheap.Posted 7 months ago
The OP mentioned gambling I think?Posted 7 months ago
I saw something similar with my wife’s youngest uncle. He took lots of cash off his Mum, was physically abusive to his wife and neglected his three kids. His wife left and his mum died and he basically became homeless and died from exposure on a hillside in a drunken state.
I only knew him as an aggressive drunk but wife has memories of him being a fun uncle when she was a child. His siblings never tackled his drinking which might have helped him but they were all fond of a drink (and bet) too.
His behaviour impacted lots of lives negatively and his older son seemed to be going down a similar path until he got help, stopped drinking and gambling and is now a really decent guy with a young family.
I am not sure if anyone could have helped this guy but none of his siblings were willing to try so the OP has my respect for doing what he has done so far. It must be heartbreaking to see your parents suffering like this.
Out of interest what are the age orders of you are your brothers? – in my experience it is often the youngest child who most often goes down this path.Posted 7 months ago
Thank you for all your contributions – including the brandy biscuits!
As I mentioned earlier, despite being a long post it’s still the “lite” version. I’ve been through most of the thoughts and suggestions over the last 6 months. It’s been especially helpful to read of others’ stories.
Whether it’s because some time has passed since the worst problems of the spring, or whether it’s because I don’t know about stuff because my mum won’t tell me, things appear quieter now that my problem brother has moved out of my parents’ home.
In answer to a few questions…
The alcohol and money issues appear to be related, but only insofar as they are to do with a chaotic lifestyle and addiction. The two sums of £25k were, I am told, lost due to gambling on my parents’ cards (my dad used to travel abroad on business, often for months at a time before his stroke and had some large credit card facilities to support this). There have also been many other requests for smaller – but not inconsiderable amounts – almost always attached to deceptions or unlikely stories over the years.
I am the eldest, with my “supportive” brother being the youngest. The “problem” brother is the middle child and, for the superstitious, is Wednesday’s child! My youngest brother has only recently stepped out of the shadow of some loyalties to his next older brother, to share concerns and – by doing so – grow closer to me (his eldest brother). However, while my youngest brother shares the exact same diagnosis as me and is more visibly frustrated and upset than me, he is also less likely to support any more direct action. He lives locally to my parents, which helps a lot in maintaining at least some contact and he has their confidence. I am a 110-mile round trip away and, because of events earlier this year, don’t have their confidence.
I agree it’s a safeguarding issue. I did explore going to the police, social services or other support earlier this year. I may do so again – bearing in mind I am not local to my parents. But it seems I’d be burning the very last threads of a relationship with my parents at that stage – with my mum extremely unlikely to cooperate. I am trying to build support with my aunt, who is takes the same position as me in general but lives 150 miles away.Posted 7 months ago
All the while your own family is growing up &, hopefully, not being compromised by this…Posted 7 months ago
These are grown ups. At some point you need to step away & focus on you & yours. Sorry if that’s harsh but that’s how it is. If they don’t want you to help then step back. You sound like your being torn in two by this. You & yours need you.
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