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Moving From Rescuer to Coach

Updated: Oct 20, 2019

When someone you love is self-destructing, a natural instinct may be to jump into rescue mode. Ever since our mom committed suicide in December of 1999, I had played the role of rescuer to my younger siblings. Whatever the circumstance, I would dive in and pull them out. It became a cycle that I only recently came to understand as the Karpman Drama Triangle.



About four years ago, I discovered my brother is an alcoholic. I was on a work trip to NY and had to take him to the ER because he wouldn't stop coughing up blood. It was there that I learned he was subsisting on a diet of vodka...about 4 liters a day. It was burning holes in his intestines and stomach. The doctor told us if he had any more alcohol, it would kill him. That didn't stop him. A week later he was admitted again.


Although I returned home to California, I was not able to sleep as my mind created horrible future scenarios of his demise and my regret for not doing more. He was so far away in NY and I was powerless to help monitor him and take care of him. I felt a level of responsibility, and I questioned all my previous actions and decisions. What if I had quit school after mom died and moved home? Then I could have taken care of him better and he wouldn't be in this spot. What if I had moved them up to the Bay to live with me so I could have provided a better life for them? I should have called more...I should have visited more ...and on and on. All instances of "should have done this" or "I could have done that" and reality wouldn't be reality. Each thought keeping me separate from myself and all causing suffering.


In late 2015, I finally convinced him to move back to California where we (his family) could all monitor him. He was one of the biggest reasons why Jeff and I moved out of the Bay and back to Orange County, although I have kept that information private until now.


I tried to get him a job thinking that maybe he just needed something to do and to feel valued. I offered to get him an apartment so he didn't have the stress of finances. I called everyone I knew who had connections to rehab centers and offered to pay for his rehab. I would have turned the world upside down if I knew it could help him.


He rejected all of it. He wanted to do it on his own, his way.


Fast forward to family dinners where he pounded vodka when he went out to his car because he "forgot his hat or sunglasses" or whatever. Christmas 2016 when he punched a hole through a door because he was irrationally angry. Our sister's wedding weekend where he almost didn't make it on the plane to Washington because he was too belligerent to walk...and a day later when he went to hang balloons on directional event signs, and instead went to the liquor store and poured vodka into giant water bottles. Then pounded three of them in the parking lot twenty minutes before she was to walk down the aisle.

Since then, we've had three more visits to the E.R. because he was going from blackout drunk to blackout drunk for more than a week straight. I'm the person that people call to know the right thing to do. I would don the Rescuer hat, again, drop everything and go.


New Year's Day (2017), after eight hours in the hospital hooked up to IVs, he was finally coming to and could coherently look at us and answer the doctor's questions. The doctor asked him if he wanted to be admitted to their detox center. He said, "No."


They couldn't hold him against his will, so they let him go and he was back the following night...same scenario...over and over this cycle continued.


I tried buying him books (which he didn't read), offered to attend AA meetings with him, sent him articles...everything I could think of to break through the cycle and knock this addiction out of him. His response to all help offered has been that he needs to figure it out on his own and there's nothing anyone else can do or say that can make him stop drinking. He is the only one that can fight this fight. He has to find the answers within him.