I have some questions for the GRB collective wisdom:
What is your experience with providing support for someone working through alcoholism and a 12 step program? What did you learn from that experience that you wished you knew at the beginning?
My brother-in-law went into the tank for the first time last summer after his wife (my wife's sister) figured out that he was drinking a lot more than was apparent. Getting up in the middle of the night to drink, drinking in the morning, etc. He had withdrawal symptoms, including the shakes and a sore liver. He's in his early 40's. While he was in the tank, their two boys stayed with us for a little over a week so he could dry out a little more and they could work some things out without two energetic 6- and 8-yr old boys running around.
In January, he decided he wanted to see if he could have 1-2 and control himself. That didn't go well. I'm unsure of the timing, but sometime shortly after this, he took his sons on a previously planned ice fishing trip on a lake about 5 hours away. I don't know if/how sober he was on the drive there and back. They were renting an ice shack that you can sleep in and they had taken all the food you need for the weekend - so no need to run into town to get food. He either took beer or stopped to buy some along the way. We suspect he ran out and made and excuse to go into town to get food, but to really buy beer. He left the kids in the ice house by themselves to run this errand. He ended up putting his car in the ditch while he was out (assume it was at least in part because he probably wasn't sober) and he ended up being gone for 1.5-2 hours. With 6- and an 8-yr old in an ice house 2 miles out on a lake. In January. In Northern Minnesota. The boys got so concerned that they left their ice house to go knock on a door of a "neighbor". Not good.
We were supposed to go on a ski weekend with this family about 2 weeks after this incident. We found out about it a week after it happened as we were starting to figure out last minute logistics for the next weekend. We backed out for a few reasons: 1) we were pissed at him for endangering his children/our nephews; and 2) he really needed to concentrate on fixing himself and his marriage - not go on a ski trip. Back to #1, my wife is a teacher and therefore a mandatory reporter; and she was sure that if she found out one of her students experienced something like this, then she would be required to call child services.
He couldn't get a refund on one of the cabins we rented, so instead of swallowing the sunk cost and focusing on making things better with his wife, he convinced his parents to go on this ski weekend with him. His parents knew full well about what happened and for some odd reason, don't think leaving 2 boys on the ice for 2 hours is a big deal. On top of this, both of his parents have had siblings die of alcoholism, so not only is not their first rodeo with someone struggling with alcohol, they clearly did not teach him to be careful because he very likely has a predisposition to alcoholism. So eff them.
While they were on their way back from this ski weekend, my other b-i-l (wife's brother) and I went over there to help the sister kick her husband out of the house. She packed some clothes for him, put it in the other car, and didn't let him in the house. She was seriously considering divorce at that point and started contacting attorneys. In the process, multiple attorneys and therapists assured her that she made the absolute correct move to kick him out of the house at this point due to his actions.
In large part because of this, he finally started taking things seriously to at least go through the motions to get himself better and he's about finished with some out patient rehab. She has let him back in the house, and for at least a little while, they were in separate bedrooms. I don't know about that now, and it's not my business. So, he's making some positive strides, but on the flip side, he continues to do some really selfish things. The place where he works is closing in 2 weeks, and he doesn't have a new job lined up yet. Nonetheless, he's using his pending unemployment to schedule a trip for himself (and his brother) to go hiking in Utah. And he has to spend he has to spend much of each weekend on local adventures. He says some fairly dick-ish things to his wife (as has been relayed to us). They're also going away on more weekend trips (skiing this weekend), so I don't know why he thinks it's OK to spend money when he's about to be unemployed with only 6 weeks of severance pay. He also found out about losing his job in January, right about the same time he started drinking again, so the job situation is not new news.
I think he was a genuinely good person in the past, and I liked him. But he seems to be doing a whole bunch of stupid stuff right now. We have not seen them in person since the January ice fishing incident. Staying covid-isolated has helped with excuses, but we're still pissed about things that happened and don't really want to see him. I can forgive him for making a mistake and wanting to try to socially drinking again (except it was by himself while he was doing a house project). I think his timing was incredibly stupid, though. I'm having a much harder time looking past the selfish and dick-ish things he's been doing since he stopped drinking again. We don't really have a desire to see him anytime soon, but with warm weather here, there won't be any good covid excuses, even if we aren't vaccinated yet, because we can stay outside. Meanwhile, his family continues to think the ice-fishing incident was not a big deal and don't understand why he was kicked out of the house. So they think his wife's family is overreacting to the situation and just want to brush it under the rug.
I believe people deserve multiple chances, but I'm not seeing any evidence of remorse or understanding of the danger he put is kids in. And it seems like his family is reinforcing this mindset. Meanwhile, my s-i-l seems to be drinking this kool-aid. We think it's mostly because "moving on and putting this behind them" is the current path of least resistance.
By the way, several years ago, we were at a large event for families at a nature center. It was his responsibility to watch the young kids for a handful of minutes while the other three adults did something else (I don't remember what). In that time, he managed to lose my then 2 year old and did very little to help find him when we came back and asked where our kid was. It took 15 minutes to find him - SCARY!! - and my idiot b-i-l was just kind of like "oops, sorry." My wife still hasn't forgiven him for that.
I'm fortunate in that I don't have a lot of experience with friends or family getting to that level of alcohol abuse, and it has never been someone I normally see on a regular basis. But of those handful of experiences, the marriage has not lasted. Sometimes it ended immediately, and sometimes is ended a handful of years later. Maybe this is SSS. I don't know, except that I don't know of any couples who have made it through a period like this.
I want to be the best person I can be in this situation, and I don't know if it's showing him support as he continues to comes to grip with his alcoholism and hope that family is able to stick together; or it's better to try to get my s-i-l out of this marriage as soon as possible.
So back to the original questions - I'm sure many of your have had friends/family go through these situations. What was your experience? What did you learn? What did you wish you knew at the beginning?