Should I call his mom?
May 22, 2010 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Should I contact my boyfriend's mother because I believe he needs help?

I deeply love my boyfriend. He's an alcoholic and desperately needs therapy. He's been more open to going, had been talking about it, never got around to it (I know, I know), and now he's in crisis, because he's just lost his job.

I am at the point where I believe I may need to refuse to see him until he gets into some form of counseling. He has talked about self-harm (in a more passive way), only when drunk.

I know he is very worried about money and I am afraid of just putting my foot down and causing him to spin out of control. I also don't want to sit by and do nothing because... it's just wrong. I don't want to abandon him but I don't want to enable him either.

Here's the thing. His mother, whom I am not terribly close to, but who really likes me (and the feeling is very mutual), is an LCSW. I'm sure she could actually get her hands on real resources for him and perhaps might be able to help keep him from spinning out of control. At the very least, I wouldn't be alone in trying to help him.

On the other hand, I'm afraid of this backfiring for everybody. His relationship with his mother is pretty good, but obviously, he is resistant to asking for help (he's very stubborn). She lives a four hour drive away, in another state.

I am going to start attending al-anon meetings stat (Monday is the earliest I can find in my area), but in the meantime, I'm looking for some resources.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
young or old, if there is someone you love and you see an opportunity to help them when they can't help themselves, do it.
posted by eatdonuts at 2:59 PM on May 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

As an LCSW, his mom likely has expertise that could help not only him but also you--so even if you approach her and he's unwilling to accept help she might offer him, it might be helpful for you to be talking to her.
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:01 PM on May 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

I bet his mother would want to know. This is her kid--better to know the danger he's in and the pain that comes with it than find out when it's too late. I know I would not want my mother to know while I was still refusing treatment, and I would be mad as hell at the person who "tattled" to her, but it sounds like getting him treatment is going to result in him being angry with you no matter what. And if my mother knowing contributed to my seeking treatment and helped me enter recovery (it sounds like it would, since they care about each other and she is an LCSW), I would be extremely grateful for the person who told my mother. You must really love him to put yourself through this, and (knock on wood) if this works he will realize that someday, no matter what he says to you now.
posted by sallybrown at 3:09 PM on May 22, 2010

Call his mom. Even if he's resistant to her help right now, he'll almost certainly see that it was the right thing to do once all this gets worked out. The more people who care about him trying to get him on the right path, the better.
posted by dantekgeek at 3:10 PM on May 22, 2010

I say you should definitely call/email his mom. I would be devastated if my son's beloved girlfriend failed to alert me if something was wrong. My son is stubborn as well, and he would never ask me for help unless his leg was falling off. I think it is incumbent upon the loved ones in anyone's lives to inform other loved ones should something go amiss.
posted by msali at 3:11 PM on May 22, 2010

If you want to help him, call his mom. Tell her everything including your concern that his relationship with her might deteriorate.

Ask her to think about this matter throughout before taking any action, give her some time to think and ask her to call you back to discuss what actions to take. Act and think rationally, even this is an emotionally hard problem for you and her. Think of plan A, B and C.
posted by bbxx at 3:43 PM on May 22, 2010

You know what you need to do. Get in touch with his mother. It would be best in person rather than by email since this is such a personal topic.

He needs help.
Be strong.
Yes, you can.

Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:46 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

If at all possible, sit down with his mother and tell her what has happened. Doing this is going to change your relationship to her...but your relationship to her will likely change anyway, if your bf's alcoholism continues. You can have this conversation under chosen circumstances, or else in circumstances neither of you would have chosen. Like the ER. Or in a police station.

It sounds like you think this situation is more than you can handle on your own, and I'm glad to hear that you're reaching out to Al-Anon. His mom could be a great help. Then again, she may choose not to do anything with the information you give her. You can't know how it will go. The only thing under your control here is making a decision that you can live with.

FWIW, I wish I had told my former bf's mother much, much earlier. My love blinded me to the dangers and difficult situations that can come with alcohol abuse. His mother still loved me, afterward. There was much I was able to communicate to her without saying much of anything, just because she was armed with the knowledge of her son's behavior.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:49 PM on May 22, 2010

I am afraid of just putting my foot down and causing him to spin out of control.

Don't believe for even a second that anything you do, or don't do, is going to cause him to spin out of control. If he spins out of control it is because "he's an alcoholic who desperately needs therapy" and who "has talked about self-harm" before.

Do what you can within reason to try to help him, definitely including involving his family if it is a loving/supportive one, and definitely including walking away if you need to.

I am at the point where I believe I may need to refuse to see him until he gets into some form of counseling.

Definitely take care of yourself first and foremost. I love my boys but I would not want them/their demons to cause someone else harm.
posted by headnsouth at 3:53 PM on May 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm n-thing, but I think you should get in touch with his mother if they have a good relationship. She has resources and love to augment yours.
posted by goo at 4:17 PM on May 22, 2010

Everything that you do should arrive in one fell swoop so that the effort appears to be strong and organized. As in:

A) This is what's wrong

B) This is how I feel

C) This is what I'm doing/have done about it
1. Called your mother
2. Refusing to see you
3. Start going to alanon meetings, etc, etc.
posted by hermitosis at 5:15 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Alcoholics and help... It's like the addage "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink."

I'm not trying to be flip. Alcoholism is very, VERY hard to deal with. As you walk down this road will him, you will learn a lifetime's curriculum in sadness and helplessness. I didn't know until I tried it. And I say that from the perspective of one who's SO has finally gotten a handle on their problem.

You can talk to the mother. Doubtless your SO will be annoyed and you will have a fight (or several years worth of fights) about how you tattled on him to his Mommy. Mommy probably already knows, but if she doesn't, well, be prepared for her to reject the diagnosis. Even LCSWs don't like to get bad news.

But even if she is concerned and supportive, what is she going to do? Tell him he needs therapy? Isn't that what you and he have already concluded? How does her telling him strengthen the case? And therapy and stopping drinking...they're not the same thing. Not even slightly.

If you wish to talk to mother-in-law about the problem, do it. But do it for you. Do it because you need a support person and to help you understand and explore the parameters of the problem with someone who loves him and also wants to see him get better. But don't do it assuming it will make a hill of beans difference in his behavior or in the actions he takes.

My bitter experience is the same story everyone else tells: Alcoholics don't change until they are sufficiently miserable that option A (drinking) is less appealing than option B (not drinking). In the meantime they will lie and prevaricate and obfuscate and split hairs over their drinking. Over everything relating to the problem, up to and including getting treatment.

Good luck to you. I am sad that you are going through this. Alcoholism kills dreams and destroys trust.
posted by Ys at 7:01 PM on May 22, 2010 [6 favorites]

If you wish to talk to mother-in-law about the problem, do it. But do it for you.


I was in this same situation once. I called, she made arrangements for my friend to come stay with her for a while, and things got better. I eventually lost touch with my friend, so I don't know the final outcome, but boy I felt better at the time. I like to think that my call "saved" my friend, but yeah, not really. But her mom knew anyway, in that way that moms do, even though she didn't know the details until I called her.

posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:29 PM on May 22, 2010

Seconding everyone who says: do this for yourself and for his mom, and out of detached caring for your bf.

Seconding that nothing you do or don't do is going to either rescue him or alienate him. He has to make his own choices, and the only way he's going to be able to turn things around is by deciding to and applying himself to it.

Don't go for conditional strategies ("I'll see you if you go to counseling.") See him if you want to see him. Don't see him when you don't want to. \It's okay if you decide you don't want to because he's drunk, or not in counseling, or whatever - but don't try to make a reward/punishment cycle out of your choices. You're not bait. Do what you need to do for yourself. Spend time with him when you feel good about it. Don't spend time with him when you don't.

Folks in Al-Anon are going to talk about the same kind of stuff. Listen to them. Al-Anon is a sanity saver. If you like it and want to go more than once a week for a while, do it. It really can help you stay even keeled and make very smart choices.

Give yourself some attention. Think about yourself. Only worry about controlling your own behavior.

Talking to his mom is a great idea. You're concerned. That's all you have to do: call her and say "I'm concerned." You don't need to have a plan in mind, or a stage some big crisis intervention, or anything at all. You've identified a couple of steps to help yourself in a lousy situation: going to Al-Anon and contacting someone who can help and who should be aware of what's happening. Do both those steps. Stop second-guessing. IT's the right thing to do.

Good luck to you and to bf. Don't forget - you're separate people. You take care of you. Let him take care of him. You can do this lovingly and supportively, and you can even separate lovingly and supportively, if you have to. Maybe you won't have to, but it sounds like if you do nothing, things aren't headed in a good direction anyway.
posted by Miko at 9:21 PM on May 22, 2010

I can't say whether you should or shouldn't contact your BF's mom. I don't know you, your BF, or his mom. Just because she's an LCSW doesn't mean she has the answers. The treatment community relies heavily on the 12-step model of recovery, which endorses the disease model of addiction -- a model that is not validated by any scientific research. Before you go to Al-Anon, I want to suggest you visit some sites critical of the steps, and look into Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery, and Moderation Management. That way, you will have more resources before you enter a program that bills itself as the one and only way to sobriety, and shames people who love alcoholics and/or addicts with labels like "codependency" and "enabling," as well as uses groupthink to actively discourage critical thinking in the addicts themselves.

That being said, it's true that you can't support a loved one through any change they don't want to go through in the first place, and you should respect your own stress and energy limits when dealing with another person's problems. You said your BF is willing to go to therapy, and that's a good sign. However, it may be quite a long, difficult road for both of you. I wish you the best in this.
posted by xenophile at 4:08 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

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