How to reason with an overzealous "prepper"?
February 4, 2014 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Without consulting his wife or family members, my brother-in-law raided a savings account and bought ~$20k worth of guns/ammo and survivalist gear for his "bug out bag". This occurred over a three week period. I've been asked to get him to relinquish these items so the money can be recouped. So far my efforts have mostly failed. Is there anything else to try before I give up?

Very quick background: He is 35-40 years old, spent most of his life pursuing academic degrees, and for the last year has worked part-time in a business I own. He has health insurance (through the job) but refuses to see doctors or do any counseling. He has a history of mismanaging money -- he owes $200k+ in student loans and his parents have given him $150k+ over the years (which they do not expect to see back).

Meanwhile, his wife works full time (office job) and has a second job on Saturdays. She does eBay sales in her spare time and had four garage sales last year to bring in some extra money. The wife also carries a heavier load of the parental duties and does more work around their apartment. For encouragement, a family member offered to match dollar-for-dollar if she saved $1k/month. The intention was an "emergency fund” (as their vehicles are on last legs, etc.) which later could become the down payment on a house. She worked very hard to build this account, and then her husband raided it to buy his "prepper" materials.

My in-laws asked me to speak to him, with the goal of him relinquishing all (or most) of his supplies so they can be sold to rebuild the emergency fund.

First attempt: I asked my brother-in-law what he was prepping for and he described some very vague scenarios. I asked him where he thought he would go with all these supplies (they live in an apartment), and he said they would live on some land *I* own. (He had never mentioned this to me before, or else I would have told him that the land is uninhabitable and I am only holding it for a friend.) I explained how people were very upset about him taking the money and he needed to make a choice. He could relinquish his “prepper” supplies or potentially lose some important relationships (his wife, the family members who currently provide free childcare, etc.). He first responded that he would help everyone by being “prepared” but eventually he agreed to think about it.

Second attempt: Last weekend, I brought along my friend who is retired from the USCG. My friend very patiently explained that many of the supplies would not be of much use in a survivalist situation. (Example: My brother-in-law’s family lives hand to mouth, with barely a single dose of Advil/Claritin/Mucinex/Imodium in their medicine cabinet, but he had spent several hundred dollars on obscure surgical instruments and materials to treat gunshot wounds.) My friend politely pointed out how my brother-in-law has never been to a shooting range, has never been camping, has never been hunting/fishing, has never taken a first-aid class, etc. I said no one was “anti-prepper” (indeed, weather-related disasters happen in our area) but the amount spent needed to fit his family’s monthly budget and he should include his wife in these discussions. At that point, my brother-in-law relinquished about $3k worth of stuff but became very protective of his remaining supplies.

If you were in my shoes, is there anything else you would try? I am going to print this out and share it with my in-laws.
posted by 99percentfake to Grab Bag (67 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
As an admitted prepper-lite, I can empathize with his desire to protect and care for his family. I don't do my prepping for myself, I do it so I can protect my family and friends in an emergency.

With that in mind, this guy is nuts. It's insane to buy things you have no knowledge of how to use - guns, medical supplies, etc. If anything, he should have blown that money on an EMT course or learning some other useful skill. It isn't things that will save you when the SHTF, it is know how to use what you have. I'd much rather rely on a skilled survivalist than a well-equipped survivalist.

I see this as an attempt to feel some degree of safety or control. It sounds like his life is marked by instability - this may be his effort to feel safe, grounded, and secure. If that's truly the case, he needs counseling. This guy is off the map and he needs someone to help him get back to a good place. I'd be surprised if he listens to any of your advice or suggestions; he sees you (as in, the family) as a group to be protected, or from another perspective, people who don't know how to take care of themselves. It may take a neutral outsider to straighten him out.

Or, he could just be a narcissistic jerk who wants to indulge his own hobbies and doesn't care about anyone else.
posted by _DB_ at 5:18 PM on February 4, 2014 [10 favorites]

He sounds legitimately mentally ill. Like if he's always been a little quirky or off, I could see how this might just seem like more of the same. But it really seems like he needs to be evaluated by a psychiatrist ASAP, and then possibly get a second opinion.
posted by cairdeas at 5:19 PM on February 4, 2014 [40 favorites]

I guess I'm unclear why you've been nominated for the responsibility in getting him to see reason, rather than his parents or his wife. Is there a specific reason why they think you're more likely to be able to talk sense to him?

Also, is this the same brother-in-law from a previous question who you had to caution away from an MLM scam?

Honestly, to me it sounds like he needs a mental health evaluation.
posted by scody at 5:20 PM on February 4, 2014 [30 favorites]

I agree that there is a much bigger issue going on here with this guy, but as the brother-in-law perhaps that's way beyond your responsibilities.

How about sitting down with him and making an investory of his supplies. The you can assess or get an 'expert' to assess the list and make some suggestions for a smaller kit. Say worth $1000. Perhaps his wife and family could agree to a further $1000 to be spent on a first aid course and/or similar. Then he can feel prepared and give back the majority of the money to savings.

I also suggest changing the account to the wifes signature only!
posted by Youremyworld at 5:24 PM on February 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Ask to see the bugout bag to admire it. Mark its location. His wife should then take the stuff from it and sell it or return them to regain the money he wasted.

Then she should divorce him because he's crazy and their finances should not be linked until he's sane again.
posted by jsturgill at 5:26 PM on February 4, 2014 [51 favorites]

Your brother needs mental health care of a kind you are not equipped to provide. He didn't buy this stuff the way he bought it for rational reasons, and you're not likely to reason him out of it.
posted by rtha at 5:27 PM on February 4, 2014 [18 favorites]

P.S. One of my lifetime closest friends is on the libertarian fringe and has many, many guns. I don't share her political opinions and I would probably not feel safe going over to her house, and I think she has plenty of issues, but I do not think that she is mentally ill, at all. So this is not just a reflex of some kind of Portlandia liberal who lives in a bubble where anyone who has or wants a collection of guns must be mentally ill.
posted by cairdeas at 5:30 PM on February 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

He sounds like he is not making decisions using rational thinking, and that makes me very, very scared, because he has just taken his family hostage--both by using their savings, and by purchasing weaponry.

But no matter how crazy his actions, he hasn't technically done anything wrong--those savings were his, too.

His wife has to make a decision: attempt marital counseling (because this was a huge communication breakdown and betrays how little he considers them a unit), or leave him. Forget the money. This issue is much bigger than the money.

You cannot force him to seek psychiatric help, you cannot force him to sell his possessions, and you certainly should not 'steal back' those guns.

What you can do is decide whether or not to be a part of the equation, and right now, he is not a good equation to be a part of.
posted by tooloudinhere at 5:32 PM on February 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

he hasn't technically done anything wrong--those savings were his, too
you cannot force him to sell his possessions, and you certainly should not 'steal back' those guns.

If the savings belong to both spouses, so do the guns. If one spouse can unilaterally buy the guns, then the other spouse can unilaterally sell them.
posted by cairdeas at 5:34 PM on February 4, 2014 [48 favorites]

If you want to help, you should offer that you will help with logistics of selling/returning the stuff but his wife should be the one talking to him about it.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 5:36 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

This situation is not salvageable and in fact sounds rather dangerous. Your sister needs to be prepared to leave, and your family needs to be prepared to support her in that.
posted by killdevil at 5:36 PM on February 4, 2014 [17 favorites]

That's a good point, cairdeas, but selling the items behind his back would make the situation worse, not better. It would force the situation to escalate.
posted by tooloudinhere at 5:37 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd tread more than carefully here. The "living on your land" bit — has he explained how he'd reasonably have claim to that, or is he just expecting the Glock to do the talking when society falls apart?
posted by scruss at 5:47 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, if he's already feeling paranoid, I don't think stealing the stuff will help with that. It either has to be confiscated openly or not at all.
posted by rtha at 5:54 PM on February 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yes, if he's already feeling paranoid, I don't think stealing the stuff will help with that. It either has to be confiscated openly or not at all.

He's not going to return it (I'd wager $5 on that, but not $10). Either you take it and cut ties with him, with restraining orders or literally moving out of town etc. if he escalates, or you write the money off as a loss and cut ties with him, with restraining orders or literally moving out of town etc. if he escalates.

This is seriously unhinged behavior. You do not want to take the items in front of him unless he places them in your hands voluntarily, because he may shoot you with his every day carry gun and think he's a hero for standing up for his property rights. He needs to be divorced, and probably fired, and everyone involved should be proactive in remembering he's unhinged and armed for the next few years. Document early and often with the police.
posted by jsturgill at 6:05 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

She needs to get out of that house, stat.

I don't know if he is ill or not, but this is not the action of someone firing on all cylinders. My family is fine with guns but that is just beyond the pale.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:06 PM on February 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

His wife MUST start keeping a separate bank account that her husband cannot raid. And quite frankly she needs to consider divorcing this guy. At the very least it would be good for her and the child to get the hell out of the house because her husband sounds so unstable that it is unsafe for her to be around him and all those guns.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:09 PM on February 4, 2014 [21 favorites]

If one spouse can unilaterally buy the guns, then the other spouse can unilaterally sell them.

Depending on where you live this may be a felony. If the wrong person shows up somewhere with a gun licensed to someone else (yes, even a spouse) trying to sell it, all sorts of bad things might happen to them.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 6:09 PM on February 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

On an whim I'd say this sounds extremely manic. They are delusions of grandeur. I'd wait a few weeks and try again. Regardless of the reason he's got some serious problems
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:10 PM on February 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

So, this is how people usually figure out a family member is mentally ill. In particular, the way he was incapable of explaining WHY he needed a bug out bag. Even the most dedicated prepper will have a reason, although it may be a little far out. You won't be able to reason with him, his reasoning is impaired. You probably won't be able to get him willingly to psychiatric care either because to him, it all makes sense and everyone else is blind/not gifted with insight/whatever rationale he's using. Acute mental illness makes sense in its own nutty way, but as much as it resembles logic it cannot be reasoned with.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:12 PM on February 4, 2014 [27 favorites]

This impulse and the previous pyramid scheme/get-rich-quick plan sound like maybe he's having manic episodes. Obviously, he can't be diagnosed over the internet, but this is often how manic episodes look from the outside.

There's a big difference between a reasoned and rational purchase of a firearm and someone irrationally loading up on guns and survivalist gear including things like surgical supply kits.
posted by quince at 6:21 PM on February 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

I don't think you will be able to talk him out of this, for the reasons everyone else has mentioned.

I think his wife should tell him she is taking the kids and going to live somewhere else until he gets his mental health assessed. Your role is to support her in following through.

And if he's perfectly mentally stable, he's an asshole for blowing the nest egg that his wife worked so hard to build up. That is what's beyond the pale, here. I would not stay with a man who made unilateral decisions about my, and my children's, future stability.
posted by Salamander at 6:27 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here's the thing about prepping. It's all well and good up to a point--I don't know what that point is--but after that, it's a symptom of deeper trouble.

A friend of a friend was a dedicated prepper. The basement of his *rental* property was stuffed to the gills with survival stuff, including gold bars and enough ammunition to conduct a war.

He made his living as a day trader, though after he blew his brains out they realized that he'd been losing money, not making it, and had in fact been living off the proceeds of the gold and a fire insurance policy payout from a few years earlier.

It took five people eight hours to sort through the expired canned goods.

So my advice to your prepping question is, look deeper. Chances are good that there's more going on than meets the eye.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 6:35 PM on February 4, 2014 [10 favorites]

I think his wife should tell him she is taking the kids and going to live somewhere else until he gets his mental health assessed.

I think the wife should take the kids to stay with a family member (quietly, without fanfare) and then attempt this conversation, with your support.
posted by limeonaire at 6:39 PM on February 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

This is not something you can talk him out of: you will not be able to reason with him because these are not the actions of someone who simply has a different opinion from his wife, his family, or you.

Your in-laws asked you to talk to him because they can't understand or don't want to believe that his bizarre, harmful, and sudden actions indicate that he is not well. It is more comfortable to believe that he is "stubborn" or "overzealous" than to see these actions for what they truly are.

The best thing you can do is be supportive of his wife and, if she is willing, help her create a plan first to get herself and the kids physically and financially safe and second to get her husband appropriate services to evaluate his mental health.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:42 PM on February 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

I used to run disaster preparedness mini-workshops in partnership with the local Red Cross and had a funny conversation with a Mormon prepper who marveled at the fact that she had never really thought through why she would need a 3 month supply of food.

If you decide you want to do anything besides tell your sister-in-law to get the heck out of there, one suggestion is to offer to put him through the local Red Cross disaster training regimen. 1) It qualifies him to be a volunteer in the case of a disaster, giving him some focus for his inchoate worries. 2) It puts the training regimen in the hands of experts.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:30 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Get him to look at and ask for advice from a reasonably non-crazy survivalist/disaster prep community like Zombie Squad (the name is mainly a joke, they use it as a way to promote disaster preparedness in general). Most of the people there will point out that he has to stick to a budget, prioritise his planning and clearly define what sort of disasters he actually wants to prepare for. I had a quick look at their forums and a couple of threads stood out - 1 2 . Hopefully he'll get some people telling him that he can invest in prepping without destroying his family's finances.

My personal experience is that a sudden intense interest in survivalism/disaster prep very often arises when people feel hopeless about the future and unreasonably constrained by their personal/social circumstances. It offers a fantasy of a post-disaster world that, while violent, is free from the problems and social structures that are currently negatively impacting a person. Building a supply stockpile is a personal project that you can feel successful at even if you're failing at everything else in life (especially if you manage to source more obscure items like gunshot injury supplies). I don't think your BIL actually has concrete plans to seize your land at gunpoint in the event of a disaster - it's probably more like he's ticked off an item in his mental survival prep checklist ("find a bug out location"), and gained a small amount of relief from his current troubles in the process. Having people who actually work in rescue/disaster relief (like your Coast Guard friend) talk to him is probably going to be relatively ineffective, because I would guess that he is more focused on the fantasy of prepping than actually having to live through a real-life disaster.

Now, it's perfectly okay for him to invest in this fantasy to some degree, but when he starts spending too much money or time on it he needs to learn to moderate himself, which is where exposing him to healthier examples of disaster prep could possibly help. On the other hand, I would guess that some of the courses of action suggested here (confiscating and selling the stockpile, immediate divorce) will most certainly not help his situation. You might feel you have no choice if the situation deteriorates far enough (especially if you feel there is any immediate danger to his wife or kids), but if you feel you need to take drastic action please keep in mind that it constitutes a tactical retreat from the situation, rather than any sort of "tough love" approach to your BIL's problems.
posted by fearthehat at 7:51 PM on February 4, 2014 [22 favorites]

A restraining order may or may not be a useful tool for certain family members in this situation depending on how it plays out.

I'm not sure if this is a federal or state law but some jurisdictions require a gun owner to surrender all firearms if they are served with a restraining order.
posted by speedoavenger at 7:53 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

fearthehat is wise.
posted by mono blanco at 8:15 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

You seem to be prepared to think about the best-case scenario - how to reason with him to sell the supplies to put money back into the family fund. I really, really hope that's all it is (and I'm really glad you're taking on this situation - you sound very caring and rational.)

But I do notice that you don't seem ready to face the worst-case scenario - that he's struggling with mental illness that make him a danger to himself and others. Please do heed warnings and advice others have on that front.
posted by leitmotif at 8:24 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm a prepper. The way this guy is going about it and the backwards priorities on the supplies he's obtained (surgical instruments before stuff he can actually use and rotate through in regular life) sounds a lot more like a mental health problem than legitimate prepping. It's time for a psychiatrist.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:37 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I came in to say what fearthehat said.

And to say that just because someone buys guns, doesn't make him dangerous or a threat to this family. And getting a restraining order without an actual threat of violence is probably going to be counterproductive, and will result in the guns being confiscated and the house likely searched by the police...and all the risks that entails. On occasion they do a 'raid' on the house where the guy lives...and well that rarely turns out well for anyone.
posted by bartonlong at 8:46 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I came in to say what fearthehat said.

And to say that just because someone buys guns, doesn't make him dangerous or a threat to this family. And getting a restraining order without an actual threat of violence is probably going to be counterproductive, and will result in the guns being confiscated and the house likely searched by the police...and all the risks that entails. On occasion they do a 'raid' on the house where the guy lives...and well that rarely turns out well for anyone.

His behavior changed suddenly and without apparent reason. He cannot justify his actions. He is not used to handling guns safely but has brought them into the house. He likely feels isolated from his family and support network, which is literally the only thing in his life right now aside from his delusions about the apocalypse. His wife is making most of the money, and the only work he could find was a part-time gig handed to him by his brother-in-law. I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume it wasn't a competitive, open hiring process. He knows these things, I bet, and is not happy with them.

Instead of reaching out for help, he stole the safety net his wife spent 10 months creating. This creates an ongoing drama that makes him the center of their family unit and makes him feel like a real man. Conveniently, it also converts their shared asset (which really was entirely hers) into something he alone controls.

This is not just some guy buying a shotgun because he wants to defend his home, or stocking up on canned goods, or buying a generator, or converting some savings into gold and silver. This is not a good old boy who grew up with guns picking up a second hunting rifle or a target pistol. This is a self-destructive train-wreck orchestrated by a delusional man who is unintentionally escalating the stakes of his continuing failures by purchasing guns instead of finding a therapist when he can't deal with reality, and sabotaging efforts by his wife to better their shared condition.

There are hills in the distance and she should run for them.
posted by jsturgill at 9:01 PM on February 4, 2014 [48 favorites]

Everyone just needs to relax. I highly doubt this guy's a nut case who's about to go postal. People from all walks of life are buying guns and ammo like crazy right now in the US, it's just a sign of the times. His concerns are legitimate and even though he's failed miserably at taking care of his family practically, maybe this is his pathetic attempt at 'being a man' and 'being capable of protecting his family' should the economy collapse or something. Quit leaping to conclusions and accusing him of being mentally unstable.

OP, basically you've painted a picture of a man who is failing miserably at caring for his family, someone who leeches off of his wife's family members (you included), and who in an apocalyptic situation thinks a few rounds of ammo and a handful of guns will help him 'survive.' The guy can't even take care of his family right now, let alone in a SHTF situation. So he's definitely delusional and your concerns are justified. The fact that he went out and blew all of that money without even consulting his wife, who apparently built the savings account without his help, is criminal. All that aside, if he's not listening to reason, there isn't much you can do. This is about your sister, this is her life. She chose to marry him. Helping them out does not give you the right to dictate to this man. Your focus needs to be on helping her make some decisions.

Unless you've taken the liberty of exaggerating in your post, I would advise her to divorce this loser immediately and help her out while she goes through the transition- and since you seem to be helping her so much already, not much would change. I can't see a marriage like this working for anybody.
posted by OneHermit at 10:12 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

You mention guns/ammo and children in your post. Are the guns being stored safely and securely? Are they required to by law (they certainly are ethicly). I think the children's safety trumps all of this tip-toeing around not offending his poor masculine pride. Call a spade a spade and admit he has failed as an adult, as a parent, and he is now endangering his family. If he is breaking laws you should be involving the police and children's services. I hope you have let his parents know (with the talk of in-laws I am assuming you are referring to your sister-in-laws' parents) in the hopes they will help either him or your sister-in-law.

I agree with those saying he is delusional and you are not equipped to handle this situation, and you are actually making it worse and unsafe for everyone. I know when you are around someone that is slowly unraveling it is easy to get normalised to some fucked up shit. But this is really fucked up. He just spent four times what he has earned in his entire life; money that ethically did not belong to him. If the wife is only now coming to you with this major of a fuckup (basically something she cannot hide) I bet, dollars to doughnuts there are some scarey things happening that she has either normalised or is too ashamed to admit she did nothing about. Offer her as much support as you can and get her somewhere safe. Perhaps the realisation that he will lose everything will be enough to shock him into getting support but be prepared for him to double-down on his delusions. Unfortunately, you can't save him from them, but you can save the children and your sister-in-law. Good luck, I'm sorry this sucks so bad. I hate the helpless feeling it gives everyone.
posted by saucysault at 10:33 PM on February 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

I am a mental health professional, but not your mental health professional.

Why was he being vague about the scenarios? Has "something" told him that he needs to be prepared? What exactly is he prepping for? In other he thinking that a massive World War is going to break out in 2 years, or is his thinking that someone (the government, Army, random people) is focusing on his family or him? How is he getting the message that he needs to prepare?

Basically, you need to just strike up a conversation with him as if you wanting to know more about his situation and his thinking, maybe so you can be more helpful to him in his preparations by understanding him. Don't approach him with the purpose of getting stuff back...just talk. If he is suffering from mental illness, the longer you let him talk without interrupting, the more information you will get. I've seen many people on the edge of mania or psychosis that will seem well put together (if a little quirky) in a short conversation but if you let them keep talking, their sentences start to unravel and you can ascertain if they are hearing voices, getting messages from the radio, or whatever. But you have to let them lead the conversation a bit. Closed questions of the "yes or no" variety won't do it. is his speech? Rapid? Pressured (they keep talking and you can't interrupt them)? Tangential (hops from one topic to another)? That will give you a clue as to what his internal thought process might be, but also keep in mind that some psychotic people withdraw and appear depressed/quiet because their thoughts and voices are racing so fast inside their head that they "shut down" externally because they can't process it all. A trained professional would have to pick up on that's not always easy to identify.

I'd also have a private talk with your sister about any other behaviors she has seen him do, whether she thinks they are normal/just part of him or not. See if there is a pattern. She can also talk to a counselor through her employer's EAP or contact the local mental health clinic (that serves the public) to discuss what she's seeing in him. They can't diagnose him, but they can give her some guidance on whether or not it's time to file for a court ordered evaluation or other ways she can protect herself if he becomes more dangerous.

Your sister also needs to have a plan for leaving him and taking the kids and going somewhere safe if things escalate. This includes somehow having money she can access but he can't, but she needs to be able to keep good secrets. If he finds one shred of evidence in a paranoid state he can quickly spiral out of control (I've had patients think that the "voices" are controlling everyone around them...not themselves). I'd suggest someone having a savings account for her in their name...not hers if possible.

At the very least, that's the advice I'd give someone if they called me and told me this scenario. The more information you have, the better guidance you can get. If he's cycling through bipolar, at some point his mania might subside and you might be able to rationalize a little better with him. That's where paying attention to patterns of behavior will can start to see the symptoms associated with the cycling and might be able to see what triggers it or even the length of time for each cycle.
posted by MultiFaceted at 11:37 PM on February 4, 2014 [13 favorites]

Time for your sister to exercise some agency and control and leave this guy.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:48 AM on February 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

some jurisdictions require a gun owner to surrender all firearms if they are served with a restraining order

If you want to sell the firearms, this will not help.

I don't think that there's an inherent danger present in that one of the things he got obsessed with buying was firearms, but OTOH I don't think it's safe for a household to have a bunch of guns around no one living there knows how to use.

Do note that some guns can appear to be unloaded, but actually have a round in the chamber.

Someone here needs to take a firearm safety course. I'm not sure it should be him.

If he's the sort of person who will decide to turn back and admit defeat in the face of physical pain, someone can take him out to a shooting range with guns known for having lots of kickback. If it's a range where shotguns can be used, try to get him to wear a very textured sweater. Make sure the person instructing him doesn't give him too many tips. (Of course this also stands a chance of making him more determined to keep the guns, but hopefully the lure of the known will be less. You'd have to judge what sort of personality he has to decide if that's a good idea.)

This guy does not seem to be able to make reasonable decisions about how to allocate limited family resources. Maybe it helps him alleviate his anxiety about that to buy prepper supplies, but the irony is that he'd be far more prepared by being able to think through possible courses of action and their impact on him and others than by purchasing stuff.

Your sister needs to decide what her dealbreakers are here.
posted by yohko at 1:46 AM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your sister doesn't need his permission to reclaim the items, in exactly the same way he didn't need her permission to grab the 20K. IANAL but I would imagine they are joint marital assets. She should reclaim the items and return them for refunds, or resell them on Ebay at less than retail in order to rebuild at least half of her emergency fund.

She should also remove his name from this apparently joint account, or move the recovered assets to a sole account. I would also divorce his ass, but that isn't what you seem to be asking about. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should she buy a house jointly with this man; there is a greater than 50% chance he will refi it for his next brilliant idea.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:30 AM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

God, i don't have any "what to do" advice, nor am i making any internet diagnosis here...

But this really reminds me of the kinds of asinine madcap adventures a family that was friends with my family growing up would get in to. Like, give it a couple months and i bet he'll have shifted gears and blown his entire months paychecks on a crappy used RV on craigslist to "go adventuring in the woods". And yea, everyone in that family was mentally ill. Some of them were paranoid schizophrenic, some of them were bipolar and would get manic and do stuff like this... but it all kinda reached the same center point of the whirlpool of "ugh".

I'm pretty much on OneHermits side of this. I don't think this guy is dangerous, just kinda feeble and making poor choices. I mean, yea, you're the boots on the ground knowing if there's kids playing catch with handguns here or whatever, but from the info you've given so far it's just "he bought a bunch of stupid shit and blew all the savings", as far as we know it could still be piled up in shipping boxes in the basement.

So yea, dude needs to get evaluated. But she also needs to evaluate whether she wants to deal with this, since she's not obligated to in any way.

But really though, i don't know why, but this just strikes me as hapless, not dangerous. I might just be projecting my experiences of people like this i've met in the past onto this, but yea.
posted by emptythought at 2:56 AM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, with a guy who has given-over to paranoia to the degree he appears to, any efforts to coerce him to turn back might actually serve (in his mind) to legitimize, and possibly amplify, his paranoid rationale. Stealing back the stuff he bought would almost certainly do so.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:33 AM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your sister needs to put her big-girl panties on and deal with her husband. This is not YOUR problem, it is hers. Certainly give her some moral support, and offer her a place to stay if she decides to leave this guy, but SHE needs to discuss this with her husband, and SHE needs to deal with his guns and ammo and bullshit that he bought.

Based on your description, I certainly think that something isn't right with this guy, but it's not for me, or you to say. His wife can have him evaluated under the Baker Act (or whatever your jurisdiction has in place that's similar.) If this were MY husband, I'd do it in a heartbeat. People who are in their right mind, do not raid the family emergency fund, buy items that they do not know how to use and then start talking about "prepping" without having any idea of what it really entails. I don't know if it's too much Fox News or Duck Dynasty or what, but it ain't right and you need to stop tap dancing around it.

I'd be THAT concerned. $20,000 in hardware like that, without consultation or regard for the family finances is not just irresponsible, it's nearly criminal.

But again, it's not YOUR problem, it's your sisters. And she needs to do something about it YESTERDAY!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:53 AM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Even if he, as a person is not dangerous , the guns are. And he has no training or experience with guns or gun safety so that makes the situation pretty serious.

Also, I imagine his wife is crushed. She's under 200k debt and her husband just stole
her savings.

A call to a local abuse line might be helpful in finding resources for your sister. Even if he is arrogant and not mentally ill, there may be social services that can help her.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:22 AM on February 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Depending on the jurisdiction and the social worker/psychiatrist at a hospital/crisis line/911 spending that much money on guns with paranoid thinking *may* get him hospitalized as a danger to others. It might not. If he is presenting as illogical, with any outwardly signs of mental illness (pressured speech, inability to sit still, thoughts running together, not able to stay on topic, paranoia) the chances of him being hospitalized are higher. If he isn't someone who knows the mental health system and doesn't sign himself out immediately (it takes 72 hours generally but does vary based on state laws), he'll most likely get on some type of medication. Provided these meds takes weeks to work and he WILL NOT be there that long, and of course medications have to be taken outside the hospital to have any effect.

The guns and ammo might be confiscated by police, and she will not see any of the money. If she is lucky, she may be able to sell them while he is hospitalized. In addition, depending on the state, he would be barred from owning firearms for the rest of his life.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:02 AM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

If this were my partner, I would have already called 911 and had him admitted to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation. These are not the actions of a healthy individual.

Beyond that, Multifaceted is exactly right.

And yeah, selling stuff behind his back is going to escalate very very quickly.

Your sister needs to work out her own prepping: how to get herself, her money (what's left of it after he stole what was there), and their kids out of the house when/if needed. This kind of sudden change in behaviour, particularly the acquisition of firearms without knowledge of how to use them, sends up gigantic red flags for me.

The man needs someone who can help him figure out what's going on in his head, which means he needs to see a professional. Involuntarily, if required.

Actually, a thought occurs: was his name on this savings account? If not, what he did was theft, unless I'm mistaken. I went through a situation with an abominable roommate a while ago that involved us having to have him arrested. He was never charged, but he was remanded for a 30 day psychiatric evaluation, which was what we wanted to get him the help he so obviously needed. That may be a route worth pursuing here, because there is something very very off here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:56 AM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

[He] has worked part-time in a business I own ... his parents have given him $150k+ over the years ... Meanwhile, his wife works full time (office job) and has a second job on Saturdays. She does eBay sales in her spare time and had four garage sales last year to bring in some extra money. The wife also carries a heavier load of the parental duties and does more work around their apartment. For encouragement, a family member offered to match dollar-for-dollar if she saved $1k/month ... family members (who) currently provide free childcare

The best case scenario is that he's a failure and all of you are enabling your sister's bad decision to stay with him. There's no amount of, "But I love him, " that justifies her destroying her life (and their children's) for him that way.

From a previous post, " Between the two of them, they plan to put in 40 hr/wk on this business"

Your BIL is likely good at manipulating your sister and getting her caught up in his fantasies. You need to be staging an intervention with her. What is her take on this latest thing?

The worse case is that it does sound like the type of mild mental illness that is attracted to hovering around schools as non-professional academics, especially with the flitting around with political blogging (to help see where his mental state is, it might be helpful to see if there's been a shift in tone of his blogging, particularly looking to see if he has blogs that you don't know about), arts, MLM scams, and religion. I've seen this before and it normally doesn't end in abject tragedy but it does end in misery for people caught up in it with them.

This is far bigger than him needing to return some stuff he bought - he either needs to admit that he has a problem and get treatment for it or your sister needs to cut her losses and move on.
posted by Candleman at 9:00 AM on February 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

Seeing a couple people comment that he doesn't sound dangerous, I'd like to add: I don't think that the danger here involves him using the weapons against his wife or children. I think the danger involves an unstable person spending large amounts of money on dangerous supplies he does not know how to use, for the grandiose purpose of "protecting" his family. Will he store the weapons properly? Does he even know how? Are there tools and other non-weapon items among the supplies that the kids could find and hurt themselves with? Are the kids aware of his newfound concerns about vague scenarios necessitating surgical equipment and an arsenal? If so, what do they make of it?

And, on a more mundane level: he's spending money in a dangerous way. He's prioritizing these supplies over things like car maintenance (needed to keep the kids safe), unexpected and routine healthcare expenses (ditto), and all other household needs. That's danger enough.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:13 AM on February 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

OMG These People again?

Ok. So, I've given them the benefit of the doubt in those past questions. How emasculating must it be for this guy who clearly has a large ego to be dependent on his wife and you for income (and I'm betting that you're matching those savings), on relatives for child care, all while he is missing all those markers of "success" that you and your family have (owning property, businesses, middle class incomes).

So, this is a guy who is way too egotistical, cerebral/academic, and has too much free time and an internet connection. He's seen the middle class life and the independence that holds elude him as he heads into middle age. He finds a niche online that seems to hold those answers for him, and he decides to sink a wad of money into it. I'm surprised this didn't happen sooner.

To clarify I don't think he's gone crazy as others have suggested. This is clearly in line with the pattern of falling for a get-rich-quick scheme, of starting an ill-defined business, of floundering around accumulating masters degrees like they were pokemon.

Think about it from his point of view. If society did crumble who would know he had all these failures/setbacks in his past? He'd have a clean slate to make others understand how important/valuable he is in ways other than monetary/career success. He'd be the guy with the best stuff. His family would be glad to have him around, rather than the barely polite contempt you, and possibly your wife's parents, seem to have for him.

Hell, I think most people who have been down a long road of unemployment/underemployment have had passing infatuations with doomsday scenarios.

He has a drive to provide for his wife and his family. He has too much ego to allow himself to do things he feels are below him. So, in our current state of affairs, he is unable to provide for his family. Therefore, why not wish to change the way things are? He can't let his wife/wife's family save them. He needs to be the one to do it. He needs the admiration and respect.

Don't get me wrong. I also think it's fucked up that these are the values our society holds. That being a work-a-day happy cog in a rat race is the only way to survive. The lie that good/hardworking people get just rewards. When the socialist revolution happens in the US, we can talk. For now, he has kids to provide for. His wife seems to have wisened up to this reality.

What this guy needs, wholistically, is to move to a place with an established bohemian class. Where a philosophy/art masters degree or 3, a trendy shabby apartment, a love of art and culture, day job in a bookstore, a middle class background, but lower-income realities, earns you respect and reputation.

What his wife needs? Possibly a divorce. Probably she needs to stop counting on him to have any financial contributions. She needs to no longer trust him with any money.

What do you need? Probably to back away. Stop trying to "fix" him. I know you and your wife want to look out for your nieces and nephews and your wife's sister. He is an adult. Free to make his own mistakes. Free to fail. Free to make terrible decisions. This is terribly unfair to his wife, but she also made the decision to marry, and continue to be married, to this guy.

How do you get him to give back the stuff? Well. Thats tricky. This stuff represents the security blanket of the very damaged ego of a 40 year old man. The correct answer is that you make him feel more secure and happy. I can't tell you how do accomplish this.
posted by fontophilic at 10:02 AM on February 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

I don't think he's gone crazy

Hi could we not use that word that way please? All indications are that he is mentally ill. You may disagree, that's cool. But 'crazy' is a stigmatizing and othering word.

Having read the previous threads... it's entirely possible that fontophilic is correct here. This does all kind of sound like a man flailing to find some sort of identity (so does his wife but that's neither here nor there, especially since she's actually putting in serious work to provide for the family and save for the future) and running away from responsibility. I mean, if I were two hundred thousand dollars in debt, and I were to raid a joint savings account, it would be to pay that debt.

So, whether fontophilic is correct or not, I stand by my initial assertion that he needs a mental health assessment, and counseling, because even if he's not sliding into dangerous mental health territory, he needs to do some work around personal and fiscal responsibility.

I might however go back on the returning everything stance though. He took the money his wife saved to buy all this dumb shit, I think she's well within her rights to take it all back and take his name off the account. She should take his name off the account anyway.

God, what a horrible messed up situation this is.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:51 AM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your sister needs to decide what her dealbreakers are here.

Expanding on my earlier comment, I do mean her dealbreakers in regards to how much money she is willing to put up with her spouse spending on useless items and harebrained schemes.

I can't say I agree with the ideas he's mentally ill based on this, but there does seem to be a certain personality type that will incur great financial penalties over ideas they are enamored with, over and over and over. If there is some sort of mental illness involved in his case maybe this is something that could be fixed, but it's possible he could have a mental illness that gets treated but still tend to spend/borrow money this way.
posted by yohko at 1:03 PM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I really think OP needs to sit down with his sister and focus on her. The issue cannot be resolved with the husband in question. He is obviously a stubborn individual who hasn't proven himself to be a mature responsible parent or husband. It is time to make some decisions and I think they should involve divorce.

The action of buying provisions to protect one's family in the event of a disaster is absolutely NOT an indication of "mental illness" in an of itself. OP has not described any sort of paranoid or dangerous behavior being exhibited by their brother-in-law. The mass hysteria in this thread is what is scary.

He may be a fool, and he sounds like a loser, but nothing in OP's description is "definitive proof" of mental illness. That's a very serious charge to be making here. The media has turned half of our population into paranoid alarmists and it's pathetic.
posted by OneHermit at 4:58 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

The action of buying provisions to protect one's family in the event of a disaster is absolutely NOT an indication of "mental illness"

Buying a single rifle, some canned food, water purifier, first aid kit, crank powered light and radio, and camp stove might be defined as buying provisions in case of a disaster.

Suddenly capsizing your family's precarious finances ($20K is way more than a year's discretionary spending for this family) to buy multiple firearms and surgical tools you don't know how to use and announcing plans to camp on land you know virtually nothing about because of vague potential threats is delusional and acting on delusions is absolutely an indication of mental illness.
posted by Candleman at 7:30 PM on February 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

Thanks for the all of the perspectives and advice. It is a lot to consider, but I did want to clarify that my brother-in-law did not seem threatening. There were no indications he was harboring any violent thoughts. Yes, much of the money went to guns/ammo but he also acquired a bunch of other "stuff" (buckets of food, etc.) so it was not purely a pile of weapons.

If I had to guess, I believe he's unhappy and most likely depressed. But I'm not qualified to make those assessments. He very much wants to be seen as a leader, a wise expert, or some kind of pillar for the community. Yet in reality, he is struggling and doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. I agree he might benefit from therapy or an evaluation. It would be covered by his health insurance.

I tried to look at his political blog but the domain had expired. He told me he spends a lot of time on Youtube and Hangout watching prepper videos. I don't know if any of those people were advising him or encouraging him to take these actions. When I spoke to him, I suggested that the number one "scenario" he should be guarding against is homelessness brought on by lack of money. That's the point of an emergency fund -- what if his wife gets laid off? If their net worth is all tied up in illiquid "stuff", it can take months to see any reasonable amount of cash.

I appreciated all the comments from people who identified as preppers. If my brother-in-law wants to be a legitimate prepper, I don't think anyone is against that idea as long as he approaches it sensibly and includes his wife in the conversation. As people said, prepping is not just buying a bunch of "stuff". It is hard work -- and he needs to embrace that side of it (along with the requisite training).

I completely agree with the comments that I can't fix him or live his life for him. But when my in-laws ask for my help, and it is a reasonable task, then I try to do what I can. If he relinquishes all of the stuff he bought, then my wife will be activating her eBay store to liquidate the general items and I will try to sell the rest at nearby gun shows. I'm supposed to talk to him again this weekend, and still considering exactly what (if anything) I might say.
posted by 99percentfake at 8:19 PM on February 5, 2014

Do what you did before. Print out this thread and have him read it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:26 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

My heart goes out to your family.

Validating my suspicions, OP has clearly stated that his brother-in-law's behavior is not threatening. OP has also confirmed that his brother-in-law has been spending a great deal of time watching prepping videos on YouTube. It all makes perfect sense.

#1 Brother-in-law has failed to be practical about work and money and feels like a failure. Making matters worse is his arrogance and seemingly endless educational pursuit. He keeps chasing the wrong thing. He's lost.

#2 He's stumbled across the preparedness community, and watching "real men" in their element collecting items that would help them protect their families in the event of a man-made or natural disaster gives him a rush. He admires these men and wants to be like them. In an impulsive move, he decided he should get involved in said community and stock up on preparedness supplies.

It was impulsive, it was immature. But it has absolutely nothing to do with mental illness. The man is just a fool.

Suddenly capsizing your family's precarious finances ($20K is way more than a year's discretionary spending for this family) to buy multiple firearms and surgical tools you don't know how to use and announcing plans to camp on land you know virtually nothing about because of vague potential threats is delusional and acting on delusions is absolutely an indication of mental illness.

Hardly. More like an immature man's very sane and rational (albeit immature and pathetic) attempt at feeling powerful like plenty of thinking people have suggested in this post. Unlike the paranoid alarmists who automatically leap to "mental illness" as if they're an expert in the field of psychology and have spent time examining this man in a clinical setting, these thinking folks have actually taken the time to consider that this man is perfectly normal and not a threat to his family but just horribly immature.
posted by OneHermit at 10:07 PM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Unlike the paranoid alarmists who automatically leap to "mental illness" as if they're an expert in the field of psychology and have spent time examining this man in a clinical setting, these thinking folks have actually taken the time to consider that this man is perfectly normal and not a threat to his family but just horribly immature.

The OP notes that his BIL is probably depressed, and would likely benefit from therapy or at least a mental health evaluation. Depression is a mental health condition that has nothing to do with whether a person is immature and/or a "fool" and/or "pathetic," nor does it require a Ph.D. in psychology or an examination in a clinical setting to recognize potential signs of depression.

I have several friends and family members who would consider themselves preppers to one degree or another. Of those friends and family members, one of them is pretty seriously mentally ill -- and his prepper activity started off almost exactly as the OP describes here. So it is not general preparedness activity per se that rings the mental illness bell for me; it is very specifically what the OP describes here that fits a pattern with which I am (unfortunately) familiar.
posted by scody at 10:47 PM on February 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Just to provide an alternate perspective, an immature, pathetic man who feels emasculated and buys guns to remedy that feeling is, I would say, a serious danger to everyone around him regardless of how his mental health might be classified by internet strangers. I suspect most gun deaths in America involve someone who fits that description. Depression and no training on gun safety are just icing on an already fraught cake.

And whether it's conscious or not, part of his most recent power play was a deliberate confiscation of his wife's resources that in and of itself is a major warning sign. That emergency fund represented, among other things, a way out of their relationship for her. Whether or not she saw it that way, and whether or not he consciously saw it that way, it was a potential path to freedom if she ever needed to leave. He unilaterally shut that door right hard, didn't he?

If she tries to pry it open again, and the little man has access to a gun, and that seems like the only way to stop her.... then yes, I do think things could go very wrong very quickly and yes, I do think it's a mistake to just keep giving a serial loser the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe his rock bottom includes shooting someone by accident or for very little provocation. Maybe it doesn't. There's no way to tell what the future will bring. But it does look like his trajectory is still heading down, not up, and that's cause for major concern.
posted by jsturgill at 10:48 PM on February 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

~$20k worth of guns/ammo and survivalist gear
spent several hundred dollars on obscure surgical instruments and materials to treat gunshot wounds
became very protective of his remaining supplies.
Be very careful. He is fantasizing about a shootout and -- he's a religion/history/politics fanatic? -- I'm betting he's waiting (even hoping) for Armageddon and his place in it.

Someone coming to take away his guns -- the guns he thinks he needs to become a hero and protect his family from evil gun-taking people, the guns he needs to protect his guns -- is probably one of the terrifying but thrilling and satisfying scenarios for which he thinks he is now prepared. In his imagination, maybe the end times mean that the world he is failing in (the world that is failing him) will be gone, all debts will be forgotten or forgiven, and he -- not you sad toilers and rule-followers -- will be the hero of the hour, the guy you thank, the guy you depend on, the guy you follow. He's wishes a strong Armageddon wind would come along, blow away the current order, and set him free.

If his solution to gun-snatchers boils down to shooting gun-snatchers, you don't want to make yourself a gun-snatcher. You die and maybe others die when the current world order comes down intact on top of him. And don't ever be sure you've entirely disarmed him. He can always just go around the corner and buy another pistol.

If safely possible, the answer to this is for him to get medication and talk. If he can't do that in the current situation, maybe she needs to take the kids quickly and quietly away somewhere she can start again. She has lots of almost realized potential. Then he needs to get his shit together, get the pills, get the talk, assuming he doesn't kill himself (or others) first, because he also has lots of almost realized potential. And then maybe after they both get their educations and careers nudged back on track, the two of them could get back together.
posted by pracowity at 12:36 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

[A couple of comments deleted. Do not fight with or debate each other in this thread; offer helpful productive advice directed to the OP.]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:19 AM on February 6, 2014

I completely agree with the comments that I can't fix him or live his life for him. But when my in-laws ask for my help, and it is a reasonable task, then I try to do what I can. If he relinquishes all of the stuff he bought, then my wife will be activating her eBay store to liquidate the general items and I will try to sell the rest at nearby gun shows. I'm supposed to talk to him again this weekend, and still considering exactly what (if anything) I might say.

OP, what you can do, is have a some empathy for him. I know my previous comment could be taken to seem like I was soft on the guy or that I romanticized him as a wandering soul. That wasn't my intention. Empathy is the only way to understand the actions of others, whether they are your loved ones or your adversaries. You're trying to figure out how he will react, so you need to understand how he feels and how he views himself. Here's a hint, most people don't view themselves as pathetic, no matter how pathetic they actually are.

I, a rando-internet stranger, can trace a line of logic in his actions if you examine his motives and emotions. This leads me, again, a rando-internet stranger, IANAD, ETC, to think that he is not giving into to paranoid delusions. I was incorrect in using the word "crazy" when I meant more precisely, "dangerously deluded on the cusp of a shooting spree". Is he totally mentally healthy? Who is? Probably everyone should get a mental health evaluation in a situation like this. And while you're at it, how about finding a therapist with a specialty in career counseling?

It seems pretty clear from your previous comments that you are trying very hard to be very diplomatic towards your brother and sister-in-law. You think you're being charitable to them by offering jobs, connections, possibly loans or gifts of money. You need to consider what you get out of these interactions to understand where your BiL is coming from.

OP, I think it's pretty fair to say that you really dislike your BiL (and jsturgill hit on some great reasons) and you're acting out of loyalty to your wife's family. But OP, you also enjoy being the one dangling those threads of advancement to him. Sure, you're trying to be as diplomatic as possible and sanitizing your actions behind business plans or insisting that this has been put upon you by your mother and father-in-law.

You need to remove yourself from this situation. You should not be the one to sell his guns. Your wife shouldn't be the one to sell his stuff. He and his wife need to do it. It is his responsibility, but thats not why I'm suggesting it. I'm suggesting it because if you derive even the smallest ounce of satisfaction in doing this, in being the one to save him and his wife AGAIN, he will detect this and will double down on his only perceived route to respect and autonomy—the long shot that the world will crumble and he will be the remaining pillar of strength.

Long term? He needs to find new employment. What I think would make him happiest is if he accepted that at age 40 with two kids, he has fewer opportunities to re-invent himself. If he accepted that his wife was the bread winner. If he found a job that offered him more respect and rewarded him with more reputation than scrubbing shit at a nepotism-derived position in his brother-in-laws car wash for minimum wage. Maybe this aspirational job is a job that has a "cool factor" to the people in his "prepper" community, like an EMT, park ranger, or even working at an REI or similar.

Should a "real man" need this respect or should he just be happy because he can feed his children? That to me could be explained by a person born into the middle class, aspiring to a middle class way of life through higher education or entrepreneurialism, bucking against his new-found lower income bracket. He thinks he is more worthy than this. He thinks he deserves admission to the middle class. He is not satisfied washing cars for a living. This is not something you're going to be able to change. This is a microcosm of this moment of American angst as doors to the middle class are being slammed shut. This is also not something that you can change.

If you want to help this family, start a 529 for your nieces/nephews, in their names, possibly in secret. Be the stable uncle they can come to for help. Show them how financially responsible and hardworking people live. Be the role model for stability. Let your home be a refuge for your wife's sister when her marriage crumbles.
posted by fontophilic at 7:36 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you're seeing this as more of a money problem than a gun problem, which is fair although there's probably something to be said separately about having a come-to-Jesus with him about how unilaterally making their household a gun-owning household, particularly when he does not know jack shit about how to operate firearms, is not acceptable. Kind of an off the beaten path sort of suggestion, but are there any obvious contraindications to introducing him to Dave Ramsey?

(If he can stand the mainstream prepper community, I imagine he probably doesn't object too much to evangelical Christianity -- but who knows.)

In many circumstances I'm not much for the dude, mostly because he sells his advice as more universal than it actually is. However, his target audience is pretty much folks who have persistent emotional problems with money that cause them to run themselves into the ground over and over again, and his strong father-ish sort of style and the manner in which he calls for accountability while still being supportive might catch this guy in the right psychological hook. There's also a lot of material there that supports people thinking of themselves as the ones who have finally found the knowledge other people don't have. It's actually very similar to the sort of prepper materials that it sounds like skippy here is into.

If you want to try addressing the prepper issue specifically... Personally, I'm a prepper-ish person who ends up in practice thinking mostly about things like warm coats, reliable vehicle(s), cash savings, and homeownership. I'm not entirely sure how one catches that particular mode of thinking if one is not already so inclined, but Zombie Squad is a good resource that talks specifically about financial responsibility and Cody Lundin has a book about "urban survival" that emphasizes having the proper mental attitude, sustainability, and working from first principles and is specifically pretty down on being a gear whore.
posted by sparktinker at 8:58 AM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am sorry this is happening to your family.

A LOT of people are feeling helpless and overwhelmed these days. Prepping allows some folks to feel empowered because they'll be Ready when something-or-other happens. But note: if The Event never happens, then they won't be tested and so they can't fail. So it's a chance for them to do something useful without risking failure or frustration.

Like fontophilic, I don't think he sounds mentally ill; I think he sounds sad and insecure and frustrated.

I really like the idea of getting him to send back all the gear, and then redirect a portion of the money into training as an EMT, SAR, or something. He could build on that training either by finding a new job in a related field, or by writing online about what he learns and making some money off of other preppers (suckers) (kind of sorry, kind of not).

Good luck.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:10 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are children in a house with unsecured guns. (Your list of things he bought does not have "Gun Safe". If they are not in a gun safe, they are unsecured. Even if he thinks the kids will never get in that locked drawer/closet.) That is a huge huge huge priority. Children die of preventable gun accidents all the time, every day, every where. Kids are curious, and they do things that result in death when there's a gun around. I can not stress enough how critical it is that the guns are secured. Please, the priority has to be getting those guns out of the house until there's a gun safe. In the meantime, please teach the kids "Stop. Don't Touch. Leave the area. Tell Mom." in regards to the guns. They need to know they are deadly and not a toy. The issue of how to get him to sell the guns etc. is important, but it comes second to the kids' safety. Even if it means purchasing a gun safe, that is a small price to pay.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:04 PM on February 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Maybe I got lucky, but by Saturday my brother-in-law had reconsidered the entire situation. He regretted the purchases and all the trouble that he had caused. He relinquished all of the supplies except for $2k worth of "food" buckets. I helped move those into their apartment and took possession of everything else. Right now the goal is for my wife and I to recoup $13k of the remaining $18k. If there is only a $5k loss from this situation, that would be considered very good news by my in-laws.

I went over a printout of this thread with my mother-in-law. I think she is in a tough spot. On one hand, it is considered meddlesome to put conditions (such as "therapy") on people who are dependent on your resources (money, free childcare, etc.). On the other hand, the wife was able to get her good-ish job (where she has flourished) and save so much money (by hustling and scrimping) because of suggestions from this same support network.

Many of the answers were trying to triage the entire situation -- the marriage, the children, his career, his mental health, their finances, household safety, etc. -- and that was helpful to my mother-in-law. But I was focused on doing what I was asked to do: unwind as much of these purchases as we can manage. I do appreciate all the insights and perspectives, especially from self-identifying preppers.

It is unclear if my brother-in-law actually wants to be a prepper. I mentioned the Zombie Squad site to him. Another relative has offered to teach him gardening. The YMCA offers first aid, CPR, and AED training for only $50. I am far from a gun expert, but I even recommended a range where I shoot a couple of times per year that offers lessons/etc. I suppose it is "wait and see".
posted by 99percentfake at 6:00 PM on February 9, 2014 [6 favorites]



This whole scenario sounds so symptomatic of what could be manic behavior. In other words, bipolar.

If he would be willing to be screened by a doctor, AND this is what is going on, it could explain so very much.

And if it is, and he undergoes treatment, his life could turn around in such a positive way.

In any case, from here on out savings need to be where he cannot access them, for the whole family's benefit, at least and until he can figure out just why he did what he did. If I were him I would certainly want to know why.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:02 AM on February 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

relinquished all of the supplies except for $2k worth of "food" buckets

They could always start eating that food! In an emergency it would be helpful for him to know how to prepare the food, and for it to be something that wasn't completely new to the kids.

Another relative has offered to teach him gardening

This is a great idea, if he starts a garden they can save money on food costs. It can also be a fun thing to do with kids if they are interested.
posted by yohko at 3:59 PM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm glad to hear the followup. Your SIL absolutely needs to keep her money separate and not allow her husband to have access. I hope she also considers marriage counseling (at the least) or DTMFA (JMO, ideal, your BIL sounds like a terrible husband). She will have to come to this conclusion on her own; if family members push her to get counseling or end her marriage then it's likely she will dig in her heels and Stand By Her Man, as that is the natural reaction when parents and siblings don't like one's SO.

In any case, she must protect her money and earning power. It sounds like she has come a long way from the first post you made about this branch of your family. Good for her!

Gardening and Red Cross safety type classes are excellent outlets for a want-to-be prepper, or for anyone really. They don't cost a lot of money or put family members in harm's way. And even if the end of the world isn't at hand, there are all those yummy tomatoes! Gardening is something he can do with the kids, too.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:34 AM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

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