How to Deal with Alcoholics Part 2 - Whiteland,IN

Updated on March 22, 2014
J.A. asks from Cartersville, GA
24 answers

Not long ago I posted a question about my alcoholc mother-in-law (my husband's stepmother). The short version is that she was caught drinking while in charge of a small child. Since then she has not been allowed to be alone with our daughters.Very little has been said on the subject. MIL has made some sarcastic comments, but other than that she has completely avoided me. FIL seemed to understand our choice at first, but he is now attempting to sweep it all under the rug like nothing ever happened. He told my husband that he or his wife may be coming to pick up my daughters to stay the night. The overnight stay was already agreed upon. However, the possibility of MIL driving ALONE with them is NOT okay with either one of us. So now I feel torn once again. I refuse to be the bad guy and say something. Husband says he will take care of it, but I fear his words won't truly convey our answer right. He said he would tell his dad that we'd "prefer" it was him picking them up if it has to only be one of them. I feel this wording isn't straightforward enough. To add to that, the reason MIL may need to come alone is because SIL (husband's sister) has agreed to allow MIL to watch her daughter, who is 1 1/2, while she works. I have no idea if SIL knows about the drinking and the child incident. I have desperately wanted to talk to SIL about it, but again I don't wish to butt in or be the bad guy. I hadn't said anything because I didn't believe SIL was leaving her daughter with MIL alone. But now I know for a fact that she at least plans to. I have NO idea what to do here! I feel like this entire family isn't taking MIL's drinking seriously. Yes, maybe she only drank while in charge of a child once (that we all know of). And I have no clue if she's ever drove while under the influence. But she is indeed an alcohlic. And it has excalated over the years. That I know for sure because I've been around to witness it. I'm taking this all quite seriously because I've been involved with a few alcoholics in my lifetime. But husband's family seems to have no clue what to do here. Any advice??

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answers from San Francisco on

If you are only concerned about the driving then drive your girls over there yourself.
If you think your girls may be left alone with her then cancel the overnight. My kids never spent the night anywhere without my full comfort and consent.
Sure it may be awkward but sometimes that's the only way to make people face reality.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

I do not want to seem impatient here but you will get the same answers here as you did with the first one. You need to join Al-Anon and learn how to deal with her.
Learn to take a firm stand and say NO. Tell your sister-in-law what you know. You would never forgive yourself if her child dies or is seriously injured while in MIL's care.
In my experience you can not be kind when it comes to a drunk or any substance abuser. They will come up with excuses about their behavior and rationalize why they do what they do. They will deny your concerns. Until they see they need to make changes they will not.
Every substance abuser quits when they hit bottom. Unfortunately bottom is different for each one. Don't let her bottom be the serious injury or death of an innocent child.
Stand up to her!!

In a way it is a kindness to put your foot down and make them see what they are doing before they hurt someone.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I don't know the specific situation but I would never have my kids in a home where someone is an actual alcoholic. Why is your child staying overnight? Is this alcoholic thing 100% fact or overblown???

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I would have CANCELLED that overnight stay, and not have your daughter be there.

Who knows if your SIL knows about the drinking and/or if the Mom is alcoholic.
Your Husband, her brother, should be the one to talk to her.
It is not your place.
Did you ask your Husband about that?

You and your Husband, know that MIL is an Alcoholic.
So then you take charge, of that situation and of your daughter's SAFETY. And/or make it known that ONLY if you or your Husband is there accompanying her visit, that she can be near MIL or in her home.
Also because, MIL's Husband, is an enabler.? He is jaded by his Wife's alcoholism... and probably then does NOT have, rational logic, about it nor about the safety of a child. In MIL's presence.

I would not let my child, be in a vehicle, with someone who drinks and drives or tries to hide that fact.
And you should expect, full knowledge, of IF your MIL will be driving your child or not. Alone, with your child in the vehicle.

When it comes to the safety of your child, you need to speak up.
But your Spouse, who is from that family, should be speaking up, too.. and in a matter of fact way with no if's and buts about it.

And bottom line is, you/Husband have to decide: WHAT is more important???? Pleasing the In-Laws, or keeping your child safe.
Who do you please?
It should not be hard to decide.
And your child, should NOT BE IN the middle of this, dynamic. She is not a tug of rope.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Okay, I'm going to ask because I have a friend who freaks out when her hubby drinks a beer when at friends tailgate parties.

How many drinks does she have while watching the kids? 5, 10, 1, it's a good question.

Does she stumble around? Does she slur her words? Does she pass out from the alcohol consumed?

Or is she simply drinking a glass of wine after dinner? A couple of beers while watching TV?

What determines, to you, that she's drunk? Or an alcoholic?

My friend has a very very skewed idea of what an alcoholic is. To her anyone that drinks anything that contains alcohol is an alcoholic. Not true.

An alcoholic is a person who is so many things. Perhaps if you attended a few alanon meetings you could find out if your perceptions are valid. If they are correct.

When I was in college we went to college bowl. We sat through a special speaker from a Kansas University. The topic was alcoholism. I went out nearly every night. I drank occasionally. I was always designated driver and listed on all my friends insurances as a secondary driver.

I found out that I didn't even drink enough to be classified as a social drinker. I just didn't drink enough. SO that's why I ask what designates, to you, that MIL is an alcoholic.

I can't say if your child is or is not in danger from being cared for her in her own home. Only you can do that.

If this woman is not an alcoholic and you have a skewed idea of what an alcoholic is or is not then I sort of feel bad for her being judged by you and her not guilty of anything.

If she is drunk and stumbling around and passing out from being drunk every night then there is no way I'd let any kid be around her at all, ever.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

So why don't you (and your husband?) just drive your kids over there yourself, and spend the night too if you're so concerned? Offer to bring in take out for dinner and hang out a while. It kind of seems like you need to get to know these people a little better, they are your in laws after all.
You admit to having "no clue" so get a clue! Especially before passing such harsh judgement based on here say.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

Be the bad guy, along side your husband. This is your job both as parents and spouses.

You guys are waffling and they are going to increasingly take advantage of the weakness. Nix the sleepovers and stuff and the transportation issue will go away. My FIL is an alcoholic and there are no sleepovers or other outings that we are not present for. Period.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

your MIL has a drinking problem, your FIL enables, and you're letting your girls not only stay there, but possibly be driven by her?
no clue what to do with the rest of the family. every family dynamic is different. we tend to talk things out, but other families aren't comfortable with that, so i don't know what you should do about your SIL.
but i sure as heck know what boundaries i'd place around my OWN kids. and that conversation would start with my husband.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Your number one responsibility is protecting your kids.
Nothing else matters.
MIL and FIL can get as bent out of shape as they want.
Let them.
If being the 'bad guy' is what you have to be to protect your kids - then you DO it and you don't apologize for it.
MIL can come over to your house for supervised visits but I would not be having the kids over to her house.
You really need to go to Al-Anon and keep going so you know how to handle things like this.

Alcoholics can be sneaky.
For all you know she might be drinking mouth wash or vanilla extract.
Do all the driving when it comes to your kids.
Keep going to Al-anon.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I'm so sorry.

You aren't being the bad guy. You are being responsible. If you were a teacher or a police officer or a day care worker, you'd be a mandated reporter for this!

Your husband either commits to saying MIL doesn't pick up the child, or the overnight is off. None of this "we'd prefer that she not drive our child." No no no! Nobody else is going to step up? You have to. If they get mad, so what?

None of them can stop her drinking. They can only stop putting themselves or their children in her path.

SIL issue - reverse it. What if your SIL knew your MIL was an alcoholic and never told you? Then God forbid there was an accident. You don't have to tell your SIL what to do, but you can tell her what YOU are going to do, and suggest she take whatever action she feels is warranted. That could mean canceling the MIL babysitting, it could mean monitoring the liquor, it could mean installing a nanny-cam, it could mean having someone check in. That's her decision. If you really are uncomfortable, you could solicit her advice on your OWN problem, as if you don't know she plans to have MIL babysit her own child. Tell her you don't know how to handle your FIL and this overnight issue because of what happened with the drinking and the other child (and make sure you give the full facts and no value judgment).

I have alcoholism in my family so I know how hard it is for people to face this. The alcoholic is not an evil person, but a person with a disease. I would not allow my son to go with a brittle diabetic who carried no insulin either, or a serious heart patient who had no precautions in place. I would not put my child in a car with no brakes even if the driver were a very nice person, or in a home with exposed medications or unlocked firearms. This is no different.

Please get some support from Al-Anon or other support group for "families of" - I'll bet they have some strategies for you as well.

Good luck! Be strong!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

BE THE BAD GUY!!!! Your children's lives depend on it. This is not an over reaction. Your FIL was ready to leave her over it so you know there is more to it than what you've been told. Who knows what else has happened?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My mom was a functional alcoholic for a long, long time. My brother and his wife would let her watch their kids every once in awhile, but said no to over nights. It took her 2nd DUI to get sober for real. I had my children after she was sober, so it was never an issue. But if she wasn't sober, I wouldn't have let her watch my kids.

I would make a huge effort to educate my husband about alcoholism and encourage him to attend an AL ANON meeting. If you feel there is a risk,for MIL to watch your kids, then fight to keep her from watching them. When his dad talks about it, be blunt. He's an enabler.

Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Al-anon, drinking is a FAMILY disease, believe me, I know, many of my biological family drink and have died from it...
In Al-anon, it's taught me that there are MANY MANY people who have been through what I have and who have not only survived, but recovered..
It 's the alcoholic who may be drinking, but their behaviors can still get passed along to family members, even if those family members don't drink..
If not for Al-anon, I truly don't think I'd be as happy as I am today. don't get me wrong, it's not all roses all the time.. but the difference is this.. my outlook.. it's no longer, why does the rose bush have thorns, but rather why does the thorn bush have roses.. I think it's just one's perspective..

if you go online you can check out their questionaire and see IF the program looks like a fit for you or any other family member..
it's free and meetings are everywhere , including online

good luck in whatever you decide to do..

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


I didn't answer your first question, I must have missed it. I have read it now and realize the information you are giving is basically 3rd party. Your father in law "caught" her drinking while caring for a child.

Have you seen her drinking first hand?
Have you seen her not be able to go anytime without a drink in her hand?
Did YOU deem her an alcoholic or has she acknowledged she's an alcoholic?

If you do not want her to care for your child. Simply say NO. If you can't trust your husband to say no. Then you will have to step up to the plate and say no yourself.

If you know she is drinking and driving, then call the police and report it. If you are not a doctor and have not been to a doctor or even heard her acknowledge she is an alcoholic, you don't "know it for a fact". All you can do is limit your time with her.

You cannot force her to stop drinking.
You cannot make her acknowledge what you feel is a fact.
She cannot and will not stop drinking until she is ready. For many - they cannot acknowledge this.

You cannot control her. You cannot control her drinking. So if she is at your home? You do not have enable her. You can have an alcohol free home. It's YOUR home. However, in HER home? You cannot stop her from drinking.

IF your father in law chose to stay with her, that's HIS business. If he chooses to sweep it under the rug? That's HIS business. If you do NOT want to have your daughter under her care the only thing you can do is SAY NO. As hard as it will, you do not want your daughter under that influence, so you say NO.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

You are the parent. You know what feels right and your brain guides you. Always follow both of them, so that you will never have any regrets. Other people may not have a problem with MIL, fine for them.. But you must follow your mom radar.

Your husband has the right words. Stick together on this.

A long time ago I told my mother straight out I never wanted my step father to be alone with our child. NEVER.

I personally have always had an uneasy feeling about him.
Not only that, but he is just not very patient with children.

I told her, if I found out that she had left our daughter alone with him, I would not be able to ever trust her again with our child.

I told her I loved her, and I totally trusted her. You are the parent. You know what feels right and your brain guides you. Always follow both of them, so that you will never have any regrets.

Interesting thing, My stepfather has not seen his own son in over 15 years. They have not communicated except for 2 times in all of that time. The last time he saw his son was when the boy was 8. Very odd for a man that claimed he was so close to his son.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Your husband needs to toughen up, frankly. And you need to toughen up with him.

He needs to tell mom and dad, no this overnight will not happen. No matter who picks up your child. Why was this agreed to? What made you or him say yes to this? Did you or he say yes before your MIL drank while caring for a child and is that why you're going ahead with this? If so -- that's not an adequate reason. Is he scared of offending his mom? Are you? It's time to do some offending, then.

There seems to be a good likelihood that MIL would be alone with the kids, your own and your niece. And your FIL is in DENIAL -- and someone in denial is going to think it's fine to leave his wife alone with two young kids. So you cannot really trust FIL either because his judgment is clouded. And this isn't just about the driving arrangements. Do you really want your kids sleeping over where she might be flaked out so hard she can't hear them in the night?

Your husband needs to be the one to tell his parents that he is no longer comfortable with the sleepover. If you and he have social plans and the sleepover makes those possible -- sorry, time to put the kids ahead of either those plans or your MIL's tender feelings.

Your husband sounds as if he too may be in some denial if he's letting this happen. You need to wake him up. Take him with you to an Al-Anon meeting ASAP. They are everywhere, all the time, just like AA meetings are -- under the radar but everywhere. He needs a wake-up call that he has to refuse to tiptoe around his mother's illness, especially if he has young children and she thinks she's going to see them.

He also must, must tell SIL. This should have been done already. If he won't, you should, but truly it is his role as the brother and son in this situation. For her child's safety she needs to know. She too may be in some denial and she may get angry -- "Are you saying I don't know my own mom? Are you saying I dont' know what's safe for my child?! It's fine" and so on....but she should be told. And she needs to know too that FIL is not seeing reality here and therefore she --and you--cannot rely on "It'll be OK as long as grandad is there too."

Husband's family is enabling mom to drink if they don't give her any consequences. If she wants to see the grandkids, she gets treatment. No treatment, no grandkids. Your husband or his sister can locate an AA meeting that works for her and then DRIVE HER THERE every time and wait outside until it is done, over and over. And her husband needs to go to Al-Anon to see how his blinders will only make it easier for her to drink.

You wrote "I feel like this entire family isn't taking MIL's drinking seriously." So what do you plan to DO about that? Because she is going to keep wanting to see your kids. Do you really want to spend years worrying every time she sees her grandkids that THIS might be the time she falls asleep drunk and leaves the stove on with grandpa out of the house but the kids there? Or that this will be the one time she thinks it's fine to put your kids and niece into her car "just to drive a few blocks to the store" and she's actually drunk? Or that this will be the one time she isn't aware that the kids have gone out the back door on their own to who knows where?

It only takes one time - just one time for someone to get injured or killed. And even if these kids never get a scratch, what do they learn from growing up with alcoholic grandma? They'll learn to look the other way -- like your husband has.

I would sit husband down, when the kids are not around, and he is not wanting to go somewhere else or do something else. Make clear to him that this is a very serious talk and at the end of it some decisions have to be reached. Before you talk to him, have Al-Anon information (go online) to talk about what enabling is, and why it gives his mom a green light to drink if he and his dad are as soft as they are right now towards her. Do not attack her as weak or bad because she isn't -- she is ill. But her illness could cost a child greatly.

If the sleepover is this weekend you might have to be the bad guy -- with your husband, when you tell him that you AND he cannot allow this, and cannot rely on FIL either.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

If your MIL was so intoxicated that she couldn't think straight, the baby was crying, sitting in a dirty diaper, and had food covered on their face, then tell FIL no.

If the MIL had alcohol on her breath, but everything was fine, perhaps you are being over protective.

I must say, it is a strange way to visit alone with your grandchildren. However, many parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles have a drink in the presence of children.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My advice to you is to protect your kids at all costs. Who really cares if you get sarcasm or grief. I would NEVER let me kids in a car with someone who might have had a few drinks.

You know what to do. You've voiced your opinion. Don't care about feelings. And I'd let the SIL know what you know. You'll feel very badly if something happens to her baby.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

If you don't want your mil driving your child, and your husband doesn't have the stones to say so outright, then you will have to say so yourself or resign yourself to the possibility of your mil driving your child.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I agree with another mom - nix the sleep-over and the problem takes care of itself.

No way, no how am I putting my kids alone with this person until I feel good and confident that there has been a change in direction.

Have them to dinner at your house to see the kids.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Nope I would not let my child in the care of someone who was drunk. Period. If a problem came up you need an adult there who can think clearly and handle the situation. That's not your mil. Unless your fil agrees to drive to pick up your child, be at home the entire visit, and then drive back to your house to drop your child off I wouldn't agree to the sleep over.

I know you want to share information with your sil however at this point I'd let it drop unless she approaches you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Well, the best way to solve this problem is to drive your kids to & from Grandmas. And check out the house before you leave. Hidden bottles of booze under the sink or in a closet under the towels, empties stashed in strange places, she's still drinking regardless of what FIL thinks.

Yes, this is snooping & an invasion of their privacy. But you will get YOUR questions answered regarding the seriousness of her habit. If you run across a stash & feel like leaving your kids would be a bad idea, take them home. Lie if you don't want to cause a scene, but take them home & talk to your husband about how to handle future visits. Plans change, kid has some activities that came up, whatever.

If there are no stashes that you can easily find, if their "bar" is about as full as it's always been while you where visiting in the past, if your ILs plans involve both Grandparents (so Grandpa would be driving & apparently he isn't a drinker) let them stay. You already agreed to let your kids visit with them, knowing that your MIL drank. Your kids know about going to Grandmas. From your post, her drinking is NOT new.

What I'm hearing is as long as Grandpa is the responsible, sober one in charge, you feel okay with the kids being there. So tell Grandpa that, kindly, but with kids anything can happen--one moment it's all good & the next there's an accident that needs to be dealt with by someone with a clear head. Tell him you would feel better if he would assure you he will be the "designated driver" so to speak, while they are enjoying your kids company.

How the rest of the ILs handles your MIL's drinking, I'd say isn't even your worry. It's a hard subject to deal with. But these are YOUR children. If you feel hinky about leaving your kids in her care, don't. Visit with your ILs as a total family. And then take your kids home. Good Luck.


answers from Hartford on

Just because she hasn't had a drink in front of your father-in-law since "the incident" that doesn't mean she isn't secretly drinking and you have to know that your FIL knows that. If she's not in treatment or hasn't been in treatment since "the incident" in actual rehab then she's not sober. She might have made an attempt at it, but the success rate for remaining sober without the help of rehab is very small. There's no accountability, but also there are health risks to not doing it without help.

I'm curious, though, if she's received an actual diagnosis. Not my business of course, but it could help her get treatment covered under insurance.

Never let your children be in their presence unsupervised. Your FIL is an enabler. Never let your children in a car with your MIL, obviously, but I wouldn't let them go with your FIL either since he clearly doesn't have the protectiveness he should over his grandchildren that he should and you couldn't trust that he won't bring the children around his wife.

You just can't be nice about this. You can't compromise over it. You can't worry about it hurting her feelings, or your FIL's, or hurting the relationship. If she doesn't hit rock bottom and him with her, then there's no motivation for change.


answers from Houston on

What parent has not had a drink around their child?

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