Direct Answers – One For The Road

One For The Road

My alcoholic brother will not apologize for his horrendous behavior at our our son's wedding last October. In the past I would try nicely and ask him him to cut back on his drinking when he visited. Our furniture wasn't so lucky. He would break our chairs when he plopped down.

At our son's wedding he showed up in dirty torn clothes though I offered to to buy him a suit. He drank before he arrived, even after I asked him to please not drink that day. The moment my back was turned at the reception, he went to the microphone after I asked him not to.

I thought for one split second he might say something heart warming. All he said was, "Get a divorce, sell the house, go to Vegas." Then he sat down laughing, tossing the gift my son and daughter-in-law made for all the guests up into
the air like a ball.

I was so mortified. My husband was in shock. We did not want to make a scene and cause further embarrassment, but a family friend asked him to please be respectful of his nephew and the bride. Shortly after, he left, thank goodness.

For several weeks he called and left messages on our phone saying how great it was to be part of the wedding and reception. He also asked for an invitation to our home at Christmas. I was so angry I did not return his calls until
December 27th.

With as much compassion as possible I told him why he was not invited to spend Christmas with my family. I said my sons do not want to be around him any more.  I said what he did at the wedding was so humiliating he will not be invited to my youngest son's wedding.

I have always been there for him when the rest of the family turned their backs due to the way he treats them. When his apartment burnt down, I bought him all new clothes, toiletries, coats and shoes when my other siblings would not even give him $20.

I love my brother, and it fills my heart with such sadness not to include him in my life, but I have had enough. He will never acknowledge the hurt he causes me or apologize.

Should he and other estranged relatives be invited to events because of right or entitlement, or should invitations to a bridal shower, wedding or christening be a privilege?

~ Lena

Lena, let's talk about your brother first and assume the disease model of alcoholism is correct.

Your brother has a disease. But what kind of disease? Self-contained, or infectious? Obviously it is infectious. His disease ruins once-in-a-lifetime events like a wedding and recurring events like Christmas.

Infectious diseases must be quarantined.

He also suffers from alcoholic vanity. He thinks he is the cleverest dog in the pack while making a spectacle of himself.

His comments at your son's wedding reveal how distorted his thinking is. Getting involved with him in tit-for-tat discussions will do nothing but frustrate you. You can't reason with a drunk. What you can do is, once and for all, let him know your door will be open to him if he changes.  Then end contact.

Of course it fills your heart with sadness, because family ties are wired into our memories and into our DNA. But sometimes behavior trumps biology, and this is one of those times.

But what about other estranged relatives? You seem such a kind and open person we can't imagine you are at the root of any of this. So we suggest following following two rules.

First, closeness. Invite only those you are close to. Second, feedback. Invite only those who give you positive feedback.

Don't let ideas of "should" and "ought" rule your behavior. Let the reality of others' behavior be your guide, not ideas of right, entitlement or privilege.

~ Wayne & Tamara

Column for the week of August 10, 2015

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