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#456353 - 12/08/13 05:50 AM We are at a loss- ideas for help appreciated
HRB Offline

Registered: 11/14/13
Posts: 7

I'm a first time poster on this forum and I really appreciate all of the good work that this organization has done and continues to do.

I am writing about my uncle (now 55 years old). About 10 years ago it came out that he had been sexually abused when he was about 13 years old by an American teacher while he was living overseas (with his immediately family, i.e. my grandparents). I believe that he had suppressed the memory for most of his life until a near-divorce with his wife at that time triggered it to come back again. After learning this and reading more about the subject, I'm convinced that his abuse has influenced his entire life - choices, addictions, personality traits, etc.

He has been an alcoholic for quite some time and over the past few years it has gotten out of control. Since December 2012, he has lost his job, lost his marriage (he and his wife are currently pursuing a divorce- for real this time), lost his children (his oldest son won't even talk to him at this point), has been to an international 30-day rehab retreat (which worked upon his return home for about two weeks and then he went right back to it once he was around his triggers again), and has begun to destroy the remainder of his family as well (his parents [my grandparents] are in their 80s and forced to take care of him at all hours of the night, his sisters [my mom and aunt] have to spoon feed him every day, and everyone fights constantly and is miserable because of the situation). Currently, he is in a catatonic state laying in a chair in his house, can't form a coherent sentence, won't eat, and is basically killing himself slowly.

His immediate family members are trying to attack the alcohol problem but I do believe (after what I've learned) that alcohol is not the cause of all of this, but the sexual abuse he experienced is. However, I do understand that he can't even talk to anyone before getting sober, so I do understand why they are going after that issue first. But, during the bouts where he has been sober, everyone just kind of holds their breathe and waits until he begins drinking again, instead of trying to get him into an intensive therapy program. I guess because "not drinking" is such an improvement that everyone is afraid to push him forward towards additional solutions. He's also not very agreeable to anything that will ultimately help his situation (he has been to a few therapists but reacts to them as if he knows much more than they do, and won't be honest with them- I have read about similar reactions in a few sexual abuse books, so I guess this is common?). I think that he is giving up and letting his demons win, because he cannot find a way to deal with them. Not to mention the fact that he's been an incredibly stubborn person since birth. I guess in the state in which he is currently living we could call 911 and they could forcefully commit him somewhere, but my grandmother is completely against that, so we are left with caring for someone who is in a catatonic state, not eating, and slowly killing himself.

I know that all of the above sounds incredibly hopeless, but the one thing that I (as the resourceful person in the family) had not yet done was post on this forum and seek advice. I am wondering if any of you have any ideas at all about how to handle this. I thought "rock bottom" would be the impetus for him to seek treatment (on multple levels), but "rock bottom" has come and gone.

Do any of you have any ideas about how we could begin to turn this situation around, and above all, HELP him? Are there therapists who specialize in sexual abuse victims who would make house calls? Are there therapists and/or treatment centers that specialize in the alcoholism-addiction-sexual abuse combination? Is there someone he can talk to on the phone? Are there things we can say to encourage him to get the help that he needs (since he is not very agreeable to anything)? Is there anything we can do while he's completely obliterated by alcohol or do we indeed have to wait until he's sober to address the real issue here? Also, what can I do to convince the rest of my family that we need to concentrate on addressing the sexual abuse issue and not just the alcohol problem?

Any advice or encouragement would be appreciated. At this point, we are all getting pretty hopeless and think he will not survive through the new year. When I was growing up, I knew him as this amazing, fun, strong, spirited person, and I'd do anything to get him back to that, no matter what we have to do or how long it takes. I know the rest of my family feels the same way.

Thank you, and I really appreciate all of you and everything you do to help people who seek assistance from this wonderful organization.


#456362 - 12/08/13 10:32 AM Re: We are at a loss- ideas for help appreciated [Re: HRB]
catfish86 Offline

Registered: 10/27/09
Posts: 832
Loc: Ohio

Welcome to the site. I have been where your uncle is in a lot of ways. Where to start is a good question.

I am an alcoholic and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. That is my insulin (as if I were a diabetic). My alcoholism is a disease without a cure. Any time I pick up a drink, the fuse is lit whether it is a long or short fuse is the only question. That is my recommendation for the alcohol problem. No program has quite the track record of AA.

As to the abuse issues, there is a broad range of types of abuse, all of which can have varied impact depending upon the individual and the support they receive/don't receive. You haven't given us much detail on that.

As to whether to treat the alcoholism first, I can tell you I ended up in therapy because I repressed the worst episode of abuse. To get my side of it out of the way: I was 8 when an uncle we barely knew took my 10 yo brother and I and held us for two weeks. We were raped and tortured. We survived but it damn sure wasn't his fault. Our mother showed up and essentially kidnapped us back but never had us checked out or wanted to know what he did. We repressed it completely. My brother ended up killing himself at 40, which after a time led to the surfacing of PTSD and flashbacks for me.

I ended up in therapy. Not all therapists are created equal or necessarily work well with all patients. Some of the therapists he saw may have been incompatible or incompetent. It took three therapists until I found one that worked. As we started, she told me that I was an alcoholic and my drinking would kill me. She also said it was one of the things I was using to cope and until she taught me something to replace it, she wasn't going to push it. Once I hit that point (I finally quit when faced with the need to pack beer for a family church camp), it took her some time to get me to go to AA meetings, but it helped both my drinking and dealing with my past.

My therapist said that I was an alcoholic regardless (family history on both sides) of abuse. However, the alcoholism formed part of my response. I responded by doing what came natural, use alcohol. I now know that I needed the alcohol to be numb. Being numb was the only way I could survive. That all being said, you are right that both the alcohol and the abuse damage can be fatal. I can now laugh at my initial reaction. My body and health were in a death spiral out of nowhere. After a laundry list of tests on about everything, I was meeting with my doctor to discuss it. I had just a month before started experiencing flashbacks (full immersion) and finally told my wife before she fled with the children. My wife egged me into disclosing to my doctor, who had a clipboard ready for theories and plans to deal with my multiplying ailments. After I told the doctor, he glanced at the clipboard and put it aside, saying that explains a lot, you need to see a therapist. I told him I had it handled. He asked me if I broke my leg, would I set it myself and expect it to heal? He said my mind was injured every bit as much as if I had broken my leg. Most of my ailments have faded with therapy.

There is hope but what you need to do will take more than one post. Stick around, read some and you will learn a lot.

There are many things I first learned here, like the fact that a male may have an erection in response to abuse DOES NOT mean that he wanted or enjoyed it any more than shivering means you enjoy being cold.

Edited by catfish86 (12/08/13 10:36 AM)
God grant me
The Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.

#456470 - 12/09/13 07:42 PM Re: We are at a loss- ideas for help appreciated [Re: HRB]
Esposa Offline

Registered: 10/19/11
Posts: 811
Loc: NJ
In reading your post I had two initials thoughts - one, he has people who love him, like you. Two, he needs a dose of HOPE. How do we give people hope? I am not sure of that answer, although I think it is one of the things that this site does well, to see what we are not alone in our experiences, to see that others have thrived and overcome.

Can he listen if you read him things from this website? There is hope for everyone, even for him.

#456504 - 12/10/13 07:59 AM Re: We are at a loss- ideas for help appreciated [Re: HRB]
HRB Offline

Registered: 11/14/13
Posts: 7
Thank you so much, catfish86 and esposa. I so appreciate you both so much for responding to me.

Catfish86- I cannot imagine the horror you and your brother went through. After educating myself on this topic, I truly believe that it is the absolute worst thing a child can go through (and it makes me very scared to have kids of my own). Your story proved that correct once again. I admire your strength in moving forward with your life.

As far as my uncle is concerned, I don't know many specifics about the abuse, except that it was a teacher that became very close with him and his parents (my grandparents) and he has taught at many international schools (he therefore, I assume, has unfortunately done this to many, many children throughout his life). We all know his name and have seen photos of him in old family slide shows (we did not know about the abuse back when my grandfather would put on the slide shows- I can't image what my uncle must have felt watching them). We do think that the man did it to other children as well (while my uncle was there, or at the same time), specifically when they were all on camping trips. From other random comments my uncle has made throughout life, I can imagine the guy carried out all of the acts possible. I do think that he spent a lot of time grooming my uncle and that this guy did a very good job gaining my uncle's trust, and my grandparents' trust. I'm not sure how long the abuse went on, but they lived in that country for at least 2-3 years, I believe.

My uncle has tried AA but does not respond well to the religious aspect of it. I have looked up treatment facilities that do not use the AA method, but we have not gotten him to agree to go to one yet. Yesterday there was talk of hiring a professional "interventionist", but I think that was nixed by my grandparents. I also learned that he called a treatment center to find out more information (hurray!), but after talking to them, he decided that it was too expensive (which is really just an excuse because the whole family has agreed that money is no object here).

I do think that he would greatly benefit from coming onto this site and using its resources. I don't know the best way to introduce him to it, however. Again, most of my family members are attacking the alcohol problem (for good reason) so I do not know how to approach him from the perspective of this issue (what the heck do I know, after all??). I am in uncharted waters here, and I am neither trained nor knowledgable in this topic or how to support people who have gone through sexual abuse as a child. But, by default, and only because I have chosen to research it, I am now the premiere expert in my family. So I would appreciate any ideas on how to broach this subject with him or how to get him to get on this website or read the books or watch the shows (I just finished watching the Oprah episodes and they were very enlightening)- at least these resources would show him that he is not alone. But after the Penn State situation he was very traumatized so I am hesitant to be pushy about it. And, of course there is the issue of him being so out of it because of the alcohol that he can't really comprehend anything anyway. But, as catfish86 mentioned, that is the way he is numbing things. Should I start another thread asking friends and family how they introduced their loved one who was abused to this site? Maybe I will do that.

But esposa, your are so right that he does have people who love him- lots of people - and we all want him to get better and go back to being the awesome person he was. And your are also right that he has totally lost hope. I am going to think about how we can give him hope again- even it if is just a little bit.

Thank you.

#457041 - 12/19/13 02:06 AM Re: We are at a loss- ideas for help appreciated [Re: HRB]
gettingstronger Offline

Registered: 09/24/13
Posts: 317
Loc: Virginia

I wish all survivors had someone as loving as you looking out for them! To say you've been a real trooper here is a gross understatement. Thanks (on your uncle's behalf) for really hanging in there.

I'm not a therapist, but a few things came to mind as I read your posts. Does he know that you know about the abuse? I know everyone's focusing on the alcohol, but you're absolutely right-- it's an effect of a larger problem (the abuse) and not a problem to be addressed in isolation. Deal with the abuse, and the need to get drunk all the time will probably lessen. (At least that was the case with me.)

This may be either out of line or something you've already tried, but it might work-- even if he's drunk beyond coherence. Pick a time when you're alone, and start something like this:

"Uncle, do you know how much I love you? (Let him respond, as much as he can.) Do you remember what it was like when we used to do (x)? (Let him respond again.) Uncle, I know what that teacher did to you. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I love you and I know how much it hurt you. I don't want to know what happened-- but can you talk about how you feel right now?" (Let him respond.)

What I'm hoping to see happen here is, even if he's practically incoherent, he'll finally open up. Not about what happened-- it may be early for that-- but about how he feels about it. If the two of you are alone and it's done in a non-confrontational way by someone he loves and trusts, I'm hoping it might at least help let out a torrent of bad feelings he's trying to keep inside by staying intoxicated. If he can at least rant about what a bastard that guy was and how crappy he feels, it's a starting point.

I know he's been to some therapists, but it can be really hard to find the right one. It can also happen if you reach an impasse and it seems like things can't move forward. You (the patient) may seem like things just aren't going to get better and quit the therapy.

I know this sounds like "confrontation" or "intervention," but those terms have way more drama than I'm imagining here. I'm thinking of a calm, gentle talk where you tell him that you know he's been hurt, you tell how much you love him, and you invite him to talk about not what happened but about how it's been making him feel. If he opens up a little, this could be a chance to reassure him that it was NOT his fault, that he was the victim of a crime, and he has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. (Read this site for all sorts of things it sounds like he needs to learn.)

Like I said, I don't know if you've already tried this. You're probably in the best position to gauge his moods and whether he can handle having the topic broached. See what you think and post as you need to. Take care.


#457043 - 12/19/13 02:29 AM Re: We are at a loss- ideas for help appreciated [Re: HRB]
gettingstronger Offline

Registered: 09/24/13
Posts: 317
Loc: Virginia

As for your family, my own family made a similar mistake with my aunt-- focusing on her alcohol and drug use and not the reasons for it. She was sexually abused as a child and married someone who I regard as the biggest bastard in the universe. He and his live-in mother controlled the household, and my aunt stayed in her room all day, high on prescription drugs and alcohol.

My family chose to ignore her past and his frequent abuse of her and instead chastised her for being drunk/high all the time. Had they done what you are doing and addressed the underlying issues instead of the drug and alcohol use, she would probably still be alive today. (She died of a massive overdose and liver failure at age 50.)

Anyway, my point is that it's easy for families to focus on the "surface" issues-- like alcohol abuse-- and forget that people don't abuse it without a reason. You're doing the right thing.

In my own situation, I went from almost a bottle of wine per day to 1-2 glasses per wine per month, and I don't miss it at all. The need to stay drunk just isn't there any more for me. You can reassure your family that the real issue is the abuse, and that the alcohol won't go away until he starts the healing process. No guarantees, obviously, but this has been my experience. Best to you.



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