Case of the Week
I have an older brother who is thirty-five and I am thirty. He has been separated from his wife for two years because he is a drunk.... He doesn’t do anything for his two children and he lives off of other people....
Three years ago he got a loan, complete with a legal contract, and he is about to go to jail because of not paying. Now they are asking for me to help him by giving him the money, and I have said that I will only help if they put him in jail for a while so that he will learn... (a month or a short time so that he will change) or if he comes to live with me and signs papers that he owes me the money. Then if he doesn’t do right, I can have him put in jail. I don’t know if I am thinking clearly.... He always says he will change, but never improves.
Thank you for writing to us. Hopefully this answer will get to you before you make a very big mistake.
Are you thinking clearly? No! Your brother absolutely will not change just because he owes the money to you instead of where he currently owes it. In fact, he is less likely to ever pay you because it would be so emotionally difficult for you to have him put in jail. He would appeal to your emotions as a brother, and he would try to get other family members to make you feel like the bad guy.
How about having him live with you? Again, no! An alcoholic will not change just because someone decides to monitor him or keep him from drinking. He will not change just because you offer him your help. He will continue to promise, but never fulfill the promise. He will disrupt your entire life, and there is very little chance that he will change because of your sacrifice.
You have obviously made wise decisions for your life. That is why you have the money to consider helping him even though you are five years younger. We believe the best way you can help your brother is to help his children. They need a strong, positive role model. And they probably need financial help with school and clothing and activities. Tell your brother that you will help him by helping his kids. When he asks you for money or to get him out of jail, respond with the things that his children need and the ways that you are helping.
Your brother will not change without help from God and from a support group for alcoholics. But he must want to do it; you cannot convince him if he doesn’t want to.
You need a lot of wisdom for dealing with these difficult issues. Ask God to come into your life and to help you make good decisions. He will give you peace in spite of hard times.
We wish you well,