Mom is 88 years old and a long time alcoholic. She is almost blind and uses a walker because she broke her hip twice and still lives alone in a regular apartment. She complains about how tired she is but still walks a mile (each way) to buy liquor even in winter when the roads and sidewalks are covered by snow. Sometimes she falls in the street.

She won't ask anyone to pick it up for her, because she knows that we think she is an alcoholic. I have refused to buy it for her before, but now I don't know if I should start.

She is risking her life by walking to the liquor store and has ended up in the hospital because she falls in the street. She won't use a car service or ask anyone to drive her. She will let us order regular groceries through a delivery service. But not liquor and cigarettes. Should I start buying it for her? Her doctor says she is competent and has the right to make her own decisions.

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Here's my take on things, for what it's worth.

Your mother is addicted to booze and cigarettes, period. At 88, she's not going to rehab or counseling or AA, it is what it is. Cigarettes and booze are her friends; her companions, the only comforts left for her at this stage of life.

If you buy her booze and cigarettes, yes, you are 'enabling' her. But in reality, she's going to buy herself cigarettes and booze ANYWAY, and wind up in the hospital as a result of doing so. That will leave you feeling badly because your mother hurt herself on her quest to satisfy her addictions.

It's a no-win situation. You both lose. She's already lost because she's an addict who's proven she's willing to hurt herself, break bones, be hospitalized and even DIE in order to get her drugs of choice. Again, it is what it is.

So, if it were me, I'd buy my mother the booze and the cigarettes to avoid another trip to the hospital which, for me, would feel worse than knowing I'm 'enabling' her addiction which she's going to manage ANYWAY.

But.....and here's the but: I wouldn't buy a LOT of booze at one time b/c she might go on a big binge and drink it all up at once, killing herself in the process. Same with cigs, I wouldn't buy cartons at one time. Dole it out; one pack and one bottle, depending on what she drinks ie: 1 bottle of wine or 1 pint of hard liquor, etc. Set something up where you swing by once a week or whatever and drop things off. Or, set something up with the liquor store where they will make a delivery, same difference.

Talk to mom and tell her that you know what she's doing and it's ok, you just want her to stay safe and not walk a mile to get her supplies. Get on the same page. And then accept the fact that YOU are not 'killing' her, she made the decision to smoke and drink long, long ago.......all you're doing is helping her NOT fall in the street or break her hip again.

I don't think there is a 'right' or 'wrong' answer here, either, by the way. Whatever feels right to YOU is what you should do, without judgment of your mother in the process, if possible. We all make our life's choices and they're not always wise, God knows.
Helpful Answer (24)
worriedinCali Oct 2020
Spot on!!
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To all of those sitting in judgement of providing the alcohol... it might not be possible for you to understand the lose, lose of this situation. Having an alcoholic for a parent is excruciatingly hard. Alcoholism is a disease and at 88 years old, this member's Mother is not likely to be able to do the work required to stop drinking. My father was an alcoholic, yes was. He's dead because he drank himself to death. There is NOTHING we as a family could do to make him stop drinking. This member should not be shamed over the pain of having to choose between two horrible choices. Mom is 88! I think we're well beyond calling the member an enabler- enabling aids in the continuation of a harmful behavior. Both choices will cause harm--that's why they are struggling and came here to ask the question.
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Bridger46146 Oct 2020
You are exactly right!
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I have read many of the responses to this post. Ideas range from making your 88-year old mother go through detox; getting her involved in AA; forcing her into some assisted living facility where she'll be unable to drink or smoke; or continuing to watch her walk to the liquor store for alcohol and cigarettes, even in the snow and ice.

I come from an alcoholic family in which most members were also were addicted to nicotine. I understand the evils of both these addictions. However, if this was my mom, and these were her addictions, I'd want most of all to keep her from falling in the snow, injuring herself during her walk, or being hit by a car during her walk.

I think it's about acceptance. She's not going to join AA; she's not going to voluntarily move to a facility; she's going to get her alcohol and nicotine, no matter how she has to do it. This is how it is. As her doctor says, she has the right to make her own decisions. They may not be the decisions one wishes their mom would make, but this is the reality. I'd get her the alcohol and cigarettes she wants/needs, with no discussion. I gave up my own addiction to nicotine after a massive psychological and physical struggle, but I was only 44 years old. My father gave up his addiction to alcohol, but it took jail terms and so much pain to do so. Let your mom be. Try to remember the good times, and enjoy the time you have left with her. Don't let others guilt you about this. You have the right to make your own peace with this. We are thinking of you.
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Bridger46146 Oct 2020
Mary 9999, Thank you for sharing your own struggles and those of your own family.
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Adult protective services won’t help at all if the elder is deemed “incompetent “. I called and had a nice lengthy conversation with them.

You know what they did? They closed the case without ever going over to her house. I told them everything about my mother and since she is competent she is free to make bad choices.

They also said that if they knocked on her door and she refused to open it, they would LEAVE. Nobody can walk inside someone’s home without a search warrant or the elders permission. You can’t just tell someone how to run there life if they are competent. If she wants to drink, let her drink. She’s elderly. What else does she have to look forward to?

Its a very hard pill to swallow. Watch an elderly LO who is competent and make bad choices and not being able to stop them. I tried and tried and tried everything and talked to doctors, elder lawyers, social workers, policemen, EMT’S. They all said the same thing. She’s competent to make her own choices. Her own decisions. Even if they are bad ones. As long as she’s not breaking the law, she is free to do what she likes in her own home.
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NeedHelpWithMom Oct 2020

You show respect to everyone as a fellow human being, regardless of your personal feelings on the destruction of addiction. It is a disease! It takes awhile to overcome and some like my brother never did. I am grateful that I can remember the good times before he destroyed his life. In spite of everything, he managed to have some success in life too. His life had value.

I see wisdom, compassion and love in your answers. It takes a special person to never want to strip away someone’s dignity. You are that person.

I try very hard to grow but fall short at times. We are all works in progress walking on our own path in life. Thanks for being an inspiration to me.

You accept what cannot be changed. You aren’t overly critical of others. You judge actions, not people. I see very few people that are able to truly live the ‘serenity prayer’ successfully like you seem to do.

I admire your qualities very much and always look forward to reading your posts.

I adore your sense of humor on many things. You’ve made me giggle often.

I truly appreciate a person that can make me laugh during challenging times.

Laughter is good for the soul. It’s not always easy to do. It doesn’t apply in all situations but when it does, it can really lighten our load for awhile. I find healing in laughter. In the past I have sunken in the depths of depression in my darkest hours when my brother was alive in his addiction. You have too with your mom’s gambling addiction.

I suppose we healed through being able to accept and forgive. God knows that no one has the power to change anyone else. We can only change our reaction, and hopefully grow past any bitterness that destroys us.

We both moved towards therapy to help us cope and walk away to save ourselves, yet still care as much as possible without going down with the ship. It’s a tough balancing act that at times I completely walked away from.

Thank God for all therapists that guide us in our time of need, huh?

I relate to your energy and spirit.
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Annemculver said it best. ONLY an alcoholic can save him or herself. YOU can’t!

I’ll say it louder for the people in the back of the room can hear. ONLY THE ALCOHOLIC CAN SAVE HIM OR HERSELF. YOU CAN’T!
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AlvaDeer Oct 2020
I do not think it would be appropriate for me to advise you either way. However, I would point that alcohol withdrawal is potentially life threatening. It can cause seizures, DTs and possible death. Alcoholics need to be medically detoxed
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NeedHelpWithMom Oct 2020
Many of us have been warning the OP of this. It’s extremely dangerous to quit abruptly. Thanks for supporting these facts.
This is tough. She cannot and should not stop abruptly.

Has she ever been in rehab before? Is she interested?

First of all, alcoholism is a disease. This is not her choice to drink. She simply can’t stop.

It doesn’t sound like her doctor is willing to help you help her.

Please call AA and Alcoholics Anonymous and ask them about their program or simply to discuss your situation.

Call a rehab facility or your local hospital and ask to speak to a social worker. They deal with alcoholism as a disease. You will be treated with respect. They will give you sound advice without judgment.

For the record, I grew up with an addict. So, I know how painful it is. I know the shame also.

People back then weren’t very kind to family members. Some still aren’t. It’s hard.

I wasn’t anything like my brother. Still, I was considered guilty by association. It nearly killed me as a kid. I became withdrawn.

I was always terrified of losing my big brother. It becomes a love/hate relationship.

People do not realize the agony that family members go through. I learned a lot later on in my life when I sought therapy to help cope with many aspects of life that I was going through. So many things go hand in hand. Issues become intertwined.

I wish you the very best in this extremely difficult and challenging situation.

I supported my brother as best I could but there is a limit. We cannot help anyone that isn’t willing to receive help. I reached a point that for my own sanity I had to walk away.

Was the estrangement forever? No, I was the last person at his bedside when he died. Did I forgive him? Yes, completely. Am I telling you what to do? No, you have to do what is right for you.

Was I angry? Yes, I went through lots of angry days. I chose to forgive so I could move forward and allow him to die in peace. At the end, most of all I felt sadness. Pure sadness. No more pain, no more anger, just sad. Then by the grace of God, I was able to let go and find peace.

The hospice social worker, nurses and chaplain helped me and my brother enormously. I am forever grateful to them.

Take care. 💗
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ArtistDaughter Oct 2020
I'm sorry about your brother, NeedHelp. When and if my brother goes back home from rehab, we don't know if he will begin drinking again, though it is the reason for his heart failure. He was revived at the hospital. He died and was brought back. But will he stop? He hallucinates that there is a beer next to him in his hospital bed and sips on his imaginary beers all day. Substance abuse runs through my family, and those of us who do not have it manage to marry into other families who have it. It seems never ending. My youngest son is sober now, but he's been sober sometimes for 6 years straight, then something happens emotionally and he thinks he needs a drink. And it starts all over. Yes, it's a disease. A horrible one.

In the situation of the mom here, I would not buy the alcohol, but would try to find professional help in getting her to stop drinking. So sad.
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I am torn on this.

Walking a couple miles is really good for her.

Maybe this is how she keeps herself from drinking soooo much.

Falls are going to happen no matter where she is, in the street at least someone sees her.

She has told you no and the doctor says she is completely competent.

When she goes to the liquor store she is known and gets some socialization.

I think that I would leave it alone and let her walk to the store until she can no longer do it. It is more than buying booze for her and she probably needs everything she gets out of the trips or she would give them up.

Buy her a nice coat, gloves, scarf and hat for her trips and make sure that she has emergency contact information on her.
Helpful Answer (13)

Well, it seems like you are caught in an ethical dilemma.

I can see both sides of the issue, and each side raises valid points. Both sides point out the good and bad points of your 2 choices. And I feel very deeply for you, because there really is no good option.

I've said before: if your choices were always good v. bad, life would be simple. But, unfortunately, sometimes your choices are bad, worse and worst. And that sucks, because we are left dealing with the fallout.

So my advice is this: make the choice that you can most easily live with the inevitable consequences - because ANY choice we ever make has consequences. And you, my friend, do not need to justify your decision to anyone.

I suspect you've already, privately, made up your mind on what to do, and you're maybe looking for validation. And that's ok. You obviously love mom and want what's best, within the scope of what she's willing to do. Whichever decision you make will not make you a bad person, or a bad daughter. Be at peace with what you decide to do.

God luck.
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Murrieta1 Oct 2020
Alcohol causes "intoxication". Alcohol is a toxin, a poison. It kills. I would not risk my freedom by intentionally poisoning another, especially a family member. Alcoholics Anonymous has a solution.
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So Op. it appears by some people’s logic you have to decide how you want your mom to die.

Its harmful to allow a nearly blind 88 year old with mobility problems to walk 2 miles to buy alcohol. Do you allow her to continue to do it and wait until a car takes her out of this world? Or what if she falls in the snow and freezes to death before someone finds her sprawled out in the snow?

Or do you stop her from walking to buy her alcohol and then wait as she dies from alcohol withdrawals?

It’s ultimately your choice but......she’s an 88 year old alcoholic. What is the actual harm in giving her alcohol in moderation? The reason liquor stores have been deemed essential throughout the pandemic is because of alcoholics. It’s harmful to cut them off.
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