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Brother Right Off The Rails

Elise wrote:

I am beyond frustrated and have no idea what to do.

My Dad is in the last stages of cancer and my mom is doing her best to care for him. They are both recently retired and on a limited income.

My brother was married for 12 years with 3 children. He decided about 2 years ago he no longer loved his wife and left her. He took a job in another city and decided after 1 month he did not like it so moved back, and has had trouble finding the right job the past 6 months, and has rung up some debt. He moved back in with my parents during this transition, and they asked he pay 1 bill, but he has started missing payments. He has had financial issues his whole life. He went bankrupt once and has hit what I call "rock bottom" 3 or 4 times. Everytime my mom has bailed him out. He was ok for a few years, but is again not paying his bills and broke, and asked my mom for money again. My parents can barely pay their own bills, let alone theirs. She knows she's enabling him to continue his negative behaviour, but she can't seem to say no. She always says its "the last time". This time though its worse as they don't need the stress of my brother, and I don't know how to help.

My brother makes me so angry, I want to pawn all his stuff (he did that to me and my dad when I was living there as a teenager). We've all tried talking, shouting, nothing seems to get through to him. He will agree and tell you what he thinks you want to hear but then do whatever he wants anyways. I've told my mom the best thing to do is limit her interactions with him, as he is also very hurtful and only calls them when he wants something. Never once has my brother called just to see how my Dad is, even during his chemo.

There have been many indications of some kind of mental illness or psychopath behaviours of my brother, and I secretly worry if pushed he will hurt himself. He has been suicidal previously. He is not being a good father to the kids, barely ever around for them and is now not paying his child support. We have no idea what he spends his $ on, he goes through hundreds of dollars every month, but won't say what he is buying. He is not on drugs but what is going on? I think he is seeing prostitutes or something, he even spent $5000 my parents had saved for the kids from an education fund. My mom gave it to my brother for putting in the bank, and he of course has spent it but won't admit to it.

He needs professional help, and I have no idea what to do. Do we confront him and tell him how badly he is behaving? He is very bitter to me as I have done pretty good for myself (after a lot of hard work) and thinks my parents love me more, which is nonsense. He has these big chips on his shoulder, and I just want him to sort himself out, pay his own bills and stop hurting my parents when they really need support in this difficult time. He has a new girlfriend, who we also think was a part of why his marriage ended.

Should I talk to her and see if she can try getting through to him? Maybe she does not know the financial trouble he is in? Maybe she doesn't know about the debt?

How can my brother not see how destructive and hurtful he is being to everyone? And how do we get him the mental illness help he needs? Mental illness runs in our family, and I truly believe he needs help.

Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Elise

The sad fact of life is you cannot control your brother; you cannot even help him unless he lets you.

From what you say, he may well need professional help, but you cannot force that on him unless you can demonstrate that he is a risk to himself or to others,

What you can do is talk with your parents, and see if you can agree on a way to act firmly and consistently to defend yourselves from his ways. Even that sounds difficult at the moment.

I'd advise against talking with his girlfriend, unless she shows that she wants to discuss these things.

I guess you've tried talking with him, and that's always something worth doing.

The final resort is to cut yourself off from him.

He sounds as if he will not take any help, and that's unlikely to change unless something unforseen happens - in that case, be as supportive and as positive as you can.

Good Luck.

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