"Nah it's cool, I'm used to it" Helping Siblings in Bad Relationships (long post)

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Post by InkAndComb on Thu Jan 29, 2015 5:59 pm

So I have an advice question, but it's not for myself; it's for my brother.  

My brother has a very low sense of self worth and struggles with severe MDD.  Around highschool he started getting into trouble; he self-medicated and fell off the health bandwagon when he abused substances.  Alcohol and heroin were the primary culprits, and it was a long journey for him to recovery and sobriety.  Part of his journey towards recovery led to him leaving the state; he took a backpack, $200, and travelled across the country to live with a woman he met online.  Here is a happy part of the story; he got clean, and has been clean for 11 years now.  GirlfriendX became his sole support for awhile in this journey, and they were very tight.  He had lost all his friends at this point, so also his only social connect.  He's been very grateful, and since he was coming off of drugs, will do anything and everything she asks of him to "make up for the debt" of the recovery process.

Within the last 6 monthes, she has been having an affair.  She also controls his bank account (originally to make sure he wouldn't buy drugs, but 11 years and still clean later, now takes money out for personal use and house payments).  She ALSO is the only owner of the shared cottage that they live in (since he had issues with credit and criminal record).

Now, post-cheating and breakup, he is contemplating moving out but his money keeps disappearing (surprise -_- ) and GirlfriendX ACTUALLY WANTS HIM TO STAY because it's "easier having him around the house".

How can I help my brother? I'm a fulltime student and don't have enough to actually save anything to send him, and whenever I talk to him it's clear he has a low sense of self worth (he feels like "he doesn't deserve to leave the house anyways").  I want to be there for him, both supportive emotionally but also I want to have practical information so that he knows it isn't impossible to leave the house and be on his own. I'm also against him moving back; he doesn't want to, but my mom is pushing this (I think this will cause him to start doing drugs again.  His leaving the state was the real kickstarter to him getting clean).  Is this me just being overly concerned?

Can anyone give me advice? This all happened so fast; after myvisit I thought for sure things were ok (if not a bit codependent), and I don't know what to tell someone who only turned their life around by the power of another person's love :I  Please help? ANY advice is good advice at this point, I just want my brother to be ok (he's in AA and NA, but might be inbetween counselors for general issues).

I'm sorry this was so long! I love this community otherwise I wouldn't ask; you are all so wise and I appreciate and value your feedback :3
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Jan 29, 2015 6:12 pm

Oh, I'm so sorry your brother is going through that. There's some worrying stuff going on, and I'd say you're right to be concerned.

The practical thing you can do that comes to my mind is to try to think about who is on Team Him. There's you and your mom, of course, though you're limited in your ability to do some things for him and your mom doesn't necessarily agree with your brother about the right way to handle things. Is there anyone else? If your brother is in AA and NA, he presumably has a sponsor. Even if you don't know who that person is, I think it might be worth it to nudge your brother to talk to him, especially since the sponsor may have some practical experience with controlling and codependent relationships. Is your brother working? Friendly with any neighbors? Basically anyone he can rally to his side will probably be helpful right now, even if they're not strictly in the friend category.

It can actually be kind of a big step to wrap your mind around the idea of leaving someone, especially if the relationship has some components of emotional abuse (which may or may not be at work here). At this stage of things, I suspect even small steps like taking the girlfriend's name off the account seem like huge steps, especially when there are issues of self-worth and guilt at stake. Having people around him who can ask him about how he's doing or offer to drive him somewhere may actually be quite helpful.
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Fri Jan 30, 2015 8:41 am

For your own peace of mind, understand that if she's genuinely toxic, this is gonna be a long-haul thing, and it can probably get worse before it gets better.

If the guy's not already writing a diary of some sort, have him do so, preferably in a place she can't view. This is a)a manner to get his own feelings sorted and b)can serve as a log of abusive patterns that can't be so easily gaslighted away.

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Post by InkAndComb on Mon Feb 02, 2015 5:51 pm

Hi there, thank you for the responses!

eselle: I never thought about a sponsor; in hindsight, he did say he had a few people he spoke to regularly from the meetings and could text, I'm assuming that these might be those people.  I'm not sure about coworkers; he said people like him at work, so maybe he just has to reach out a bit?  I'll try to encourage that next time we talk; he has mentioned feeling alone and isolated, so I think that will help.  As to neighbors, the ones he knew just moved away a month or so ago.  Do you have any tips for a quieter person to reach out in a community? I'm a little worried because some of his social circle were friends-of-the-sigfig, and they've apparently cut contact with him.

On the small steps; it's true, I think that would make him feel more confident (the bank account and name).  He's so used to letting her be in charge of the finances and stuff, I kind of wonder if it would make the separation more 'real' and why he might be hesitating.  He says they've been mostly not speaking to each other, but they live in a cottage so I can only imagine how they can avoid each other.  If he tries to take her name off the account, is there a way she can reinstate it? If this is too technical nvm, I'm not sure how this works precisely.

BasedBuzzed; you're right, when I first made the initial post I could feel that "I can't believe this is happening what can I do" panic setting in, and I gotta remind myself this is a process and not a definite-solution type of deal, which means time and patience and support.  Do you have any suggestions for how to prepare for the long haul?   The diary is an excellent suggestion; he has a shed in the backyard where he keeps his blacksmithing gear, and I know she doesn't go out there ever since it's so messy.  I bet he could hide a diary in there easily.  And that's extra help, because sometimes after he says stuff he suddenly goes quiet and says things like "It really isn't as bad as it sounds, I swear" or "I mean, that's just how she is and I've gotten used to it, she's done so much for me".  But now that this is happening I really want him to be able to see that it's not "just him" and that he's valid.  In addition, if he has this he can probably talk to his therapist about it more easily too, if he wants to.  

Thanks again for the responses, it just sucks so much that it got this way.
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Post by eselle28 on Mon Feb 02, 2015 6:06 pm

InkAndComb wrote:Hi there, thank you for the responses!

eselle: I never thought about a sponsor; in hindsight, he did say he had a few people he spoke to regularly from the meetings and could text, I'm assuming that these might be those people.  I'm not sure about coworkers; he said people like him at work, so maybe he just has to reach out a bit?  I'll try to encourage that next time we talk; he has mentioned feeling alone and isolated, so I think that will help.  As to neighbors, the ones he knew just moved away a month or so ago.  Do you have any tips for a quieter person to reach out in a community? I'm a little worried because some of his social circle were friends-of-the-sigfig, and they've apparently cut contact with him.

Encouraging him to reach out to those people sounds like a good idea! It's a lot easier to leave a troubled relationship when you feel people around you can support you. I think quieter people generally do better expanding current contacts (which is why I thought of that first), but joining a new club or activity might be a way for him to both build up a life outside of his shared home with his girlfriend/ex-girlfriend and an opportunity to meet new people. Does he have any hobbies, or might volunteer work be appealing to him? This is just personal experience, but I found volunteer work helped my self-esteem when it wasn't at its hottest because there's a certain sense of worth and accomplishment that comes with it.

If he tries to take her name off the account, is there a way she can reinstate it? If this is too technical nvm, I'm not sure how this works precisely.

That depends on whether it's a joint account or if the account is in his name, with her as an authorized person who can use it. Speaking in generalities, it's usually fairly easy to remove an authorized user, and they wouldn't be able to reinstate access. If it's an account they hold jointly, then the two of them will need to work things out so they can close the account. Another option that he could use if he doesn't want to attract her attention quite so quickly would be to open a new second account and start depositing his paychecks into that account in preparation for separating from her.
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Mon Feb 02, 2015 6:35 pm

I would mostly be repeating what Captain Awkward says better: lots of self-care, and also assembling your own Team to vent to or distract you like Eselle28 suggested for your bro.

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