My fairly recent experience…
My sister, who is in her early 30s, had been in a relationship for a long time with a guy. We discovered it was abusive and pulled her out shortly before Christmas. She lives in a different state than all of us, so keep this in mind.
By Febuary, her employer was paying for her to go to a very expensive rehab center (alcohol) - the type that has famous guests. As far as she will tell us (and we can’t find out due to health care confidentiality laws) she has not been diagnosed as an alcoholic. But they dried her out. However, rehab left her WORSE off than when she went in - now diagnosed as codependant, she came to believe that she’d been sexually abused as a child by almost ever adult man she knew (she didn’t go as far as accusing my father, but my grandfathers and uncles all got fingers pointed at them). Her family was at fault for not protecting her from this abuse. And, needless to say, self medicating from these horrible memories by drinking seemed to her to be wholy appropriate.
About a month after that, we pulled her into outpatient - my sister took her in so someone could be with her (remember, she is halfway across the country). Still she claims she isn’t an alcoholic, but now at least she believes these are memories she acquired in rehab where she was exposed to the stories of others.
She goes back…and…
She has lost her job, but has managed to find a new one. She has a new boyfriend. We don’t know too much more. We aren’t supposed to ask other than general questions. We are hoping that what we get told from her is good (we call each other “she sounded good to you, didn’t she?” “Has she returned your call?”) - but knowing that until it was really bad, she kept what was happening well hidden.
My sister doesn’t have kids. If you suspect your aunt’s daughter will get removed from the house, it may be best if you volunteer (or someone else does) to take her in. My understanding is that social services would rather place her with family than stick her in the foster care system…its worth having a conversation with the family now about it, so you look organized if social services does step in (or if you need to pull her before social services steps in). Also, make sure to document any abuse so that the ex husband doesn’t get custody - however, if she didn’t document it when it happened, it may be hard for you to prevent him getting custody if he wants it.
You can call an admittence counselor at Hazelden (not the center my sister went through, which will remain nameless, but which I wouldn’t send a drunk dog to) and they can talk you through some options (www.hazelden.org) including how to stage an intervention and help you decide if its appropriate. They are very well respected in the field and were a lot of help, even though my sister ended up somewhere else. I’d also recommend Al-anon - I haven’t gone myself, but my mother and sister find it helpful (I’m less close and less involved).
I do want to say that this is far more common than you know, and you’ll start hearing rehab and sobriety stories from strangers. At the time my sister went in, one of my coworkers wives was coming out (I think she’s had more success). I also want to let you know that no one can choose sobriety for her - she has to want it - if she hasn’t, all the intervention in the world will just be spitting in the wind. There were many people at the rehab center for whom sobriety was being chosen - and none of them were going to be successful. Many who checked themselves out after a few days.