Family Crisis: Advice Appreciated!

Here’s the background. My mother has 8 siblings, 3 brothers and 5 sisters. The family lives in the same state or neighboring states. I’m very close with this side of my family. At the last family shindig, I noticed an aunt behaving strangely and erratically. She was humping complete strangers on the dance floor and flashed her breasts several times throughout the night.

This aunt went through a messy divorce and her ex isn’t keeping up with child support and has been pulling other bullshit such as cancelling her health insurance. So, my aunt was forced to go on welfare. Now, she’s working two jobs. On top of all this, she has always been “high strung”. Basically, that’s the family’s way of saying mentally unstable. She was on medication but based upon her behavior at the party either she’s not taking anything or booze is cancelling out the effects.

My mom was so distressed by what she saw at the party, she has been talking to family about possibily staging an intervention. I’ve been trying to help with research and possible facilities that could work with my aunt. There are a bunch of problems too. If she gets admitted to a rehab facility, she could lose custody of her daughter. If she doesn’t have health insurance, who would pay for her treament? She has no money and is deeply in debt. As my mother has talked to other family members, she has found out about more erratic behavior (i.e. sleeping with strangers). My aunt’s daughter, my little 7 year old cousin, was begging her mom to “stop it” at the party. So sad…

I’m not sure I have any advice to offer, except the very general principle that, in family crises, direct communication is virtually always the best way to go. Either as an organized intervention or a series of calls or visits from concerned relatives, someone needs to talk to her.

I’m sorry to hear about the whole situation. It must be heartbreaking, especially with the child in the picture. :frowning:

It’s possible she could lose custody anyway, if she continues with the erratic and self-destructive behavior she is currently displaying, as this behavior is surely damaging to the child. My WAG is that if she (whether as a result of family help or on her own) takes steps to get things under control - including rehab if appropriate - her chances of retaining or regaining custody would be far better than if the butthead ex gets wind of this and sues for custody right now. Anyway, it definitely is something to keep in mind.

Could she sign temporary custody over to another family member?

What were the circumstances of the divorce? If cruelty or abuse was involved, you could swing it, maybe.

The circumstances of her divorce do involve cruelty and abuse. My mom is trying to take it really slow. We don’t even have a goal yet. It’s either rehab, inpatient psychiatric care or getting my aunt to move up here closer to the family.

Well, at first I thought,

Hey, she was just kicking at a party and got a bit out of control, no big deal.

But the sleeping with strangers part is much more worriesome. I would say, the aunt needs her family to engage. Her life is tough. Show her some fun. Show her you care.

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 ( 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.

I do second the suggestion of signing temporary custody over to a family member if she decides to go to rehab.

My cousin had to go to PRISON and she signed custody of her son over to my family. They didn’t strip her of her parental rights. Most courts look favorably on people who voluntarily go into rehab, because they’re admitting they have a problem and want help. If the courts have to force her, she might lose custody.

That said - she might be having a mid-life crisis. A friend of the family did a lot of similar things when she got divorced after several bad years of marriage and a kid. It just kinda smacks up against you at once, she says, and you kinda lose it and just want to have fun after all of that. Communication with her would be best - let her know you’re really concerned because she’s acting so different lately. Don’t come off as offensive, because she’ll probably go on the defensive. And definitely be there for her kid, so that she has somewhere to go if she doesn’t feel safe for some reason.