In which my mother stages an intervention

I learned of this just this morning and my stomach is still tied up in knots about it. I’m not sure what to do and wanted to get advice from someone who doesn’t know any of the parties involved. That’s why I’m coming here. Mods: if this would be better in IMHO, please feel free to move it.

Okay, so my sister e-mailed me this morning to tell me that my mom and a friend of hers (who we barely know) decided to stage an intervention on my brother-in-law Saturday night. Now, my brother-in-law may have had his share of problems in the past, and he and I don’t particularly get along. However, I don’t think this intervention was at all necessary. My brother-in-law works nights and stays home with my niece during the day. He maybe goes out for drinks once a week, which I don’t see as a problem. My sister was not at home at the time and my brother-in-law was totally blindsided by this. My mom and her friend basically just showed up at his house and told him he drinks too much and will lose his family if he doesn’t quit.

My sister is extremely upset about this, and has asked for my help. I would like to talk to my mother about what she did, but I’m unsure how to go about it or whether it’s even my place to do so. I feel my mother has overstepped her bounds and I do not want to do the same. My greatest fear is that it’s going to hurt the whole family. I doubt we’ll be seeing my brother-in-law at family gatherings after this. I also hate to see my mom’s relationship with my nieces, who she’s very close to, become damaged as a result. I fear that my sister and my mom’s relationship will never be the same.

My sister thinks that it was my mom’s friend who put her up to it, and claims she’s heard she likes to stir things up for people. I don’t know the details or if it’s true. As I said, we barely know the woman. It really bothers me that this friend somehow thought she had the right to interfere in my sister’s family. If my mom wanted to stage an intervention, she should have talked to my sister and other family members first.

Whew. So, I really needed to get all that off my chest. Now I’m asking you, what do you think about what my mom did, and what would you do in my position?

I think you need to talk to your mom and get her side of the story before you go any further.

I feel that as long as your sister asked you to intercede, you aren’t overstepping your bounds. Do ask your mom for her side of the story, but she needs to know what she’s done in terms of damage to all these relationships. If she’s the type who will apologize for stepping out of line, she’d be wise to do so. I don’t blame your sister or BIL for being hugely pissed off.

I think I’ll call her after work and ask her what happened. It’s so weird and seems so uncharacteristic of my mom, but there’s no way my sister and brother-in-law would make this up. It’s all so confusing because in the past when my grandma has bad-mouthed my brother-in-law, my mom has always stood up for him. To me, my mom has always talked about what a good dad he is and other things along those lines. This seemed to come out of nowhere.

And yeah, I’d definitely be pissed if she had done it to us. One of my other sisters is afraid her husband will be next.

Bingo! That line right there is the one thing that would get me the most. I would have a sit-down with my mother and point out that other family members were not brought into this incredibly important decision.

Point out that:
1.) you are family, and if there was really a problem, the first to whom she should have turned.
2.) her friend made no attempt to contact either you or your sister. She appearantly knew everything from simply listening to your mom and decided that they would be better off on this intervention then with your help.
3.) If your BIL really does have a drinking problem, it will be best to have the entire family supporting the intervention, and that not including you has weakened their attempt.
4.) Find out why she thinks your BIL has a drinking problem. Try to determine how many things she says are legit (maybe BIL has been seen being obnoxiously drunk during his one night out per week).

You, right now, seem convinced that there is no need of an intervention. This may be the case; you need to make sure (and actually make sure) that the intervention was a mistake. If you can actually determine that BIL is behaving appropriately when he goes drinking, and that the friend is just a busy-body, then it’s time to address that issue. If that really is the case (and that’s a big if), it may be time to point out to your mother’s friend exactly how little her input is valued. However, it may just be possible that her input was valid.

If it does turn out that the friend is just being a jerk, I would then consider having another intervention with your sister for your mother. She (your mother) needs to understand right now that listening to busy-body “friends” “will lose [her] family if [s]he doesn’t quit.”

I actually said something pretty much to that effect to my sister. What kind of influence does this friend have over her if she can convince her to do something like this?

The question of whether or not he has a drinking problem is interesting. As I said, this was a problem in the past for my sister and her husband, because he would be out at the bar several nights a week away from his family. However, it has improved according to what my sister has told me. She told me he goes out once a week, and she’s fine with it. The rest of the time he’s with his daughter or working. Now, whether my mom knows something I don’t (and my sister is just protecting him) I don’t know. I will definitely ask her that. Knowing what I do know, I don’t think an intervention was necessary. Especially an intervention by my mother and her friend, and excluding my sister, my brother-in-law’s parents, his siblings, my other sisters, and my dad. I also need to find out if my 10-year-old niece was at home when it happened. If she was … well, I just don’t know what to say about that. My mother shoud have at least had more brains than that.

Personally, I think the real issue is between your sis and your mom and if I were you, I would stay the heck out of it. Why set yourself up for conflict when it isn’t even your issue? Convince sis to sit down calmly and talk to mom about how inappropriate that behavior was especially since she was not consulted beforehand.
Again, I think you will regret getting into this with your Mom.

Good luck

I definitely see your point. Sometimes I get so sick of my family putting me in situations like this. I’m supposed to be the baby. Why do I always have to be the adult? I think the reason my sister wants me to intervene is because my mom and I are very close and she knows I’m not afraid to come right out and tell her what I think. My other sisters would never do that. After five years, I’m still the only one who has told my dad how I felt when he cheated on and divorced my mom. The others cried behind his back and smiled to his face. I told him he was an ass. I’ll think it over some more … probably see what my husband says.

I don’t like the idea of the intervention generally. But particularly when he’s not her son! I think you have to be blood or marriage to do it. If blood or marriage invite you, that’s one thing. And I’m not convinced (based on friends’ experience) that it’s even effective.

And my mother should know that intervention isn’t necessarily going to work. Her brother was an alcoholic for 30 years and didn’t quit until he decided he wanted to. No amount of telling him he should quit would have changed that. He had to do it for himself, not for anyone else.

I’d keep an eye on this “friend” of your mothers if I were you. I can remember my mother telling me not to let my “friends” get me in trouble - it sounds like this woman likes to stir up problems in the families of other people and then sit back and enjoy the drama. She’s probably run her own family off already.

Well… this just sounds so bizarre. An “intervention” is usually a whole group of people confronting someone, not just a MIL and a pal confronting a son in law. That’s not an “intervention”, that’s nattering at someone.

Nutty or not, I would find it difficult to believe that MIL cooked this “emergency” up out of thin air, and I would get real specific with my sister as to what exactly she had been telling her mother about her husband lately before going after your mother’s friend as the instigating party.

Well, I didn’t have any luck getting in touch with my mom last night. I tried to call her a few times after work and she didn’t answer at home or on her cell. Then I had a meeting to go to and didn’t get home until 10. I hope the reason I couldn’t reach her is because she was talking things over with my sister. I’ll probably still try to get my mom’s side of the story some time today, but I’m going to be very busy so that might be difficult. I’ll post again when I can or when I know more.

Thanks everyone, for your input!

Yep. My mom tried this with my dad and it was a huge mistake. HUGE. All it did was break up a 30 year friendship, cause incredible amounts of drama, and make him drink even more. He quit cold turkey when he got prostate cancer 5 years later. He sure as hell wasn’t going to stop because he was hurting us.

yellowval my family staged an intervention for a family member who was abusing drugs and alcohol. We did it with the full consent and cooperation of the entire family and the assistance of a licensed substance abuse therapist.

I’m happy to share the details if you’d like to know how a “real” intervention works. I don’t want to sound snarky but what your mom and her friend did wasn’t an intervention so much as a confrontation. It doesn’t sound like it was productive or helpful at all.

What seems to be missing here is open communication among the affected parties and that’s never a good way to handle things. Good luck to you and your family. If you’d like to talk, My e-mail is in my profile.

I’d stay the hell out of it. Too many people who’s business it isn’t are already involved. Your sister has a problem with your mother? Have her deal with your mother directly, not through you.