Dear Dr. Toni:
I don’t know what to do about my younger sister. She is a recovering alcoholic so alcohol is not the issue right now. She neglected her teeth and now is facing $40,000 in dental bills as well as significant bone loss in her upper and lower jaw. This is not a person who comes from lower economic circumstances. She has a very successful but young company (three years old) but became maniacal in getting it launched and now workaholism has replaced alcoholism.
It was more important to get her product into Bergdorf’s than it was to take care of her health. She has lost a significant amount of weight and has become obsessed with talking about all her regrets at having neglected herself. She also goes over and over the graphic details of the distortions in her face now. She blames me for referring her to the old dentist whom she feels should have warned her. The latest is that she believes that one of her friend’s may have put a curse on her. This friend supposedly has kept voo doo dolls. Hard to believe of a woman who is part of Hollywood’s elite but, who knows?
I suggested therapy. I’ve suggested workshops. I suggested just plain forgiving herself and moving on and she refuses to do that. She isn’t going to meetings either. She has told me she just wants to die. She tells me she can’t be the face of a product that’s brand involves beauty. I don’t know what to do. I have threatened her that I will get a psychiatric hospital involved and 5150 her.
What do you suggest? Should she be hospitalized given that she refuses to see a doctor and take medication? I am worried sick about her. Your thoughts?
By the way, I love your column. I read it at my shrink’s office and was just curious about another professional opinion.
My heart goes out to you. Let’s talk about you first. It sounds like you have offered your sister many options. It also sounds like she is not interested in helping herself. She wants to blame you and others. What emotions are kicking up in you out of this drama with your sister? Take a moment. Breathe through your mouth down into your body. Think about your sister and then find where the emotion is triggered in your body.
Keep surrendering into the feeling through your breath. Ask your body to show you the youngest version of you that first had this feeling. Now, what is under that feeling? For example, under the feeling that you might lose your sister might be a fear of being alone. You don’t mention if you have other siblings or a partner. Another feeling that might emerge is that you were put in charge of this sibling when you were younger. Even if your parents are dead, unconsciously you might feel you are still responsible for her if they instructed you to always take care of her. It might be useful to work with your therapist on the contract you may have made regarding her.
Lastly, I would suggest that you go to Alanon. By getting a sponsor, you will have someone you can reach out to every day right now.
To answer your question about a 5150: Once you put her in the system, you will not have any control over what happens to her. It is a crap shoot as to who the attending staff will be and what drugs they choose to give her. Also, unless she is actively suicidal; has told you specifically how she would kill herself and/or when, a mere wanting to die because of her condition will probably not hold water. It will also be on her medical records. This is a great example of how sobriety does not guarantee that the addict will show up for their health and well being. Workaholism can replace alcohol as a the next addiction.
Go to Alanon and work with the emotions that she is triggering in you. The more at peace you are with whatever choices she makes, the less attention she is getting for her response to her medical and dental condition. The more you hold her in your mind as whole just the way she is and that you are not responsible for her decisions anymore, now that you both are adults, the greater the possibility she will help herself. In Alanon, this is called radical acceptance.
I hope this is helpful. At this time of year, the holidays trigger so much unfinished business with our families. However, if we get past Madison Avenue’s messages that everyone else is having a Hallmark moment with their families, “Christmas and Hanukah Neurosis” can be a time to heal the past if you step back and clean up your own side of the street. Consult your own therapist if she becomes actively suicidal as to the next step.
Dr. Toni Galardi is a licensed psychotherapist, author of The LifeQuake Phenomenon and a well known consultant/expert on career repurposing as part of recovery in the addiction field.
If you have a question for The LifeQuake Doctor, you can write to her through: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 310-890-6832. She works by phone and SKYPE in private practice. Her website is http://www.thelifequakedoctor.com