How can I help my niece who’s an alcoholic and abuses xanax?

by Donna
(New Albany, MS USA)

My family and I are extremely worried about my niece. She is 25 years old and is married with 2 children. She started experimenting with drugs and alcohol at the very young age of 15. My sister and brother-in-law did not give her any rules or restrictions which the family argued about many times.

She finally met her husband who she says got her off the drugs she was taking but she was still drinking. After she had her first child she went to the doctor for stress and depression, (she says). Her doctor prescribed her xanax. After several slips of the tongue and incidents, we found out that she was not taking the xanax daily as prescribed but saving them and taking a handful with the alcohol she was drinking that night. Her soul purpose was to get drunk. We also started to notice that every time she ate she would go straight to the bathroom. She told us that certain foods just make her sick. I never believed that story and I figured either it was from the drinking or she was also bulimic. She has always been very concerned with staying thin, which she is already a size 0.

She has had 3 or 4 seizures and she even admitted that her hair was falling out. Her parents,(my sister) always seem to take the path of least resistance, but the rest of the family have all tried to get through to her. We even contacted the doctor, who we knew personally, to let her know that she was abusing the prescription she wrote for her. She then went and found another doctor to fill it for her.

She is always irritable, she talks to everyone very nasty. She curses and screams at her children, who are 6 and 4. She will not admit to having any problem at all. She always says, “Well you drink too.” I tell her that a glass of wine at dinner is no comparison to drinking herself to oblivion every chance she gets. Our family has never dealt with anything like this and have no idea where to start. Money is an issue and we fear that we don’t have enough to get her the help she needs. Of course, we first have to convince her that she has a problem. PLEASE HELP!! Any advice is appreciated!


It does sound like your niece has a substance abuse problem as well as a potential eating disorder. It’s important that she get professional help. If money is an issue, there are many free or affordable mental health clinics in most major cities. If you have trouble locating one, you can call a local counselor or psychologist, and they can point you in the right direction.

You are right. She needs to admit there is a problem before she will be willing to get the necessary help. Even though her behavior and attitude is making you angry, it is best to tell her lovingly and empathetically that her actions are affecting other people. Each person should share with her their fears and other feelings that have been caused by her actions. Tell her that you are concerned for her health and safety and that of her children. Also tell her that you love and support her and only want what is best for her.

She may assume that you are judging her or condemning her. She may try to turn it around on you and make you look like the bad guy. The only thing you can do is to continue to tell her the impact of her actions and offer support and encouragement. It has to be her decision to seek help. If her children are in danger, you may have to take legal action to protect them or call children’s services.

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