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Sober Siblings: How to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister – and Not Lose Yourself

Excerpt from Chapter 1: Uneasy Triad: My Sibling, the Bottle, and Me

"You can't swing a cat and not find someone affected by drugs and alcohol, whether it's indirectly through the pocketbook or directly through someone they love."

--Martin Sheen, actor

Ask people the first word that comes to mind when they hear the word "sibling" and some will say "rivalry." Others may answer "bond" or "soulmate." Some siblings are best friends, while others are distant and have little contact. Same-sex siblings are usually closest, according to experts, but things like age differences, geographical distance, and different temperaments affect the relationship, too. The only given seems to be that the connection changes during different life stages, as psychotherapist Stephen Bank notes in his seminal book The Sibling Bond.

No matter what the relationship between brothers and sisters, one fact remains: we have a tie like no other. Even if we’ve never been close to our sibling, having the same parents (whether they be biological, or through adoption or marriage) makes the sibling connection—or the lack of it—one of the most significant in our lives. To writer Anna Quindlen, siblings have possibly the most complex relationship in life, and to author Bank, the bond is "life’s longest relationship, longer... for the [sic] most of us..., than our ties to our parents. It lasts longer than our relationship with our children, certainly longer than with a spouse, and with the exception of a few lucky men and women, longer than with a best friend." We can hold grudges against a sibling, or we can miss them terribly, long after they die.

Here's what people are saying about Sober Siblings:

"Written from love and informed by science, Sober Siblings informs and guides readers through the tragedy of addiction. The team of Olsen and Levounis is reminiscent of Bill W. and Dr. Bob, who created a remarkable social network of compassionate help from personal pain and suffering.

Sober Siblings pays attention to the brothers and sisters in families that have been touched by addiction. This is a beautifully written and organized book. It has a wonderful blend of information, personal stories, straightforward direction, and a good dose of caring.

I recommend this book for anyone from any family whose life has been touched by addiction; perhaps more accurately, I recommend this book for everyone. Sober Siblings will help those with addiction, those who live with and love them, and the siblings who often get caught in the family crossfire that typically accompanies addiction."

Howard J. Shaffer, Ph.D., C.A.S.
Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School; Director, Division on Addictions, The Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School Teaching Affiliate.