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Do I Keep Answering the Late Night Phone Calls?

Discussion in 'Helping an Addicted Loved One' started by pineywood, Apr 4, 2015.

  1. pineywood

    pineywood Community Champion

    I want to be supportive.
    I want to make sure she is okay.
    I want to be there in case of an emergency.

    All of these thoughts go through my mind, when the phone rings in the middle of the night. My husband and I just look at each other and no words need to be spoken. It is the same old routine. I stumble out of bed and listen to the drunken stupor of my sister-in-law.

    Most of the time, she does not even remember our conversations. I hear the same stories repeated in a long drawn out fashion. I could probably finish her sentences, but I don't.

    It is like this every-time, she goes back on a binge. When she is recovery, life is good, When the cycle starts again the patterns of these late night phone calls begin again.

    What should I do?
    Should I keep answering these late night phone calls?
    Should I turn my ringer on silence?
  2. jbbarn

    jbbarn Active Contributor

    It's a tough question. If she is not being abusive to you or your family, I say hang in there with her if you can. You may be her only touch with reality during these binges. If you're not there to be her sounding board, she may find a less than perfect alternative. If at any time, the pressure is too much for you, I think you will have to end her dependency on you. You can't allow her to destroy your own sanity.
  3. Charli

    Charli Community Champion

    I think it's good to keep answering those calls both to give her an outlet for her frustrations and also to keep the communication with her open. This way you would have a better chance of getting through to her once you start talking serious, even if it's not a complete guarantee that she will.
  4. amethyst

    amethyst Community Champion

    What an ordeal. I don't know what the best way would be to handle this situation. I can only talk for myself and my own experiences. I would not pick up the phone anymore late at night. I would make it clear that drooling the same things into my ears while being intoxicated is inappropriate and disturbing my peace. But I wouldn't cut her out of my life. I would try and reason with her to seek help, which is probably something that you have already done numerous times.
  5. That's tough. I'm sorry you have to go through this. As someone said, you might be her only connection to reality, a comforting, safe voice to get her through. That being said, it doesn't mean you owe it to her. You don't owe anything to anyone. If is is bringing you down and disturbing you, then it needs to stop. Put your ringer on silent, and make it clear to her that the calls are unwelcome. You can tell her that you really do want to help her, but it's becoming too much and your health is being compromised. It's hard (impossible?) to reason with someone like this. It would help me I think to realize that she doesn't have any malice behind her actions - she isn't calling you with the intent to disrupt or bother you. But that doesn't mean you have to answer her calls.
  6. kjonesm1

    kjonesm1 Community Champion

    My ex husband used to stand in front of our bed drunk drunkenly rambling on in a very similar way. I would know exactly what he was going to say before he said it and it could literally last several hours. He also did not remember most of his one sided conversations. I wish I was able to put him on mute or put the phone down and go back to sleep. If I were you I wouldn't even answer anymore. You can't help somebody who is already drunk, they can't even help themself.
  7. jbbarn

    jbbarn Active Contributor

    I like your answer a lot. I think you're correct in advising her not to let the sister-in-law continue to ramble in her ear late at night. I guess this, in itself, is a form of abuse. She only does this because she can. Reasoning with her when she is sober is the way to deal with this situation.
  8. pineywood

    pineywood Community Champion

    Thanks everyone! Sometimes, it is us on the receiving end of dealing with others addictions that need some support and understanding. I find myself so wrapped up in trying to help or solve situations, that I get drained and need to step back with a fresh, realistic perspective on the situation.

    So, I truly do appreciate all of your responses!!! If there was one of little smile faces that was showing the action of clapping, I would use it to give you all a round of applause or thanks!

    (I would include multiple quotes here, but not sure how to do it. Sigh. So, do not think I am not referring to your response too!)

    This is exactly what my issue is when she calls in this state of mind. How am I helping her when she is already drunk and can not help herself!

    When she goes through her sober stages, that is what I say! No one can help you until you decide to help yourself. Of course, in a sober state, everyone is able to think and act more rationally.

    Now, that I think about it, I hate to turn the ringer off, and miss a call from another loved one. I mean really, if someone is calling you in the middle of the night, some type of crisis is happening.

    For now, I just do not know what to do. I just can't seem to shake the guilt of ignoring her calls, yet I feel like I am condoning and worse yet promoting this behavior.
    kjonesm1 likes this.
  9. kjonesm1

    kjonesm1 Community Champion

    When she is ready to quit is when you should be prepared to help. Being awake in the middle of the night for her to spew what I will assume is incomprehensible gibberish at you is not helping. My ex would do it and not even remember it in the morning. Taking her calls is not helping her and it is definitely not helping you.
    pineywood likes this.
  10. xTinx

    xTinx Community Champion

    How long will you be able to withstand being her punching bag, metaphorically speaking, only you can tell. Do you or do you not want to continue lending a helping hand? Are you tired of listening to your sister-in-law's rants? Perhaps it would be better if you get her to join a support group. I don't think she has accepted herself or her bad habits, thus she needs all the support she can get from you and your husband.
    pineywood likes this.
  11. hellonamesdana

    hellonamesdana Senior Contributor

    There's a certain point where sometimes you really need to put yourself first. There's only a certain amount I can take from my mom, and although it angers her when she tries to call me when she's drunk and I don't answer, I just can't handle it a lot of the time.
    pineywood likes this.
  12. rcdpink

    rcdpink Active Contributor


    I just think that sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures. I think that you have to do something to get her attention. Maybe...just maybe...by not answering the phone for a few days or weeks (not indefinitely), she will recognize that you are not condoning her drinking. Let her know why you are not answering the phone anymore and exert your influence by letting her know that once this drinking is over with, then conversations will resume. I don't believe she only calls when she is drunk. I believe she calls more so because she feels constrained by the issues of life. I would try to grab her attention and show her my perspective.
    pineywood likes this.
  13. rcdpink

    rcdpink Active Contributor

    Yea, talk to them when they are sober. You are right. I see that these things have a way of wearing you out when you have to endure them and in the long run your work, school, etc, life gets affected. Just ignore the drunkenness I think, and deal with the person when they are in a sober mood.
    pineywood and kjonesm1 like this.
  14. kjonesm1

    kjonesm1 Community Champion

    Yeah, dealing with a drunk affects a person in many aspects of life. The best way to let a person know that you will not support bad behavior is to not deal with them while they are drunk. If you have open arms when they are sober, I think it is more effective. By being a crutch when they are drunk you are encouraging them to continue.
    pineywood likes this.
  15. MrsJones

    MrsJones Community Listener Community Listener

    There is no doubt that this behavior needs to stop.

    I would just end the call by saying, 'I will talk to you tomorrow after you get a good night's sleep, say good-bye and end the call. No argument, no excuses, no apology, and I wouldn't give in.

    Of course there may be a call back out of spite but I would just repeat it again firmly and end the call.

    I'm like you emergency calls can happen late night and unless you have call waiting you could be missing emergency phone calls just listening to your sister in law.

    I wouldn't consider doing this as being rude but necessary to get the point across that the behavior is just not acceptable (anymore). Discuss it over with your husband if this is something that you both would agree on.
    pineywood likes this.
  16. pineywood

    pineywood Community Champion

    Thanks for all the replies, advice, support. As I said this, or at least, I think I did. The phone calls come in cycles. It has been a good week! It really makes me so happy, when I get a phone call (not in the middle of the night) and she is coherent, functioning and not drinking. I know many of you out there can relate to that relief when a loved one is sober!
  17. chanelskii

    chanelskii Member

    I think you should not turn that ringer off. If you say it isn't that constant (like everyday) then you shouldn't turn it off. It's actually good that she's calling you, at least she sees that you, of all people, can be trusted enough of her well-being. Maybe you should discuss this to her when she's sober or maybe you can invite her over to your house to drink so that you won't be bothered and at the same time she'll be safe. :)
    pineywood likes this.
  18. pineywood

    pineywood Community Champion

    Thanks for your advise and support. I agree to not turning the ringer off. It would be nice to see her in person, but we do not live close enough for visits. Luckily, I will see her soon! I like how you point out that she feels she can trust me and that is why she call. I think you are right, because I have another sister that does not call often or pick up my phone calls. This hurts because I think she does not trust me. Such a tricky situation.
  19. wahmed

    wahmed Active Contributor

    You need to sit her down and tell her. You need to explain to her how what she does scares you and how she needs to buck up. Makes sure she knows you're there for her but also make sure she knows calling like that is wrong.
  20. light

    light Active Contributor

    If it’s the same conversation over and over again, then it’s useless for you trying to advice her and then she doesn’t remember anything. It might be a good idea to register one of those phone calls and listen to if carefully so that you can find the clue and the main reason that hides behind her addiction. The fact that she calls you means that she believes in you and that great. Ask her to open herself to you when she is sober. She needs love and no one can better understand her rather than you. So, do all you can to speak to her when she is sober in order to avoid those phone calls in the middle of night.