Persuading a TBI family member to stop drinking al... - Headway


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Persuading a TBI family member to stop drinking alcohol


Has anybody successfully managed to do this? Or has anybody been persuaded by a family member that they should stop drinking? What tactics worked?

My brother had a TBI after a being a victim of a hit and run 4 years ago. He is pretty ok socially, although does have a lack of empathy and can be argumentative and aggressive. When he drinks alcohol it's exaggerated x 10 as I'm sure many of you have experienced. His behaviour is completely over the top, often ending in violence. He has assaulted me and my parents on many occasions, resulting in cuts, bruises, concussion, pulling out hair etc. He denies there is a connection with him drinking alcohol and his bad behaviour. Mostly he is in denial about his behaviour and says that we are exaggerating or that he was acting in self-defense. Last night he smashed a wine glass in a restaurant and stamped on my mums iPhone smashing it to pieces.

If we contact the police or ask them to have a word with him to 'scare' him about the repercussions of assault, criminal damage etc. then it will isolate him and turn him against us. He is already very untrusting of everybody in his life.

When we tell him how alcohol affects him he will not listen. He associates drinking alcohol with his 'previous life' and thinks it makes him normal. He's not an alcoholic as he isn't always desperate for alcohol, but when he does drink, he completely loses control. Not every single time, if he had a glass of wine or a beer he would be fine, but usually he doesn't know when to stop. If we encourage him to drink less, he drinks even more in defiance.

I would really appreciate anybody's advice or opinions on this, as I fear that his behaviour will one day end up with the death of a family member and/or him going to prison.

Thank you,


26 Replies

P.s. He is 29 years old

The thing that convinced me to stop drinking was my neurologist telling me that alcohol kills brain cells and that I'd lost enough already so surely wouldn't knowingly lose more.

I have to say that I do drink occasionally but always when eating and no more than 2.

I can't remember the last time I had a drink and don't drink in the house.

Since I can't cope with noisy bars, pubs or clubs it does limit the times I'm tempted.

I do miss having a drink but it does mean I really enjoy it when I do indulge.

Janet x

crvh in reply to Kirk5w7

Thank you Janet that's really helpful. I will ask his neurologist to speak to him about this as he will be more likely to believe him (whereas he think's I'm just trying to spoil his fun) x


Oh how scary for you all. Have you tried phoning AA to see if they have any suggestions? Failing that, could you ask for an urgent neurology appointment. This cannot go on, you should not have to live like this and, although a brain injury is the root of the problem, there are ways he can learn to help himself. Would 'tough love' help where you refuse to interact with him - does he live with you? Maybe a spell on his own where he can reflect on his behaviour and agree to get help might work?

Hope you get this sorted. I have worked in a prison and know that many of the prisoners are there for similar reasons - brain injuries causing lack of control.

crvh in reply to Hidden

No we don't all live together, he lives with his girlfriend who I sadly believe he has also assaulted, although not to the same level of violence.

It's a good idea though, as I have explained to him (when he was calm and sober) that I do not want to spend time with him in an environment where there is alcohol as it makes me nervous about his behavior. He quickly got very aggitated and said I'm the one with the problem. It's incredibly frustrating as he just won't admit (even to himself) that alcohol has such an adverse affect on him :-(

They always say the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem but we can't seem to reach that milestone.

steve55 in reply to crvh

crvh the problem with a brain injury in some cases is we lose friends and family.

hes doing this but he does remember, hell call you all all horrible names, but he doesnt remember.................we dont have the capacity to think before we speak or act...........our toungues or fists do the talking.

there is something that can be something prescribed for his behaviour and it doesnt have to b.e an anti depressant

I think, given the complexity of the situation, that perhaps the medical advice route might be best. Could his gp also come on board ?

If some incidents happen in public places or businesses then other people may well call the police anyway ( could you invite them to or invite publican / owner to refuse alcohol ? )

crvh in reply to moo196

Yes I think the medical route is a good idea. His neuropsychologist says that she can 'advise' him not to drink alcohol but that it needs to 'come from him', so she is working on making him see the link between alcohol consumption and bad things happening.

He is usually better in public places. When there have been public incidents, strangers have threatened to call the police on a number of occassions but normally people are (rightly) more worried about their own safety and getting out of the way. There have been some incidents where people just think he's an awful person who can't control his temper and he's been beaten up by a bouncer before for saying the wrong thing :( You can't blame the other people as it's just lack of awareness and if I didn't know he had a BI I would think he just wasn't a very nice person. I just want to save him. My poor parents are so sad about it, it's making them really depressed :(

steve55 in reply to crvh

crvh sounds like your brother could do with the new card headway has brought out and ive just remembered, a friend of mine had a card issued by the police for anytime he was arrested, look into that please, he had a brain injury.

Almost irrespective of b I or not people acting violently because of alcohol intake may be reported to the police. Can you talk to them in advance on the qt ?

Does he carry a headway card ?

crvh in reply to moo196

Yes you're right. I will speak to my parents about that. I applied for a headway card for him - although he's resisting saying he doesn't see the point of it. I told him if he get arrested it's going to at least partly explain his behaviour and so I think he's coming round to the idea.

Sadly as you say yourself admitting there is a problem is first and only step that can help him right now. I think only thing you could try is getting someone such as a doctor or someone involved in helping people with BI to talk to him and explain how alcohol is effecting him and what may happen in future if he continues to drink.

One thing that may work if he believes it could happen is telling him about someone I met at a BI group who has half hour memory through drinking alcohol. Obviously not that common but would be enough to put people off drinking. This girl who is only in her 30s lives in an elderly care home as she has a type of dementia. It’s something that will never get better. It got to stage where sadly the BI group I go to decided there was no point her going anymore as she needed constant attention and reassurance. As sad as it is I think it was right decision as I don’t think it was fair on the 2 who run it having to like look after her as if she was a child and I think she would have been too much for the man who set group up other week as he was busy doing stuff on allotment and on phone and he’s said he struggles to do more than 1 thing at a time due to having BI himself so I think having to keep eye on this girl and keep reassuring her would have been too much for him.

crvh im on medication for my aggression and mood swings after my stroke 51/2 years ago.

i drink 4 cans of 9% lager nightly, without becoming aggressive, my psychiatrist, neurologist and dr say i should stop, i pointed that i no longer smoke and if i gave up my alcohol the next thing theyd be nosing into was my bedroom activities.

try and find the number for your local headways group, do him good because everyone there has a brain injury and will understand also the lovely ladies who put up with us.



Few thoughts. ..

Has he been assessed/given strategies for PTSD? If he's operating in a state of hypervigilance all the time right now then the alcohol will just make worse.

Has he been given tools such as Thought Diaries to identify/challenge unhelpful behaviors from a CBT therapist?

Has he had "offloading" sessions as well as cbt type counseling to release some of the anger?

Has he read up himself on the TBI effects on the ability to self regulate mood/removal of filters? Knowledge helps.

Can you all 'just happen' to keep him busy socially with activities where alcohol isn't involved?

I think you're right about not approaching the issue directly. Anything that increases his feeling of isolation will almost certainly make things worse.

You can let him know about the forum, or the helpline or the headway site for information, then he can ask the questions himself?

crvh in reply to Hidden

These are all incredibly helpful suggestions and something I will discuss with my parents and his neurologist. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my post, I really appreciate it. This forum is amazing!

If I were you I would record him when he has a melt down, being told is something he is used to hearing but seeing himself hurting others might be the trigger which turns him around. Just take your iPad when you next go out or advise other family members to do the same. Violence is not acceptable whatever the medical reason and sometimes people can use it as an excuse for their behaviour. Take Care Liz

crvh in reply to 1949liz

Thanks Liz. My mum was trying to record him when he smashed her phone, but I do think it's a good idea. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my post. This forum is amazing.

Having a dual issues of BI and alcohol problem is a really challenging as both are interacting and undermining positive decision making. I think the most important thing is for family to stay safe. So you do need to have ground rules and not be with him when he is drinking. You should make it clear that the issue is not him but the drinking make sure that you have quality alcohol free space and time . Let him know that drinking is his choice so is stopping and so is getting help. Alcohol is also a psychological clutch that hard to give up. For now your in risk management zone. Speak to a alcohol advice service your self they can help you to support him safely and speak to headway. Sadly no one can making him stop drinking before he is ready. Stay safe show love it might just anchor him through the storm. Sometimes it will be tough love .

crvh in reply to Daylight123

Thank you so much. You make a very good point about making it clear that issue is not him but the drinking. I am going to try and plan some quality alcohol-free activities.

Was advised not to drink after my bi. I thought it was med related.

Stupidly I cut down my meds and went on holiday and had a drink...Just one.

Lost two days holiday and felt rough.

On returning home asked why this had happened. Was told yes drink and meds was bad but due to my bi drinking was bad for me.

That was 16 years ago and I haven't drunk since. I had a homemade rum truffle that got me rather tipsy and yes I must admit I miss the odd drink.


As a long term alcoholic. (7 years sober.) I can only advise you that it has to be your brother who decides to stop drinking by himself. For yourself, you can contact ' Al-Anon.' they can give you a place where you can share your experiences with others in the same situation as yourself. You are not alone.

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.


crvh in reply to johnny1963

Thank you John, I really appreciate you taking the time to respond.

It was my pleasure. I hope you find what your looking for. Remember- life's a journey.

I think getting a video of him after he’s been drinking is a good idea. I know my mum has always said to me you shouldn’t drink after BI and to be fair she can tell far more now if I have been drinking than she could before. I don’t feel it effects me any more now but she spots it more now. Trouble is with anyone stopping drinking is a personal choice, but from what you say he does need to stop as he can’t control it to still treat people as he normally would. You need to speak to headway or someone to try to get through to him.

have you tried not saying anything? the fact this something the old him used to do, means he hasnt come to terms with his new self which increases his mood swings and you telling him to do something, makes him feel like a child.

ive come to terms with who i am, the fact im on a new exciting journey, hes not ready for that yet, the worse thing you can do is tell him what to do.

I'll only add one thing as the answers far have already said a lot.

Firstly I do drink alcohol to no ill effect but I don't get the initial euphoria but after too I'm in low stage. I'm also on meds which advise no alcohol, although the NHS site say you can with caution. As I don't get the euphoria I can't feel I'm getting drunk and at first couldn't understand why I couldn't walk a white line. Now I'm aware I know my limit.

Anyway in the past my wife would tell me I'd insulted someone and I found it unbelievable. Self awareness can be comprised by the TBi alone and I believe quite common. Seeing a recording may make him shocked and motivated to stop or know when to stop.

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