Advice Please! My husband seems to be excluding my schizoaffective brother from family events

My brother is 37 and schizoaffective. He takes meds and attends a clubhouse. He is shy and can be socially awkward but he says he wants to make more of an effort to socialize. My husband and I recently bought a new home and will be having a housewarming/ costume party this weekend. I invited my brother and he bought a costume to come. My husband is upset. He asked me why I would invite him when he is on psych meds and there is going to be alcohol at the party. I know my brother shouldn’t be drinking on his meds but I don’t feel like he should be excluded because others will be drinking. I’m sure he will have a drink or two but I will be sure to make sure he doesn’t overdo it. This was also an issue when my husbands brother had a July 4th BBQ. I wanted to invite my brother but my husband insisted there would be too many people and my brother wouldn’t be comfortable. I want my brother to feel welcome. My husband is fine hanging out with him if it’s just the 3 of us. Am I in the wrong? It feels like my husband doesn’t want my brother around if there are other people.

This is very sad. I wish there would be more compassion for people like your brother, or my son. I think he should go. Can he go with someone and in that way have someone to be with? Or do you have a person close to you that will be in the event and can be kind of be his buddy? To your husband and we all: we can be well today but we never know what the future holds.

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I definitely think that you are in the right although I do understand why your husband may be embarrassed by him or fearful about him misbehaving. I think that if he is doing well then inviting him is the compassionate thing to do - especially since you as family are likely all that he’s got. I myself have to fight feelings of embarrassment but I remind myself how important it is for us to fight the stigma of mental illness by our own example. If your brother acts inappropriately then so be it. You love him and you want to support him and it is good for your friends to see that. I think they will respect it and maybe even learn from your example.

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Unfortunately, my brother doesn’t have any friends. I suggested he ask one of the clubhouse members but I don’t think he did. I spoke to my husband and told him it bothers me that he always has an excuse as to why my brother shouldn’t be part of events. We went to New Orleans with my husbands family in April and my dad asked if my brother could come along. I wanted to invite him but my husband insisted it wouldn’t be good for him because there would be drinking on the trip. My husband told me yesterday that he likes my brother and wants to include him but he feels like he overdrinks or consumes too much CBD gummies/syrup whenever he comes to our house (my brother lives with my parents) . He said he is generally concerned that his habits at our house are interfering with his meds and I’m enabling this behavior. I can’t help to think that that’s just an excuse and that he really doesn’t want my brother around his friends and family. This isn’t the first time we have argued about this. He said he isn’t going to admit to not liking him or not wanting him around because that isn’t true. Not sure if I should just let it go…

Personally, I think you have to pick your battles. If your husband is fine having just the 3 of you visit together, maybe conceding on the bigger events on your part would be OK. And getting your husband to attend more with just the 3 of you.

Back before her meds were fully effective, my daughter went to one Christmas event which my husband’s family threw, and did do something embarrassing. She never went to another one of the big events. I didn’t even tell her about a few of them over the years.

I also tend to keep her away from any type of group outing where there is going to be lots of alcohol flowing.

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I do think its great that you want to include your brother. @oldladyblue really brings up a good point about picking battles.

If your brother didn’t drink alcohol and do gummies at these events, I wonder if your husband would feel differently?

Sometimes of our family members can become what events are all about. Just as your brother needs his clubhouse and family time, you and your husband need events without him being in attendance.

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I’ve been in your husband’s position with my sister in law and had very similar concerns about her drinking, especially when she was on certain medications. It wasn’t about disliking her or even being embarrassed. It was about my husband enabling her drinking at these events, about always having to keep half an eye out to make sure she wasn’t drinking too much (though we all know that on meds even one drink is too much) and always feeling like my husband spent most of his time and energy babysitting his sister rather than being present at the event/spending time with his immediate family.

His family also has a habit of asking if she could be invited even when it’s not appropriate. You mentioned your dad asking if your brother could come on a trip with your husband’s family. My in laws would do the same thing and not realize that wasn’t a fair thing to ask. Maybe your situation is different, but my family doesn’t really have a relationship with my sister in law and her coming would make people feel uncomfortable.

I wouldn’t read the worst into your husband’s actions - it’s very possible that he really is concerned about your brother’s drinking and CBD use and perhaps feels like he can’t enjoy some events with your brother there because he’s worried about that situation.

Edited to add: my SIL isn’t stable or consistently medicated, and in her particular situation drinking has prevented her from being able to use certain medications. I didn’t mean to imply that drinking is never ok under any circumstances for someone will MI. But I do think for people who aren’t stable and don’t have insight, the rates of comorbidity with alcohol abuse is very high and any mood altering substances (including alcohol) just add another area of worry. In her case, it’s never just one drink and her drinking has led to some very bad situations.

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Drinking on meds depends a lot on the particular med, dosage and individual. My experience is the newer atypical antipsychotics are less of a problem than older neuroleptics which aren’t prescribed much any more with Haldol a notable exception, but everyone’s a bit different.

Do you know any specifics about his medications? Does he take any mood stabilizers or antidepressants? Drinking with these are more likely to cause issues. Does he have a history of self-medication with alcohol or other recreational drugs before or after diagnosis? Antipsychotics that I’ve taken in the past 20 years warn mainly of possible sedating effects or not at all. Warnings take the familiar form of not operating machinery or driving until you know how it effects you, rather than outright bans on drinking. Drinking or no, I’ve had dizzy spells during initial titration up to my dosage for some of these, but that’s usually over in a week or so.

How exactly do you know he shouldn’t be drinking with his medication? Is this just an assumption on your part or is it based on a doctors or pharmacists directive? Is there something stopping you from having an honest discussion about your husband’s concerns with your brother and come to some sort of compromise to address his concerns?

I typically don’t drink much at all with a SZA DX, but I occasionally drink at parties or when out with friends or at a restaurant— in fact I had a margarita with dinner tonight. On the other hand, my brother with a bipolar disorder diagnosis who rarely takes medication definitely shouldn’t be drinking, because long term binge drinking has been far more disruptive to his life than his SMI.

I feel there’s some mystical thinking, superstition and alchemy that caregivers (and diagnosed) attribute to medication regimens. Unless you’re on a specific cocktail or an exotic medication like Clozapine, if you’re stable on your medications and have an occasional drink or forget a dose, you don’t turn into Mr. Hyde at midnight. It’s a bit more subtle than that. I’m less sanguine about cannabis use, however, as many studies indicate they are bad news. Especially edibles which remain in the body much longer and are hard to dose with any certainty.

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@hopefulhart @BDinVA1
I completely agree with everything that BDinVA1 said. Your husband probably does want you to be present as well as himself. Unfortunately I feel that it is true, that there would be a certain amount of time doing babysitting type activities to keep an eye on your brother.
Going anywhere with your husbands family should be their choice as to whether or not they want your brother to be included. This is the sad truth. I have a brother who has schizophrenia since age 21. He is 57 now. My parents included him in their own family gatherings when they took place at their house. He was invited to other family members homes but it was at their discretion and my parents would never assume that he would be welcome to come. Over time my brother did not want to come to family events even at my parents home. This is what happens. They isolate more and more as they get older. It is completely within the norm for them to not have any friends.
My brother used to come to my home for family events when he was in his 20’s and early 30s.
He stopped wanting to come and I was happy about that because then everyone could relax including my parents.
It really will not matter in the long run whether or not he is invited to these various events. I am not sure how emotionally attached people with schizophrenia really can be to other people. I would choose to NOT pick this as a battle. Your marriage is more important than one event.
This disease is terrible .

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I find with my son that big crowds do.make him feel uncomfortable. He is better with just the immediate family.
He is fine, takes his meds., but some things bother him.

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This is a hard situation for you. I can imagine you feel in the middle of the relationships between your husband and brother and want the best for both. I wonder what your brother thinks/feels about all of this?
Do we include our loved ones dealing with SMI in these decisions? Could there be an understand and/or boundaries that your brother would have attending these events? Maybe some of it is your brother’s lack of knowing what is appropriate and would be willing to learn? Do you have good communications with him? What about family therapy or a go between that understands family dynamics when it comes to a member with SMI?
It definitely sounds like something that won’t go away but you and your husband and family need to find what is the healthiest way to loving work in these situations.

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