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If you were in my shoes, what decision would you make?

She's had her chances, kick her out!
She's family, show more compassion!

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Offline SchecterShredder

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ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« on: January 03, 2018, 10:18:19 AM »
Hello DTFers,

Iím looking for some advice regarding a difficult family problem at home. Please read the excerpt before voting!

The situation:

My sister moved in to my house at the beginning of August for a combination of health and financial reasons. The health relates to her having seizures (grand mal and partial complex), and the finances relates to her inability to properly manage her money and stick to a budget. The catalyst for her to move in was an evening in early August when she went out drinking at a comedy show with some friends, went home drunk, had a partial seizure and tried picking an actual fist fight with her 14 y/o son. Her 11 y/o daughter was also home at the time. My nephew left the apartment, and my sister took off after him into the downtown streets. Shoeless, I might add.

My wife and I decided to take her and her kids in. She has them every Friday and then every other weekend entirely. We didnít set a timeline for her to move out, but since she tends to become belligerent and has more partial seizures when she drinks, we did set a firm no drinking rule. That is to say, she canít drink at our house, nor can she come home drunk. If she wants to go out partying she simply has to stay over at a friendís place. This made out of concern for the safety of our infant son, and for her own kidsí safety.

Fast forward to late November, and my wife finds my sisterís coffee travel mug in our basement washroom with the remnants of cinnamon rum sitting at the bottom of the cup. Later that evening we see her in the living room playing board games with my niece drinking from the same cup. We talked to her about it the next day after the kids left for their fatherís. She was apologetic and ashamed. As a consequence we set a May 1st move out date, and told her any other issues would result in her leaving at the end of the month.
After that breach of trust she forfeited any privilege to privacy in my house, so I conduct occasional bedroom checks. Two weeks after that first incident I found the same travel mug in her room half full with white wine. A more thorough search led me to another half dozen empty wine and rum bottles. We talked to her again. She agreed to go to AADAC (drug and alcohol addiction services) and stop drinking, so we left her be.

Just last week, barely a week after the 2nd talk, I found her travel mug in her room again. This time with more rum in it.

Weíre going to have another talk with her tonight, but Iím not sure what to do. On the one hand she broke the one simple rule we set for our familyís safety, and weíve given her 3 chances at this. On the other hand, if we kick her out at the end of the month sheís probably only 6-12 months from being homeless or killing herself if she canít get a handle on her life. Sheís employed and earns OK money, but she just canít seem to live within her means. We have no other family here as our parents died in the mid 2000s and our other sister killed herself shortly thereafter.

What would other DTFers do in my situation?

Offline Stadler

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2018, 10:31:13 AM »
Honestly? I'd throw her to the curb until she's sober.   You've clearly connected her drinking to her problems, and she's not interested or capable of changing her drinking habits.  Ergo, her problems are not going to go away, and you're now likely inviting her problems into your life.  You have a child (at least one) to prioritize for.   What if she leaves a lit cigarette around, or has a seizure and somehow harms your kid?  I don't mean to be too blunt here, but letting her stay is enabling her and condoning her behavior.  After the chances you've given her, what ammo do you have left in the gun?   You didn't throw her out after the previous episodes, and to let her stay is simply to give her carte blanche.   

If you have "familial guilt" (and no, I don't say that in a bad way; I have it too), then take her to court, establish a guardianship over the kids and keep them at your house out of harm's way.   At least you can then look in the mirror and say you've done what you could for her.  Maybe losing her kids will be the impetus to effect real change. 

Offline Cool Chris

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2018, 10:32:33 AM »
First off, I believe we met prior to the last DT show in Seattle. If so, as Jerry's Uncle Leo would say: HELLO!

I won't speak to the alcohol issue. I have had my own issues and have some sympathy for those who fight those battles. I only quit when the judge said I had to. Without that threat, I would never have wanted to, nor would I have sought out any help. But I was also able to quit for years at a time without AA or any outside help.

My biggest beef here is "her inability to properly manage her money and stick to a budget." I don't have much sympathy at all for those that fall under this category. This isn't a disease or a hereditary issue people are saddled with. It is 100% decision-based. Everyone has the ability to live within a budget. Most people just choose not to.

I am very protective of my family, and also have a newborn in my home, so were I to let someone live here who had problems with addiction or abuse, they would be on a very short leash, despite how much I cared for them. So if you were to kick her out tomorrow, I wouldn't fault you at all. If she has a job and would still be "homeless within 6-12 months" she needs help beyond which you may be able to offer her.
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Offline Kattelox

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2018, 10:37:07 AM »
As someone who's dealing with a toxic family member myself: kick 'em out.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2018, 10:49:36 AM »
Man, that's a tough one.  You need to have compassion.  But on the other hand, you cannot "fix" her unless she is willing to fix herself, and to the extent she is willing to further damage herself and potentially damage your own family/household, you aren't showing love and compassion by allowing her to do it under your roof.  In fact, you are probably indirectly enabling it to an extent.  But the other consideration that makes it even more complicated is the kids.  Man, that's a tough one.  I'm going to throw out a couple of things, but this is by no means any sort of "expert" advice or anything.

First off, in terms of her, I guess I would probably sit down and have a "final" talk.  In that, I would make it clear in no uncertain terms that you love her and want to help and offer support.  But I would also make it clear that she has long since exhausted any sort of "second chance" she might have, and she can stay IF AND ONLY IF she agrees to (1) attend and complete a rehab program, and (2) join AA and faithfully attend ALL meetings.  Her AA sponsor is then the one in charge or managing her sobriety, which takes the onus off of you and your family and puts it on someone who is qualified AND is a detached third party.  It also makes her accountable.  And if she cannot agree to both of those conditions AND keep those two commitments, she is out.  And I think you can probably get some good advice from her rehab counselor(s) and/or sponsor about your own role in all of this, and how much grace to extend if she slips up and falls off the wagon.  They deal with those situations, so they know what generally works and what doesn't.  The thing is, with an addictive personality, the odds are that even if she tries hard and is committed, she WILL at some point fall off the wagon.  That is probably understandable, and in some situations, you can probably work through it if her counselor/sponsor agrees that it is a temporary setback.  But they would probably be in a better position to advise you in that regard.  But if she won't or says she "can't" do both of those, I guess I would feel that it is a deal breaker because you simply CANNOT help her through such a destructive addiction problem otherwise.  I would let her know that.  Tell her those conditions are nonnegotiable, and they are that way because you care and that is what she and the kids need, and it is what YOU need.  And if she loves her kids and loves you, she will need to understand that.

Second, have you thought through what happens to her kids if something happens to her?  It sounds like their father is still in the picture, in which case he would get them.  If so, whether that is good for them, bad, or indifferent doesn't really matter.  There isn't much wiggle room and that isn't your issue.  But if he isn't in the picture, then what?  Would you and your wife be willing to take them in?  If so, you probably need to have that discussion with your sister at some point.  I'm not sure what that point is.  But you and your wife need to be on the same page beforehand.

Man, either way, it's a tough situation, and I feel for you.  Hang in there.  If it means anything to you, you are all in my prayers.
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Offline Tick

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2018, 11:16:38 AM »
Seen this in my own family with my sister for years. It only gets worse if they only get empty threats. Sadly, the only chance for her is for you to make the tough choice to cut her loose. Could she do something desperate? Yes. You can't control that anymore than you are able to control whats happening now under your roof. She could die on your watch as easily with you as they can if you send her packing. That's the sad reality.

I think the best chance for change for her is to be forced to make better decisions. Get help, etc...

My sister was on all sorts of drugs, stealing from my mom, my sister, and on deaths door. Only after she was forced out did the change finally take place. She is now clean and sober (besides wine) for nearly 5 years now. She has a steady job, and her own place. She has peace in her heart.
Your sister likely won't ever achieve that under your roof.

I wish you all the best with a difficult decision.
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Offline SchecterShredder

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2018, 11:20:42 AM »
Chris: We did indeed meet in Seattle. Hello to you as well!

Appreciate the advice so far from everyone. I'm heavily leaning towards kicking her out. I agree with all the comments suggesting that keeping her in the house is only going to enable her. Her kids are less of a concern. Their father is definitely a piece of trash when it comes to how he's treated my sister over the years, but he's a good father with a stable home. The downside with the kids is that my sister may lose what little custody she has since we'll have to talk to the kids as a family to explain why they won't be living with us any longer, and they'll have to fill their dad in. If I left it up to my sister she would likely lie to them about why they have to leave.



Offline bosk1

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2018, 11:23:08 AM »
The downside with the kids is that my sister may lose what little custody she has since we'll have to talk to the kids as a family to explain why they won't be living with us any longer, and they'll have to fill their dad in. If I left it up to my sister she would likely lie to them about why they have to leave.

That really sucks.  And what sucks more is that if you kick her out and that happens, she may likely blame you, and the kids may blame you as well because they won't understand the big picture.  But ultimately, it isn't your fault--it's a consequence she will have allowed.  Again, I feel for you, man.
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Offline Chris Hinton

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2018, 11:42:14 AM »
I've dealt with these kinds of family issues, too.  You took her in with the hope that you could help her with a stable situation.  This clearly isn't working and, from what you've said, it seems like it is only going to get worse.  At some point, your family has to take precedence -- especially since their safety is involved. 

I would lay everything out to her, her ex, and their kids all at the same time -- the rules that you set out, when she broke them, and why she needs to leave -- that way her kids are getting your side of the story and why things are the way they are.  With her ex there, if things get really bad then the kids can leave with him.

Compassion can only go so far.  You've done as much as you can do and she has not paid you back in kind by following the rules you've set down, she needs to leave.  And, frankly, if she loses custody of the kids then its on her and maybe the best thing for them to not be exposed to that kind of lifestyle. 

Online Phoenix87x

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2018, 11:45:42 AM »
You were kind enough to give her a chance and she blew it. Don't feel guilty about kicking her out. She is an adult and must lie in the bed she has made for herself.
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Offline cramx3

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2018, 11:53:16 AM »
Sorry that you are in such a crappy situation and none of it by your own doing.  However, I think you've been really nice and generous and it's possible that at this point, you aren't really helping the root cause of the problem anymore which is the drinking.  She may have to hit rock bottom before she realizes what her drinking has done, and to do that, she needs to get kicked out of the house.  I don't personally see any reason to think she will get better in your current situation.  What's sad is that her own medical condition hasn't been a catalyst to stop drinking.  Sorry, I'm not happy to share this opinion because it's not an easy thing to do.

Offline Setlist Scotty

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2018, 11:59:09 AM »
Extremely tough situation that I haven't had to deal with. But the one thing that comes to mind that I would suggest you to consider is to seek out help yourself - go to AA or another similar organization and explain to them everything you've told us. They likely will be able to give you several suggestions (maybe an intervention?) as well as advice regarding your sister's kids. I feel for you man and I wish you all the best.
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Offline TAC

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2018, 12:33:13 PM »
  I feel for you man and I wish you all the best.

Yeah this.

Lots of great comments so far.
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Offline Stadler

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2018, 02:02:14 PM »
The downside with the kids is that my sister may lose what little custody she has since we'll have to talk to the kids as a family to explain why they won't be living with us any longer, and they'll have to fill their dad in. If I left it up to my sister she would likely lie to them about why they have to leave.

That really sucks.  And what sucks more is that if you kick her out and that happens, she may likely blame you, and the kids may blame you as well because they won't understand the big picture.  But ultimately, it isn't your fault--it's a consequence she will have allowed.  Again, I feel for you, man.

I have a little experience in the kids department.  I think the kids - when presented with an alternative that they can tangibly see - will understand, over time, what had to be done and why.   I know my wife worried about "what the kids will think" when she divorced their drunk, abusive dad, and other than the 10 year old - who is plied with legos and food - they are clear on the causes and effects in their life.   The oldest - now a dad himself - has even said he doesn't want his dad "polluting" his kid, and if his son wants to meet grandpa when he's 18, that'll be his choice. 

Offline millahh

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2018, 02:27:05 PM »
Just a comment regarding custody, the legal principle involved here is "best interest of the child", and that may be something to bear in mind.  By holding back with information you know regarding her fitness, an accurate assessment of the kids' best interests can't be made.  And it's not something you'd be causing...really, by holding it back, it is just preventing what would otherwise be the natural consequences of her actions and choices.
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Offline wolfking

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2018, 03:10:30 PM »
She needs to go mate.  Someone won't change if they won't help themselves, nothing you do will solve this until she takes accountability for her life and actions.  Out the door.

Offline jingle.boy

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2018, 03:56:35 PM »
I'm with the Stadler/Tick camp.  You set clear boundaries, and she marched right on past them with no real consequence.  She shouldn't have gotten a 2nd chance, let alone the fact she's on #4 or #5 now.  You can't be the one to care most about her or your niece/nephew's well being.  Your responsibility is to your family first.  As Stadler said, what if her drinking causes something to happen that impacts your family?  Then you'll not only blame her, but blame yourself too.

You gave her all the chances she's earned or deserved (and then 3 more).
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Offline Podaar

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2018, 04:50:20 PM »
The only other thing I could add is; that when you talk with her, keep her talking until she agrees with a set of actions = consequences of her own design. You don't have to be the bad guy here, when you get her to agree that a behavior is harmful, and gently manipulate her into establishing a consequence for the behavior, when it comes time to hold her to the consequence it's her--not you--that is leveling the punishment. You may even find that she'll want a harsher consequence than you would design...if so, you can gently steer her back to something more appropriate.

Like others have said, if she continues to "get away" with breaking your rules, you're only enabling her at this point.

I didn't vote because I don't think those choices are mutually exclusive. A blend of the two is what I would go for but with the ultimate goal of protecting everyone around her if she continues to choose destructive behavior.

Offline Skeever

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2018, 05:06:36 PM »
Forcing someone into sobriety doesn't work and doing things like bed checks probably exasperates that problematic relationship with alcohol. Helping someone get sober is no easy task, though, and there aren't many who can really shoulder the terrible burden of helping someone get clean who does not want to help themselves. If you really want to help her I'd urge you to participate in this process with her as much as possible. It's fine for your to be disappointed and upset at her continued drinking but it's not fine for your to use a place in your home as leverage to have her magically be sober on your terms. Just my two cents.

Offline bout to crash

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2018, 06:05:09 PM »
This has been going on for way too long without consequences, as others have said. You can have empathy without enabling. She needs to go, at least for now.

Regarding the above reply, I disagree. There's a difference between saying "you have to magically be sober" and "you have to be sober when you're in my house because I'm concerned about the safety of my family." The OP has legit concerns considering she has been borderline violent with her own kids.

She needs help, and you can't force her to get it but you can and should tell her she isn't allowed back in your house until she gets it.

I do not have a lot of tolerance for this kind of stuff because of my own experience- many of the old DTFers know that in my teen years I lived for years with a brother who was abusive to me because he refused to get help for his mental health issues and my parents completely enabled the whole situation. It's a very long story, but it wasn't until he started actually physically attacking my parents and threatening to kill people and animals that my parents finally told him he couldnt live in their houses unless he got help and got on some meds (he was literally psychotic on and off). It was YEARS of me saying "Something is seriously wrong" and nobody listening. And me being absolutely terrified of coming home every single day. Even after moving away, when I came to visit I could barely be in the same room as my brother without having a panic attack.

It's a different situation but the point is that we don't want to abandon our family members, or believe that they're capable of hurting us, but sometimes they are. And sometimes you have to put your foot down for the good of everybody involved, even if it's hard as fuck and the person hates you for it in the moment. I know she's family and you've had a lot of loss, but you can continue to support her in other ways. Help her find a program to get into, maybe housing or public assistance if she qualifies for it. Be her brother but don't be her enabler. It's not easy but you can do it  :heart
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Offline KevShmev

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2018, 06:11:15 PM »
I agree with those saying she has to go.  You have given her a handful of opportunities, and she keeps blowing them, so it now time for some tough love.  I would say more, but it's nothing many others haven't already said in this thread already.

Good luck.

Offline max_security

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2018, 06:37:08 PM »
I can only speak for myself but I was not about to change my drinking for anyone. Not my family , kids , nobody until I had suffered mental and physical pain to a point that I had to decide to live or not to live. The decision to keep on living frightened me more than the other because I could not understand how to go through life without booze and not end up right back to where I was , that is when I was ready for help.

Your house , your rules end of story , the bar is up the street. Tell her next time you are calling the law to have her removed from the premises or she can stay clean and everything is going to be fine.

Offline Skeever

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #22 on: January 03, 2018, 07:08:57 PM »
This has been going on for way too long without consequences, as others have said. You can have empathy without enabling. She needs to go, at least for now.

Regarding the above reply, I disagree. There's a difference between saying "you have to magically be sober" and "you have to be sober when you're in my house because I'm concerned about the safety of my family." The OP has legit concerns considering she has been borderline violent with her own kids.

I'm not disagreeing with you, I am just saying that there are two things at play here: helping someone keep a roof over their head, and helping someone with sobriety. Unfortunately you can not use the first thing as leverage to accomplish the second and expect success. No one would blame the OP for doing what he wants to do in this situation especially if he feels his children are threatened. As I said in my post, I have unfortunately been party to these situations myself as well, both with a parent and then a sibling, so I am also not unsympathetic at all, I would just encourage the OP to consider other ways to support his sister that don't involve room inspections whether or not she winds up staying at his house.

Offline SchecterShredder

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #23 on: January 03, 2018, 07:21:22 PM »
Well, she decided to stay at a friend's tonight, so our conversation will have to wait at least another day.

My wife and are on the same page though. My sister's living here has already started affecting our mental health, so we're no longer willing to sacrifice our health to improve hers when she won't take steps to improve her own health. It's mentally draining to worry if she's drinking anytime she sneaks in the back door and hides in her room all night.  Also, it's really frustrating when her seizure medication specifically says absolutely no alcohol while taking the drug, yet she completely disregards the warning label. I doubt she even told her neurologist about the alcohol abuse.

Offline lonestar

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #24 on: January 03, 2018, 09:19:01 PM »
Lots of good advice, but there's one piece I may add, as one who has been that far down and gotten out of it. Sometimes that tough approach is just what the alcoholic needs to realize their powerlessness. As long as she has that outlet, she'll use it. Recovery is only truly entered when there are no more friendly directions to go, as long as you remain a friendly direction, she'll never truly surrender. I've seen this countless times, and the story always follows this pattern.

You can still love her, you can still emotionally support her, but as long as you enable her, you're enabling her habit.

Might I also suggest you check out the AA family group, Al-Anon. They provide a tremendous, 12 step based support system for codependents just like you.

Best of luck, if you have any further questions about AA or recovery in general, my in-box is always open.
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Offline SchecterShredder

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #25 on: January 04, 2018, 02:11:50 PM »
Although I'll still need to have a family talk with my sister and her kids, the hard part was taken care of on her end. I texted her to ask if she'd be home for dinner tonight and she replied: "No, but I'll be moving out of your house at the end of the month". She must have picked up on the tension in the household or something. Not ideal, but I'll certainly take it.

Offline KevShmev

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #26 on: January 04, 2018, 07:36:30 PM »
Or she somehow found this thread. :lol :biggrin:

Offline TAC

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #27 on: January 04, 2018, 07:45:15 PM »
Or she somehow found this thread. :lol :biggrin:

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Offline PetFish

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #28 on: January 05, 2018, 12:08:35 AM »
Probably too late to post but to protect your family, I'd say "kick" her out, but don't be mean or nasty about it.

I mean, help her move, find a place, settle in, etc.  Then offer to be there for her and you'll always be there for her, just not here for her (your place with your family).  Support her however you can as long as she's not in your space.  Have lunch every week or something, almost like a sponsor, but you're more than that cuz you're family.

If this still continues and you have to cut her off completely then at least you can say you've done everything you can.

Do you know what medication she's taking?  I'm a pharmacy technician so maybe I, and perhaps others, can offer some advice regarding it.

Offline Stadler

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #29 on: January 05, 2018, 09:23:05 AM »
I'm probably repeating myself (what's new, right?), but I think it bears repeating:

"Help" comes in two forms.   "Aiding someone else's will and free action" and "Giving/forcing someone to do something for their own good against their will".

I'm 50 now, and while I'm not Gandalf or Albus Dumbledore, I have some wisdom, and in my humble experience, I've come to the conclusion that politically, socially, personally, artistically, parentally, whatever "-ally" you want to use, the former usually works like gangbusters, and the latter is almost always destined for failure.   (And even when the former fails, it's usually because there's an element of the latter, and when the latter succeeds, it's because it's really more of the former deep down). 

Offline lonestar

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Re: ADVICE REQUESTED: What would you do?
« Reply #30 on: January 05, 2018, 09:52:10 AM »
The lines between helping, being a codependent, and enabling are very fine. Anyone on the helping side must draw up serious and specific personal boundaries and stick to them firmly.
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