How can I Help?


Dear Sugar--

My sister, who is 36, and her 9 year old daughter, have been living with my parents for the last three years. She has a drug problem, no job and no transportation. She got a divorce from her husband three years ago and asked my parents if she could stay with them while she got her life back together. Since moving in with them, she has stolen over $10,000 from my father and totaled one of their cars, luckily no one was hurt. You may ask why they don't kick her out? Well, because they are afraid of what may come of their child, that she will turn back to drugs and worry for the safety and well being of their grandchild.

My sister has been to counseling and drug centers, but we all know you have to want help and want to get better before you will. To make mattes worse, my sister doesn't even like my mom and dad, only uses them for a place to stay. She has no goals or ambition to do anything. She sometimes leaves for days on end, leaving no information for my parents, with the assumption that her daughter will be cared for. I can see this causing an enormous strain between my parents marriage and our family as a whole and I can't stand to sit back and watch this anymore. I need some advice as to what I can do or how I can help my mom and dad. --Looking Out Laurie

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Dear Looking Out Laurie--

I am so sorry to hear about your sister, this is an awful situation all the way round. Your family sounds like an incredibly supportive and loving unit and it is very clear that your parents are caught between a rock and a hard place -- while they don't want to condone your sisters bad behavior, they don't want her to end up homeless, on drugs, and more importantly, putting their granddaughter in harm's way.

But with that said, it sounds as though your sister needs to have some consequences in her life or else she just won't change. Have your parents thought about taking legal action to gain custody of her daughter? Tough love might the only thing that is going to help your sister understand what she has to lose here. Having her family always there to bail her out or providing her with a safe haven isn't going to help get her feet back on the ground.

Are you living at home as well? As hard as it is for you to sit back and watch your sister treat the parents you love with such disrespect, unfortunately you're right, there is nothing you can do to make her change, and she's the one that has to be ready. In the meantime, I highly advise you and your parents to seek counseling. It isn't healthy for you to carry around the burden your sister is placing on your shoulders. These are her problems, not yours, and while they do directly affect you, you have to learn to separate yourself from them as much as you can. My heart goes out to you and your family and I wish you all the best.

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