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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

To see DEARSUGAR's answer

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.


kayden kayden 10 years
This is a sad situation for the whole family but, especially the helpless child to grow up with this stress. The environment will effect this child for life if this does not change soon. Your sister needs help and, she needs to go somewhere to receive it soon. She needs to check her self into a facility, you all need to go to counseling. Please, don't let this child get lost in the mist of things. Talk to her and take care of she's at an age where growth and development are essential. I will pray for your family.
Miss-Stephanie Miss-Stephanie 10 years
To Laurie-Addictions and alcoholism are family disease, meaning the whole family gets sick. There is support and help out there for families of addicts and alcoholics, just as there is support for the addicts and alcoholics themselves. The important thing is the take care of yourself. I know it isn't easy to step out of the picture, but it doesnt mean you don't love the person who is suffering. Your parents may think that they can help the situation by supporting your sister, but they, just like anyone, are powerless over it. It takes a lot of love and support to step back from it and to begin to take care of yourself...taking care of yourself may mean not allowing the addict/alcohoic to step over your personal boundaries. It actually impedes upon another's recovery if they are in a world that never requires them to face the real consequences of their actions. This doesn't mean you inflict pain and punishment, but rather, step out of the way of them. You can find information and support at
Vsugar Vsugar 10 years
Yeah, I agree with everyone. Your parents need to seek legal advice, and see if they can gain custody of the granddaughter. Then at least you know she is safe. If your sister isn't getting better and "on track" after three years at home, then maybe she needs to be on her own. But that doesn't mean her daughter should suffer. I know it is an impossible thing to think of, stranding a sister (or for your parents, their child), but she needs to grow up and take charge of her own life. Then, and ONLY then, should she get to be a mother again. I hope this situation is resolved, for your niece's sake.
Masqueraded_Angel Masqueraded_Angel 10 years
Cravin, you are a hero to that baby girl. Who knows what could have happened to that poor baby if she stayed with her mother. More people should do what you did...speak up about emotional or physical abuse towards children.
nessabum nessabum 10 years
that was a good thing you did, cravin. :) and as for this post, i agree with Dear. legal action.
summer-roberts summer-roberts 10 years
Good for you cravin. More people should do the same thing.
cravinsugar cravinsugar 10 years
Def have your parents sue for custody. I was in a similar situation, only mine goes like this: My friend and her husband had a baby. She was emotionally unstable, and he on drugs. The baby would sit in its crib for 12 hours a day or more. She didn't bathe her etc. I was called over one night by the husband and told my friend had lost it. She was unresponsive in bed, the baby quielty laying in play pin. When I got her up to tell her we needed to go to hospital b/c she was having ar eaction to her new meds, she called her hubby, who was getting high with his cousin. She went off the deep end. he came home, she started throwing plates and glasses, threatening him with a shrd that she will cut him and kill him. I suggested I go and get them cigarettes since that was on her mind, and I took the baby with me and dropped it off at her great-grandmother's down the street. She doesn't have custody anymore. We don't keep in touch, but last time i heard she had a job, and another baby... That poor baby. it wasn't touched enough, so it didn't coo, or cry, or laugh. it took over a year for the grandma and great-grandma to get it back on track developmentally, and she was still a little behind but almost normal. they have shared custody and she has supervised visitation rights. It was hard to do what i did, but all i could think about was poor baby girl in that house and it just wasn't safe.
PrissyLilBadAss PrissyLilBadAss 10 years
That's really sad to hear! I have a male friend who went through this EXACT same situation. He actually wound up fighting for custody of his nephew and won. I thought it was very courageous, being that he is a single male to take on custody of his nephew. But he knew that gaining custody was a step in the right direction in showing his sister all the things in life she was losing by turning to drugs.
hills hills 10 years
im so sorry to hear ur family are having such a tough, terrible time, i do agree with dearsugar, i wounder if u mother and father would go for legal custordy of ur neice, it must be very tough for her too, mayb u could put most of ur efforts regarding this situation in keeping her feeling cared for. i dont know obviously how ur sister thinks or feels but drugs can make u a complete different person and depressed so she proberly dosnt reali dislike ur parents but feels guilty so trys to push them away as they are the ones she truly loves. i just reali hope ur family will get bk on track and happy soon. i hope u make time for urself and try not to let this run ur life which i know is easier said than done. huge good luck to u all!
pinupsweetheart pinupsweetheart 10 years
I agree. There are many law makers out there that are fighting to give Grandparents rights in many states. I would have your parents find a family lawyer who deals with these types of cases in your state. Any good judge will take one look at the lifestyle you parents have to offer compared to what your sister has to offer. Good Luck!
summer-roberts summer-roberts 10 years
Tough love is right. If a family member can care for the 9 yr old, then they should seek temporary custody. Then all of you should shut your sister out until she gets help. I understand no one wants to see her decline farther, but she must hit her own rock bottom before she can see what it is doing to her and her daughter. I would also suggest counseling for your niece so she can learn to understand what is going on.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 10 years
It sounds like some tough love is in order. I also like DearSugars comment.
Masqueraded_Angel Masqueraded_Angel 10 years
I would suggest that your parents tell her that she will now start paying rent, or half of the utilities now that she's living back at home. If she doesn't get a job and pay the rent within a month or two, she gets kicked out and your parents go for legal custody of the daughter. In this kind of situation, it's either "Shape Up or Ship Out" for me.
fab4 fab4 10 years
I'm am sorry to hear your situation, and I know it must be hard to be in your position. Interventions are a big ordeal, but effective. Maybe consider doing one to get her into a rehabilitation prgram? The good news is that your parents are willing to be there for the child. good luck...I will keep you in my thoughts!
Vanilla-Bean Vanilla-Bean 10 years
This is very sad to hear. Dear's advice is really good. Your parents should try and get legal custody. Your sister needs to know that this behavior will not be tolerated. I hope everything works out.
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