'Should I Tell My Mom That My Sister Is Doing Drugs?'

Sad woman sitting on sofa
Sad woman sitting on sofa

Reader Loving Sister writes,

My older sister (she's 21, I'm 20) who I am very close with needs help. I have no idea what to do. She is involved with an awful crowd of people some of which I've been told are dangerous, and because of these people she's been doing a lot of drugs. It's been happening for around five years now and I'm slowly seeing her ruin her life.

I've told our mum and not much has been done because none of us really know what to do, after telling mum it took my sister a long time to open up to me again but recently she told me she's been involved in fraudulent activity to get money as she's lost her job.  I really don't want my sister to end up in prison, but I'm not sure if telling mum will help her in any way and if I do I'm sure she will never open up to me again.

I'm so worried and I feel guilty knowing this and not doing anything.  But then again, I'll feel guilty if I tell someone too. I feel like I'm in a lose-lose situation, and I don't know how to help my sister.

Dear LS,

I am so sorry that you are in this awful situation.  I don't think the answer is cut and dried. You have already tried telling your mother, and nothing has happened.  And this isn't your mom's fault, as your sister is an adult and nobody can force her to stop doing drugs or to stop hanging out with these people.  Nobody really knows what to do when a loved one is engaging in dangerous and destructive behavior. You can read these posts about this same issue here and here.

Some people suggest interventions, and sometimes this works, but much of the time, they don't.  Proponents of 12-step programs generally feel that a person has to hit "rock bottom" in order to reach out for help, and this may be true for many people.  In this case, you are very young and your mom seems to feel helpless herself.  I do not think an intervention would be the right choice in this situation, particularly as your sister has a history of becoming angry with you and cutting you off for discussing her situation with your mom.

You do need to engage in self-care. If you can't interact with your sister without being consumed with anxiety, then you need to protect yourself and create some boundaries so that your life doesn't become centered around the drama in your sister's life. It doesn't mean you love her any less if you choose not to contact her as frequently. It means that you are prioritizing your own mental health, and you deserve to have a young adulthood that is fun and free, not one where you are obsessing over your sister's destructive behavior.

I suggest that you find a therapist and join a support group like Nar-Anon, which is a program for friends and family of people who struggle with addiction.  Your sister is unlikely to seek help until she herself chooses to, and there is nothing you can do.  This realization of your lack of agency and impact can be devastating for the family members of people addicted to drugs, who are watching their loved ones destroy their lives bit by bit.  But, ultimately, you can move toward acceptance, where you hope that your sister finds the help she needs but you don't think that you, or your mom, will be able to change her.  Because, sadly, it's unlikely that you can.

Please keep me updated and thanks for writing in.  Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Be Strong, Even Though It's Hard.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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