Drug Stealer
November 26, 2010 5:25 AM   Subscribe

My brother in law is stealing prescription pain meds. Do we confront him or just sit on the information?

We finally confirmed our suspicions yesterday when he came over for TG (how we confirmed it is below for those who are interested). We are unsure how to handle this. I am pissed because he had taken meds that my dog has needed and I potentially needed but can probably do without (for recent oral surgery). We are also a bit worried about him.

Both of his parents (one deceased) have a history of prescription drug abuse. BIL spends a lot of time with his mom who has a ton of pain meds at her house and has expressed concern over housekeepers/other people stealing her drugs in the past. My guess is he takes them from her too and she is not with it enough to notice (b/c of her own drug use).

He also babysits for Baby Murrey--he never seems out of it at all and his girlfriend is always with him and likewise is fine (we know it is not her). They are great with Baby Murrey, but I have a sickened feeling about someone watching Baby Murrey who is willing to steal from me.

Do we confront him about it? I assume he will lie about it, but we know the truth. There is obviously a concern for his well-being since there will always be drugs around so long as his mom is alive and he has a potential addiction to the pills. What about letting him take care of Baby Murrey? He always seems perfectly coherent when they do babysit and they love him a bunch.

I guess I am wondering if anyone can shed some light on this type of addiction and what may be going through his mind that he would steal.

(Here's the long story of how we caught him)

Our suspicions were first raised a few years ago when our heart diseased dog was on hydrocodone (it acts as a cough suppressant in dogs--who knew?) and a majority of her pills disappeared and there were only 2 potential culprits, by BIL and another friend.

After my c-secion last year, I had some hydrocodone prescribed and had a few left over, which I eventually discovered had gone missing.

Earlier this year, I threw out my back and never took any of the 20 that were prescribed for me. I kept them well-hidden but recently had moved them into a drawer in our master bathroom. On the night before my recent oral surgery, I discovered that there were only 4 left from the 20 I hadn't taken. There were 3 potential culprits, including BIL, who along with his awesome girlfriend, sometimes babysit for Baby Murrey.

So yesterday, I "hid" the 4 remaining pills in the same drawer, but inside of a zippered bag and in a prescription bottle labeled as antibiotics. Inside the bottle were the 4 pills and other drugs I hadn't finished.

I forgot about it but after everyone left last night, Mr. Murrey had me check because at one point in the night, BIL asked to use the toilet in our bathroom to "poop". When I checked, there were 2 indeed missing. He was the only one that used our bathroom. And he knew what hydrocodone pills looked like because he had left similar looking, non-hydrocodone pills that were in the same bottle.
posted by murrey to Human Relations (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
well, him loving the kiddo a lot would not be enough to trust him with their care, if i were the parent. and the girlfriend's presence isn't reassurance enough. in your situation, i'd stop letting them be in charge of the baby, and if they ask why, tell them that you can't trust the safety of your child with someone who will steal your medications.
posted by lemniskate at 5:37 AM on November 26, 2010 [14 favorites]

'BIL, we love you a lot, but we cannot allow you in our home anymore because your steal meds. We are here for you when and if you need help dealing with your problem.'
posted by k8t at 5:41 AM on November 26, 2010 [35 favorites]

He is a drug addict. The fact that the drugs to which he's addicted are legally available with a prescription does not change that fact at all. People who are truly addicted to something will do just about anything to get that something -- lying and stealing are just the beginning.

He desperately needs help, but because his brain has rewired itself to think that his desire for the drug is perfectly normal, it will not be easy to get him to understand just how much he needs help. Staging an intervention is a great place to start, because when confronted by a group of people saying the same thing, it's much harder to lie yourself out of the situation. If he doesn't voluntarily put himself in rehab after an intervention, you may need to call the cops on him the next time he steals pain meds. Seriously. You need to do whatever it takes to wake him up to his problem, period.

And you absolutely, 100% certainly should NOT allow him to watch your child, under any circumstances. Addicts care about their addiction first, and everything else (babies included) second.
posted by cerebus19 at 5:41 AM on November 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Let alone the fact that he is stealing your medicine (medicine you may really need), he's also risking serious criminal charges by possessing these meds without a prescription and, depending on his use, potentially endangering his own life via overdose. or mixing with alcohol/other drugs. If it were me, I'd definitely be addressing this in some fashion, and I wouldn't let someone who would steal medicine from me take care of my kids.
posted by Menthol at 5:44 AM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well yeah I would confront him - but from the point of view that he needs to seek help for his addiction to painkillers. You need to leave accusation out of this - words like stealing while accurate are not going to engender a good outcome here.

But basically I would tell him that you're aware he has been illegally obtaining hydrocodone, that he needs to seek help for his addiction, and that while you love him you are not able to leave your child with him until he's committed to treatment.

A suggestion: getting into the history of how you know is not a great tactic because it gives him an opportunity to argue the events. He will probably deny this, regardless, and there is serious potential for him to simply reject this news (and you), but I don't see how you can do nothing here. He probably needs help, and more than probably should not be caring for a young child right now.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:45 AM on November 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

k8t said all that needs to be said about this. But I'll say it again for effect and confirmation....Do not allow this man into your home. Do not allow him, or anyone that is enabling and supporting his habit, which his girlfriend most certainly is, take care of a child.
posted by HuronBob at 5:45 AM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

An additional note... he might be creating himself to be viewed as a great babysitter BECAUSE he knows that he can access drugs at your house.
posted by k8t at 6:08 AM on November 26, 2010 [18 favorites]

I agree with all of the above, and I will add that he will almost certainly deny it if confronted, so don't expect him to admit to anything. He'll probably come up with all sorts of alternative explanations to try to make himself seem innocent. Don't back down. You know the truth.
posted by something something at 6:42 AM on November 26, 2010

You need to change your locks, too. Not just the door you may have given him access to, but any doors that are keyed that lead to the outside of your home. You'd also better prepare for your house to be a potential site for break-ins now, too.
posted by winna at 7:11 AM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

On top of any other things you do, get a lockbox. Keep medications in the lockbox, if you don't outright get rid of them. Suggest same to any other family whose house he will enter. Perhaps you can't do anything about his mother, but you can take steps to keep him from stealing from you again.
posted by galadriel at 7:24 AM on November 26, 2010

If he's with it when he's watching your baby, then he's with it. I'd probably be OK with that... but it's not my kid, it's yours, and if you're not comfortable, you're not comfortable -- period.

Where is the fact of his addiction coming from? Everyone is stating or assuming this, but as I read the post, all we know is that he likes getting high on narcotic painkillers and that he's willing to steal them from people he knows. As far as we know, this guy isn't a junkie. Is he high functioning? Does he have a job? He obviously has a girlfriend, which says something.

As far as confronting him, what do you hope to accomplish? Not having him watch the kid? You can already do that. Getting a teary-eyed commitment to change from him? Not likely to happen. Venting your frustration and anger? By all means.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:27 AM on November 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I disagree with anyone who says that he is unfit to watch your child. For one thing, you really have no way of knowing if anyone who watches your child is a drug addict or not. Hell, your husband could be a drug addict, and you might never know, if he was careful. Addicts are rarely monsters and total wasters. For one thing, Hydrocodone does not impair decision making or motor function, especially for an addict. The worst that could happen is he might fall asleep. Half the people posting here wouldn't recognize a "junkie" if one sat on their faces. You probably know several addicts, and would be shocked to learn that they were thus, so please get some perspective before doing anything. These others posters don't have it, either.

Yes, he needs help. You can help him by not keeping any pain pills in the house, at all. If you are done with them, then toss them. However, if you do confront him as a family, be prepared to deal with not only the physical addiction, but depression as well. No doubt he hates himself for having to lie and steal.

Lying and stealing are part and parcel of this type of addiction. If he had easy access, he would not be lying and stealing. Please ignore these people who seem to think that chemical addiction is some sort of personality flaw, and that you should punish him by denying him access to his family. Boy, that sure would help him deal with any depression that is almost always associated with addiction! Actually no, it would do exactly the opposite. Your child is perfectly safe.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:41 AM on November 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

J. Wilson: Where is the fact of his addiction coming from? Everyone is stating or assuming this, but as I read the post, all we know is that he likes getting high on narcotic painkillers and that he's willing to steal them from people he knows. As far as we know, this guy isn't a junkie. Is he high functioning? Does he have a job? He obviously has a girlfriend, which says something.

Speaking only for myself, it comes from the stealing part. I'm not one of those OMG DRUGZ!!!! people and sure plenty of people who smoke pot or take coke or pop pills recreationally do a fine job as parents and citizens, despite the fact that we frown on that as a culture. But when you get to the part where you're stealing to score, I think even the most non-plussed person would agree that's a red flag, and to me is a strong indicator of addiction.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:47 AM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lying and stealing are part and parcel of this type of addiction. If he had easy access, he would not be lying and stealing. Please ignore these people who seem to think that chemical addiction is some sort of personality flaw, and that you should punish him by denying him access to his family.

Indeed, how dreadful of you to be concerned about the safety of your child when your brother-in-law has demonstrated that he is willing to ignore societal norms about not stealing from family and hence is less than rigorously bound by the social contract! You should give him the drugs and avoid the undoubtedly distressing trauma for him of having to steal them!

I have family who are junkies, and they are not welcome in my home. I like not coming home and having to itemize my possessions and worry about what happens when they decide to move on to identity theft and taking out credit cards in my name, which is the next phase of this delightful journey to the bottom. If this makes people who are willing to steal from me feel bad I just can't tell you how sad that makes me.

Wait, no it doesn't. I don't give a damn about people who've demonstrated that they think so little of me they regard me as an easy mark for theft.

You have the right to be secure in your own home. Repeat it until it sinks in.
posted by winna at 8:09 AM on November 26, 2010 [22 favorites]

What about letting him take care of Baby Murrey?

He likes stealing your drugs more than he likes you and more than he likes your baby. If he's an addict, he's showing behavior motivated by addiction rather responsible, appropriate adult behavior (see: stealing drugs while babysitting). If he isn't an addict, he's showing behavior motivated by selfishness and stupidity rather than responsible, appropriate adult behavior.

He is utterly unworthy of your trust and thus cannot care for your child. Even if he has never been and would never be impaired in the slightest while babysitting, you cannot trust him because he steals from you. And if you know that you can't trust someone, you also know (or should know) that you cannot leave your child in that person's care. It simply isn't safe--not because he'll harm your baby in some drugs-related accident, or because he'll expose your baby to other drug users, but simply because you can't trust what he says. You need to be able to believe that your babysitter is telling you the truth. And you can't, in this case, because he's broken your trust by stealing from you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:14 AM on November 26, 2010 [8 favorites]

Brocktoon: "I disagree with anyone who says that he is unfit to watch your child. For one thing, you really have no way of knowing if anyone who watches your child is a drug addict or not."

Except in this case the OP knows for certain the suspect is stealing from her and lying; no question. Technically, we don't even know if he's taking the pills or selling them or what. But if it was my child, I would not let anyone babysit who I knew was stealing from me.

In short form:

Any other random babysitter may or may not be trustworthy.
BIL is not trustworthy.

Which do you choose?
posted by chairface at 8:33 AM on November 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

My wife has an old family friend who has stolen some of her meds when we've left him unattended in our house before. I don't think he's dangerous, and I'm not changing locks or anything. I do think he's going to end up on someone's couch eventually (not mine, though), but just because he's generally too lazy to hold a job, not because he's a junkie.

The thing that makes him unwelcome in my house is, he's willing to steal pain meds that my wife NEEDS for his own recreation*. What an asshole attitude that is. Fuck that guy. I was more than happy to be the bad guy and let her blame it on me, but he's no longer visiting our house, ever.

*If he was actually dependent, then I'd consider it less assholish. But then that would even be more reason not to have him in my house - I have stuff that could be sold for money.
posted by ctmf at 8:37 AM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are in the perfect position to offer him your council or support - and if he's smart, he'll chose to accept it. That might take time of may never happen, but if and when it does, he will remeber that you cared about him - and that will help him.

He has a problem. If he were an alchoholic he wouldn't need to steal, but he'd still be an addict. And you'd never let him watch your kid until he straightened himself out - right?

They are sperate issues. I wouldn't let him babysit anymore. And I'd address his stealing your prescriptions meds with a one on one intervention of sorts. A discussion where you tell him what you know, innform him he isn't welcome back until he gets help. Then offer your support. If he gets angry, lies or walks away - it's out of your hands.
posted by marimeko at 8:45 AM on November 26, 2010

If you behave how Winna would have you behave, you will regret it 10 years from now. That is not how you treat people who are struggling with depression and addiction. You can take the good with the bad, or you can smugly watch your brother in law through a dirty window.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:06 AM on November 26, 2010

Please, please, please don't leave a lying, stealing drug addict alone with your baby.
posted by medusa at 9:07 AM on November 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think your brother should talk to him alone. He's obviously very secretive about this and if you have a big dramatic group intervention his instinctive reaction will likely be to clam up and deny everything. If your brother talks to him alone and lets him know that you've noticed this as an ongoing issue he's more likely to talk. Then you can both discuss, judge the likely truth of what he said and the severity of the issue as it relates to you. Maybe the GF is the one doing the stealing, maybe he's stealing them for his mother, maybe he's selling them for rent money. That's a really small amount of pills for a serious junkie btw, so I doubt you need to change your locks or anything, you're not getting ongoing prescriptions right?

As far as why he's stealing them if he's taking them he's rationalized it as you don't need them and have no plans to use them and he does therefore he's going to take them. He doesn't see it as stealing because he's not hurting you. Kind of like taking fruit from the tree in someone else's yard because they're just letting it go to waste. He knows it's wrong because he's hiding it but he's convinced himself it's not that wrong.

Any way you cut it I wouldn't leave him alone with the baby or in your house until you feel you have a handle on whats going on.
posted by fshgrl at 9:41 AM on November 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

This one's simple.

Tell him you believe he's doing it, and that you think he might have or be developing a drug problem.

Tell him you love him unconditionally, that you aren't mad, and that you will help him with it if he needs it, but won't do anything to enable his habit further. Stand firm on that.

As to babysitting your child - it's not safety I'd worry about at this point, but the fact that letting him babysit is a form of enabling his habit.
posted by TravellingDen at 9:50 AM on November 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Better check your jewelry. If he's stealing pills today, tomorrow he will go for the gold/silver. Having recently dealt with a similar situation these pill heads can not be trusted. Never let these people in your home again. And let them know why.
posted by patnok at 9:53 AM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

My parents had to ban a cousin from our home who was stealing money and other valuables from us for drugs. Unfortunately there is no half measure here; his being the best babysitter in the world is completely negated by his theft of your belongings, be they drugs or money. I am certain that if you continue to allow BIL in your home and just successfully hide the meds his stealing will escalate to your cash, or worse. Change your locks, hire a baby sitter with vetted credentials and think long and hard before ever letting him back in your home again. If you want to continue having relations with him do it someplace other than your home. Good luck.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 10:05 AM on November 26, 2010

I think people may be acting a little over dramatically here. Plenty of folks use prescription drugs for fun; unless you see other kinds of indications that he's an addict you don't know that's the case here. Of course, stealing from you is not cool, but that can be dealt with in some other way than assuming he's a hopeless addict. Even if he is an addict, there's no support for the idea that "tough love" like banning him from your house would be helpful. You do need to protect yourself and your family if it comes to that, but reacting hysterically is not going to help you discern what is going on here -- and hence, is not going to actually help you or him. This could be anything from a bit of leftover adolescent behavior; a bad habit that will fade away; a full-blown addiction; or something in between.
posted by yarly at 10:14 AM on November 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

yarly - there is a big difference between recreational usage and addiction, and the fact that he is stealing from family members is a big fat red flag towards the addiction part. And if it's not? Shit then he's really just an asshole.
posted by radioamy at 11:00 AM on November 26, 2010 [15 favorites]

It isn't hysterical or dramatic to suggest that an adult who steals anything from his family should not be trusted. That there may be drug use or drug addiction involved does not change this, but does hint at the thief's motives. It is perfectly appropriate and healthy to say to this person, "You have betrayed my trust by stealing from me. I suspect you have a drug problem and that that is why you area stealing from me. I love you, but I cannot let you into my home because I cannot trust you not to steal from me." It's not cruel, it's sensible. It doesn't say, "You are dead to us," it simply provides a necessary boundary given his persistent habit of stealing from the OP: that is, he is loved but not trusted and thus cannot be welcomed into their home.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:19 AM on November 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

A recreational drug user says, "Hey, you had oral surgery last month, right? Got any extra hydrocodone sitting around that you don't want? I'll buy it off you, or trade for it."

An addict who is in the midst of a steep, swift decline to the bottom just steals the hydrocodone, and hopes you don't notice.

Next he will steal cash and jewelry. And after that, he'll be sneaking over when you aren't home, to take larger objects like TVs and laptops.

Does this make him some kind of evil monster? No. Does this mean he's incompetent to watch your baby? Maybe. Does it mean that if you leave him alone with the baby, he'll use his access to your house to rifle through all your drawers, closets, etc? Almost certainly.

(He has already used his solo access to your bathroom to steal stuff. It's reasonable to assume that his theft will expand if the boundaries of his access expand.)

Does he need help? Yes. If you offer it to him, will he take it, or get outraged by these outrageous accusations, of outrage? Most likely the latter.

Draw the line around all these pylons however you think is best. But understand that his drug habit is not your fault, and it's not your problem to solve. Only he is responsible for his actions, and only he can change his life for the better.

Family ties and human kindness oblige you to offer help, but if he refuses that help, then so be it. You have put the offer on the table; refresh it occasionally, but don't either retract it or push it. Just leave it there, for that hypothetical day in the future when he may come to you and ask for help.

Act compassionately because you know that's what makes you a good person, not because you actually believe that your compassion will make a good goddamned to someone who stole your dog's medicine.

Regardless: reach out. Reach out to your other family members, both for support, and to let them know what's happening. Reach out to your friends, who have probably gone through this themselves. Know that this is a sad and complicated and crazy-making situation, and just about everyone has been through it, on one side or the other.

(We have been dealing with a similar situation in my family for the last five years or so. Oh, the holidays. Such a joy.)
posted by ErikaB at 11:34 AM on November 26, 2010 [11 favorites]

I see an really important unstated question here: what do you get by leaving your baby with him (with or without his girlfriend)? In other words, confront or not. Be gentle, or do the tough love approach. Distance yourself, or not. Any of these could work, if your story is just about dealing with your BIL's stealing medication, and concern over his mental and physical health.

BUT -- letting an addict watch your child? You'd never in your right mind let someone like that outside of your family do it.

So what I'd want you to ask yourself is: Is What I Get worth endangering my child?

What You Get could be: free babysitting/date-night, drama-free family time with your in-laws, or whatever. I'm trying not to judge while at the same time saying... WTH are you thinking??
posted by mdiskin at 11:49 AM on November 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wonder if any of these posters have ever met a junkie...
A junkie would never bother to baby sit, they don't want responsibility.
A junkie wouldn't just bother with hydrocodone, thats childs play for a junkie.
A junkie would take your valuables and pawn them for a fix.
A junkie wouldn't have a girlfriend you refer to as 'awesome', she'd be a junkie too.
I've known junkies, and I wouldn't trust them with a child, then again, a junkie wouldn't babysit.
I've lost friends who became junkies. A Junkies life revolves around fix after fix.
I'd never trust a junkie.
Someone who lifts hydrocodone =/= junkie. You don't know the motives until you've inquired about the missing medication.

The best thing you could do is simply confront the individual and be honest.
Mention how you've noticed medications missing, and that it is compromising the trust and relationship between them and your family.
The issue at hand is the stealing part, thats what should be addressed, not assume that the individual is a junkie with a drug problem.
posted by handbanana at 11:53 AM on November 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Pfft, play hardball. Call the cops. Enough soft-pedaling the situation. He's rifling through your possessions to find stealing drugs. This is not a trivial situation. An addict such as this isn't going to stop until they hit rock bottom. Stop being yet another enabler standing between him and hitting bottom. The sooner, the better, for him and for your own family.

Yes, it'll be ugly. But the sooner the ugly truth gets out, the sooner the path to recovery can begin. Stop delaying the inevitable.
posted by wkearney99 at 12:07 PM on November 26, 2010

typo: s/find stealing/find and steal/
posted by wkearney99 at 12:08 PM on November 26, 2010

Do you really think the cops are going to do anything about hearsay from yesterday?
He wasn't caught in the act, and trying to prove it would go no where.

Hydrocodone is one of the most prescribed drugs in America, not everyone that takes them becomes an inevitable junkie...need to lay off the House and armchair diagnosis. The main issue is trust and stealing.
posted by handbanana at 12:15 PM on November 26, 2010

Wow, lots of stereotyping going on here. The thing is, addiction doesn't just randomly turn people bad and it doesn't automatically turn people into lying, stealing baby abusers and killers. Addiction affects the pre-existing values of the person: someone who wouldn't steal from family while not addicted may become more likely to steal from family while addicted while someone who is an asshole will do so in both instances if it pleases him. Someone who wouldn't abuse or neglect children might become more likely to do so if addicted— but someone whose values say this is something I will never do wouldn't do it, addicted or not.

This is why many addicts steal from stores—but never from friends. Or are willing to deal—but never steal. Addiction is a stress on moral values but it doesn't eliminate them or turn good people into evil ones.

The reason addicts get associated with all kinds of bad values however is that sociopaths (who will act immorally regardless of addiction but will be worse when using) are overrepresented among addicts and addicts like to use the excuse of their addiction to blame bad behavior on the addiction rather than their own shaky values under its influence. This is why some drug addicts are perfectly fine parents and baby sitters while others should never be let within 100 feet of a child, stoned or sober.

That said, this person is stealing from you and you need to talk to them about it. Start with an expression of concern, not judgment. Praise his skill with kids. Say you are extremely worried about his behavior and explain how you discovered that the drugs were missing. Explain that a family history of opioid addiction means he's at increased risk. Offer to help him find treatment—there's a treatment locator here. [Note that doesn't mean it's *good* treatment, just treatment that exists. To learn how to find good treatment and deal with a family member's addiction, you might want to check out my book Recovery Options. It's 10 years old but sadly not out of date: main update is that buprenorphine—a great option for opioid addiction treatment which could be especially useful for someone with a family history—is now widely available].

Anyway, if you express this as concern and tell him that you really think he's great with your kid and want to have him as a babysitter but can't trust him if this is going on, you may be able to avoid the defensiveness that comes with confrontational approaches. If you can express the sense that he will *feel better* and have a happier life without addiction— that will be especially helpful. People tend to get clean when they realize that their using is causing problems *and* they have hope for recovery. If you leave out the hope part, you might just drive him further away.
posted by Maias at 12:17 PM on November 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

Whatever you do, please, FFS, do not involve the police. If you decide he is not welcome, fine, but do you really want to completely fuck him?
posted by Meatbomb at 1:32 PM on November 26, 2010

wkearney, btw, there's no such thing as rock bottom. giving someone a criminal record is probably just about the worst possible way to spur recovery. what's linked most to long-term recovery? employment in meaningful work and supportive relationships. what's the best way to reduce the chances of someone getting a good job and to interfere with relationships? yep, giving them a criminal record.

why does rock bottom not exist? because it's always defined retrospectively. if i quit, therefore, the last event i experienced as important was "rock bottom" whether it involved going to prison or breaking a nail. if i then relapse and quit again, now i have a new rock bottom, again, whether it was being divorced by my wife of 40 years or being rejected for a date by someone I really don't care much about. addiction is a chronic disorder and the idea of rock bottom is an outdated cliche, best left for the likes of Dr. Drew [if you want to treat addiction well, you should probably do the opposite of what he suggests. for example, kindness and empathy work way better than humiliation and patronizing advice. another example: detox which involves avoiding horrific effects like seizures and severe insomnia is more effective and successful than that which maximizes suffering. since seizures can kill, the show he allowed that to occur on is actually an instance of probable malpractice, since it was predictable].
posted by Maias at 2:44 PM on November 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you behave how Winna would have you behave, you will regret it 10 years from now. That is not how you treat people who are struggling with depression and addiction. You can take the good with the bad, or you can smugly watch your brother in law through a dirty window.

And if you value your brother-in-law's delicate feelings over your own peace of mind, you could possibly spend years dealing with identity fraud, insurance claims for stolen property, and possibly end up getting sucked into his spiralling journey to the bottom in ways that are too depressing to list, in addition to already having to feel insecure in your own home.

How long before you have to start wondering if you've just misplaced something (other than the drugs) or it was stolen? That is no way to live.
posted by winna at 2:46 PM on November 26, 2010

I am another voice for confronting him, but kindly and firmly. One good enough reason is that YOU never want to wind up in the position where it could look like you were actually supplying him willingly! If you don't have the heart to cut him off from Baby Murray, get a locked safe to keep your meds in when he's over.
posted by motsque at 3:24 PM on November 26, 2010

I think you can love your BIL, but still set boundaries.

One boundary is that you have to trust the people who watch your kid. If you're right - and it is an if until you ask - this person, for whatever reason (addiction or a need for money, or helping a friend, whatever) is stealing from you.

Watching kids is about having good judgment. Stealing from you, repeatedly, is a judgment call, and by choosing to steal, he made the wrong call. Is this the decision you would have made in his shoes? Given his choices, is this an acceptable choice to you? The point is that they had a choice - your BIL could have come to you and asked for the pills, or not stolen from you. But for whatever reason, they didn't. You either trust and respect his decisions and how he makes them, or you don't.

If you don't, for whatever reason, then he probably isn't the best person to watch your kid, regardless of how fabulous and loving he is. That's because his parameters of acceptable actions and behavior are different than yours in a way that is meaningful to you.

How he feels about losing babysitting time - depressed, embarrassed, shunned, etc., - is not yours to control. He also has the ability to feel circumspect, and bold enough to decide to take steps to reflect on his actions and change he behavior or his life. It isn't necessarily forever.

Finally, if he wasn't your brother in law, but some random 17 year old girl, stealing from you, would it make a difference what she was stealing? Or would the stealing be enough to disqualify her? Is the fact that it's your BIL changing how you feel about the behavior?

You clearly care for your BIL, and if you do approach him, it's obvious that you will do it from a place of love and concern for him and his well being. He is lucky to have you.
posted by anitanita at 5:28 PM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh man. I'm sorry you're in this predicament. Let me tell you something, from the addict's perspective, because I was/am your BIL.

I am addicted to 3 different meds (I'm prescribed to all of them, so no stealing), one of which is an opiate. This addiction was sparked by being prescribed heavy doses of various painkillers (it was medically necessitated) after a major car accident one year ago, in which I sustained significant spinal injuries, a brain hemorrhage, neurological impairment, etc.

Earlier this year, my SO had to go to the ER after pulling a muscle in his neck. They gave him all kinds of meds-- hydrocodone being one of them. He didn't take any because he doesn't like to take medication. I remember the moment he showed me all of the bottles in the medicine cabinet. "Look at at the prescription bottles! I'm like a pharmacy!" Prior to that point, I didn't know what medications he had been given. I remember thinking, "Damnit. Why did you show me that?" I did my best to resist taking any. Then one day I had a bad day. I took 3 pills from the bottle (I have a high tolerance). 3 more the next day. Within a week, the bottle was empty. I never meant for that to happen. I justified taking the first few pills by telling myself he wouldn't notice. You notice when a bottle is empty. Months later he noticed. He didn't say anything to me, but we both knew exactly what had happened. At that point, he had a better understanding of my troubles so that's probably why he remained silent. I still feel sick about the incident. Awful. I hate myself for it.

Your BIL knows exactly what he did. He may even suspect he has a problem (this is very easy to not see in oneself). If you confront him, since it seems like you've been able to reasonably narrow it down to him, I suggest you tell him you know, you are not happy, and talk about getting help. Tell him from this point forward you will not keep any controlled substances in your home-- in that way, you are actually helping him.

I think others may disagree with me here, especially if you are unfamiliar with addiction, but while he most definitely stole from you, this is different from shoplifting, stealing your watch, etc. I am not a thief. I don't have a criminal record. I would have never taken cash or material possessions from my BF. But put those pills in front of me, and I have no control. Addicts can justify anything in their heads. It's likely your BIL is an otherwise "normal" law-abiding person. Right now, he has an addiction though. And if things escalate enough, he will be doing riskier things.

I would not let him care for your child. It is possible he is sober in your home. It's certainly possible his partner doesn't use drugs at all (as in my case). But out of all the meds I have been physically addicted to, it's only the opiates which have made me do stupid shit. I am a completely different person on them. All you need is one time for him to take a few while caring for your baby and have things go awry... Don't put the life of your child in his hands.

Anyway, sorry this is so long. My point is, I understand how you're feeling. Right now you have to power to help all parties out. Keep the meds out of your home or at least hide them well. Confront him. Tell him straight up you know what's going on. You don't need to ask if it was him. Express your fears. Offer to help him find help. Tell him that in the meantime, you can't have him caring for your child. Not until he is better. Addiction is a really difficult thing. It doesn't sound like this is the case here, but avoid being too harsh. It's easy to tune out what people are saying that way. It's also pointless to try to pinpoint what led him to believe it was okay to steal the meds from you. He may very well be like me and I'm sure many other addicts. When you need something so badly -- to the extent that you are physically dependent and it isn't a matter of ~*~willpower~*~ -- it's not odd to find yourself doing something you would otherwise consider morally reprehensible in any other situation.

Has anyone ever confronted him about his problem? Sometimes people need to hear from others, especially loved ones, that they notice to person is acting different, they are worried, etc. etc.

Please feel free to msg me if I can be of any help. Good luck.
posted by overyourhead at 5:38 PM on November 26, 2010 [14 favorites]

Please don't let someone who steals from you and lies to you watch your baby.

You don't even have to get into the drugs part to know that this dude is Bad News right now. If someone is going to go to the trouble to dig through a family member's drawers to find stuff to steal--whatever the stuff is--this person's judgment is impaired like whoa.

People with judgment so impaired that they are stealing from family members, and stealing in circumstances where if they thought for a minute they would realize that they knew you were stealing from them and are heedless of the consequences are not in a position to make good decisions about the care of your baby.

If you'd rather discuss the addiction (because, yeah, people don't generally steal from family members to feed their recreational pleasures) than the stealing, that's obviously your choice, and it might be more helpful to your brother-in-law to offer him support with the addiction than being stern about the stealing.

But no matter what, I really want you to not let this person take care of your baby until he gets his judgment back. That's not fair to the baby. And I don't think letting his girlfriend take care of the baby is a smart idea, either--either she knows about his stealing, in which case I wouldn't trust her with the baby, or she doesn't know about the stealing and perhaps not the addiction, in which case she might trust him with the baby.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:49 PM on November 26, 2010

But put those pills in front of me, and I have no control.

The pills weren't in front of him; he went through the drawers to find them mixed in with antibiotics.

That, to me, is where one sees the impaired judgment. If someone with an addiction took a pill out of a medicine cabinet, that's obviously not OK, but it wasn't premeditated. Once you're going through someone's drawers and opening up hidden caches of pills and sorting through them to find the ones you want, you're stealing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:52 PM on November 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sidhedevil, overyourhead was speaking metaphorically about the 'in front' because they made it otherwise clear that *they* felt they were stealing them too.

I think this whole discussion shows the shades of grey from drugs->junkie, and that we don't know where the BIL lies. I've never been a drug addict, but I'm sitting here feeling guilty, trying to figure out whether my propensity to grab a cookie from the cupboard in a kitchen (uh, that makes it sound weird - no more than above average), would somehow be elevated if addicted to drugs to feel that rummaging through the bathroom is the moral equivalent of looking in the pantry, and just the fact that I can kinda see the connection somehow makes me feel sympathetically guilty.
Prescription drug abuse does seem to be more and more common. It's a scary route to go down.
Mental note to self: never get addicted to drugs. Especially not opiates or uppers.

While the babysitting this is currently a clear no, if after discussion with BIL you're still on the fence about it - I'd ask if he's ever taken them while babysitting. Now that's a clear-ass no.
posted by Elysum at 8:25 PM on November 26, 2010

But you see my point, Elysum. The brother-in-law's judgment is terribly impaired, presumably by an addiction, because he went ahead and did something that is Absolutely Not Okay to someone he presumably cared about. And I don't think someone in that place should be babysitting, because his judgment is way off.

I mean, yeah, if you were babysitting for me and you went into my drawers looking for cookies and found cookies in a bag full of tampons and took the cookies out and left the tampons and then closed the bag and the drawer all up as if nothing had happened--

I wouldn't think you'd be in a position to be babysitting effectively. And it's not about fear of drugs. It's about fear of leaving the safety of my child in the hands of someone who isn't thinking clearly or behaving according to the basic rules of the social contract.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:36 PM on November 26, 2010

Don't let him watch your baby because you don't know how quickly someone can go from "with it" to not with it. I had a friend addicted to Percocet and took her to dinner once. In the car, she was perfectly fine. We go inside and sit down and she starts falling asleep with her hand drifting into her food. I had to continuously wake her up and the manager and waitress were staring and I got really scared they were going to call the police. When I told her it was time to leave (she wasn't eating any of her food) she got angry with me and said she wasn't done, then promptly went back to falling asleep.

I saw her lie, manipulate, and steal from me. When it was obvious she was the only one who could have taken my money, she said "well maybe you dropped it." Had I accused her, she would have gotten all haughty and angry and said shame on me for even thinking that and maybe we shouldn't be friends any more.

Some addicts are master manipulators. Protect yourself and your family.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:44 AM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

If he's stealing pills today, tomorrow he will go for the gold/silver

You will not find any statistics that back this up. Stop demonizing addicts!
posted by Brocktoon at 7:31 PM on February 8, 2011

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