My sister is an addict. What should I do?
November 15, 2011 8:37 AM   Subscribe

My sister is addicted to anti-anxiety pills. I have no clue where to start to help. What should I do?

Hey, mefi. I'm going through some tough times at the moment. I know you guys can point me in the right direction on where to start with this. Here goes:
My family is in crisis. I've never seen my mom this worried and I am worried for her health. It turns out her daughter has been stealing from her husband, crashing her car because she was on I-don't-know-what-pill, she lost one of her kids at the mall last week (a stranger brought her back), asking us for money and making shit up, going god-knows-where to get prescriptions from shady doctors and pawning off some expensive watches for more money. She's a fucking addict and her husband is threatening to leave her and taking her two kids if she does it again. I'm really pissed off at her but at the moment things are kinda shaky and I don't want to rock the boat that much before I find out a little about addiction.
My parents took her to a doctor who says he doesn't recommend rehab and wants to keep her in her care. I think he is charging my parents way too much. In my very humble experience, I think sending her to rehab might help but I am often dissuaded by this choice since a lot of people go into remission afterwards. Do you guys have any experience with this?
I don't want to suggest something that might harm my mom further because she is already on the edge and I'd rather come with credible information on the subject. Might rehab be the right choice? Or at least get a second opinion, right? What do you guys think? Can you point me to some info?
posted by theholotrope to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So sorry to hear this! Where are you?
posted by Specklet at 8:53 AM on November 15, 2011

First of all, if you have issues with something that any doctor says about anything, you get a second opinion.

Now, based on the car crash and losing her kid, your sister is pretty clearly a danger to herself and others. Does the doctor know about these things?

As far as rehab and relapse goes, there is only one thing that will make an addict stop: the desire to stop and the will to achieve this desire. That's it. Nothing else, not car crashes or lost children or angry husbands and concerned family or lack of money or anything will keep an addict from trying to get what they want. The more desperate they get, the more they up the ante, and depending on how addictive what they want is, the more they're willing to do and lose. Rehab can take the edge off -- the drug is unavailable and they have no choice but to get clean for at least the term of their stay -- but once she's out, it's up to her to stay clean.
posted by griphus at 8:53 AM on November 15, 2011

There's a ton of info out there on addiction (including here--above). Many variables = many possibilities and solutions, but one that absolutely holds true is that there's not much you (or anyone) can do if she doesn't want the help. I wish you luck.
posted by eggman at 8:55 AM on November 15, 2011

If this doctor isn't recommending rehab for someone who's crashing, stealing and lying for drugs, then people have been lying to the doctor.

You may be dissuaded by the fact that people go into remission after rehab (unfortunately very, very true), but there isn't any choice that's better. Not going to rehab=she'll continue the way she is; going to rehab=she might get some help and start working on her behavior.

If she won't go to rehab, all you can do is lock away your valuables and refuse to lend her money. Don't fall for any of her lies. Any sob story she might have is simply a ploy to get more money for drugs.

If her husband can't convince her to go to rehab, all he can do is leave with the kids. I'm so sorry that this is happening to your family.
posted by Melismata at 8:55 AM on November 15, 2011

Intervention and rehab are the right choice. Your sister is addicted to a substance and probably feels like she's spinning out of control. Try not to be emotional or angry as it is counter productive. Explain to your mother that there is help for her daughter and have a family meeting where you decide how to proceed. It's very likely going to be rough. Your sister has to want help for it to be at all meaningful. Recovery is a process that takes time and commitment--and the support of one's family is essential. Narcotics Anonymous is a good place to start.
posted by marimeko at 8:55 AM on November 15, 2011

Rehab. Before she hurts or kills herself or others. It may not work, but is the best chance you have now. Her husband should take the kids, as they are in danger with her as she is now.Is he a druggie too? If not, he needs to do what he has to do to keep his children safe. Your mom has to realize the seriousness of what is going on, and get another medical opinion, and act on it.
posted by mermayd at 9:18 AM on November 15, 2011

Narcotics Anonymous is a good place to start.

Actually, NA is a good place to go to second. Serious detox and rehab is first. A person currently using won't get anything out of NA and will cause problems for others who are in the groups. If you do go to them, it is likely they will refer you to a detox or rehab. In her current state, if she goes to NA, it is likely she will be asked to leave. All the xxx-Anonymous groups exist for the person who is sober and wants to stay that way. Your sister has not gotten to that point yet.

A couple of other things....
-- The doctor sounds like a quack. Get another one pronto. Just because this person is a doctor, does not make them an addiction specialist. In fact, I wonder whether this doctor is motivated by a desire to help or increasing the bottom line given what you noted.
-- Don't let remission rates discourage you from trying to help. Remission is a fact of the recovery world. It happens and one just has to continue to keep trying until the process works for the addict.
-- Having her husband leave with the kids may be the best for all concerned - especially the kids. She is out of control and those kids are suffering because of it. How much worse does it have to get if even now she is losing her kids at malls? It is not a stretch to imagine that your local child protective services might step in if she is in this state.
-- Get some help for yourself and family. While you are not the addicted one, you are absolutely affected by it and your behavior has been altered because of it. AskMeFi is a nice place to start, but real professional help is what you need to deal with this situation.
-- Hang in there and be ready to make the hard choices. Dealing with an addict is not a pretty situation and contrary to show like Intervention, it does not get resolved in an hour with a plane ticket to California and sentimental music in the background. It is going to be tough.

I wish you, your sister, her kids, husband and family the best. This situation can be fixed and things will get better. It just takes patience, honesty and resolve.
posted by lampshade at 9:20 AM on November 15, 2011

Actually, the situations do not always get fixed and things often do not get better. When you're dealing with an addict, all bets are off. It doesn't matter how many people love them or how great they are when they're sober; a lot of people don't get better. You need to come to terms with that and face the reality of TODAY before you start placing bets on the future.

Go to Nar-Anon and take your parents with you. If you don't have Nar-Anon in your area, go to Al-Anon. They can help you. And note: They can help YOU, not your sister. They can help you figure out what you want your role in your sister's life to be and how involved you want to be in her addiction.

Some people get better when their families force them into rehab, but many do not. Most only get better when they want to get better. When they really want to get better, not when they're just telling you what you want to hear in order to shut you up. And there isn't anything you can do to force your sister to reach that point.

I'm sorry. As you can probably tell, I've been there and it's no fun at all.
posted by something something at 9:52 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Narcotics Anonymous is a good place to start.

Actually, NA is a good place to go to second. Serious detox and rehab is first. A person currently using won't get anything out of NA and will cause problems for others who are in the groups. If you do go to them, it is likely they will refer you to a detox or rehab. In her current state, if she goes to NA, it is likely she will be asked to leave. All the xxx-Anonymous groups exist for the person who is sober and wants to stay that way. Your sister has not gotten to that point yet.

I'm sorry I wasn't very clear there--NA is a good place for the OP/OP's family to start to get information and support.
posted by marimeko at 10:07 AM on November 15, 2011

Relapse is often part of recovery. Don't hold out for a 100% solution. It sounds like she needs help now so go get some from professionals.

You might want to spend an hour or two and watch a few episodes of "Intervention" (A&E). While I don't love it, it does a good job of showing what the friends and family go through and how they often enable the addiction.
posted by chairface at 10:07 AM on November 15, 2011

I'm sorry I wasn't very clear there--NA is a good place for the OP/OP's family to start to get information and support.

Ahh...yes...didn't mean to jump on your advice.
posted by lampshade at 10:15 AM on November 15, 2011

I agree with everyone who says she needs rehab and that she'll only stop when she's ready. In the meantime, can you help the husband with child care at all? He likely needs a break and Mom isn't fit to be around kids.
posted by desjardins at 10:34 AM on November 15, 2011

If she's addicted to benzodiazepams or the like (valium etc) she cannot just stop cold turkey. That is very dangerous. If she's using a lot of those kinds of drugs she is looking at a long slow tapering to get off them. Like months, maybe up to 6 months. So this might be why the doctor is not recommending rehab for her, especially if money or health insurance are an issue.

These drugs are very addictive and cutting someone off cold turkey, which is presumably what her original doctor did, isn't really helpful as you've seen. Finding out the details of the recovery plan and sitting down to discuss and agree to them is the main thing.

And remember, although she's your sister she has NO obligation to tell you the details or to include you in any of this. You can be supportive of your mother and, if they ask, of your sister and brother in law. You can care for everyone involved and offer to help but you can't come in guns blazing and demand information or action. That's not helpful.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 AM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

The first and most important thing here is to make sure the kids and other otherwise innocent bystanders are safe. This may mean resorting to desperate measures such as rehab by semi-choice. I Nth what others have said above about rehab, treatment, meetings, etc. only working when you are ready. I've seen it and lived it and people get help when they want to get help. It cannot be forced and stick.

What you can do today is make sure that anyone who has been pushed into this situation outside of their control is safe and has the help they need. This can include al- or narc-anon meetings, help with a place to stay, or other things up to police involvement if necessary.

These actions may seem really harsh, but when I was in a similar place I really appreciated it, which may seem odd until you realize that most addicts don't want to hurt people; they just aren't in their right mind. At the same time they will hurt people and we need to protect those people when possible.

Please point your mom, your sister's husband, and yourself in the direction of some good counseling. This could be AA (or one of the variants), a good mental health clinic or hospital, or another mental health professional. Don't discount people who are not strictly professional councilors but who have been through similar experiences, but also don't assume they have all the answers.

If I'm anywhere near you (info in my profile) I'm much more than happy to do whatever I can to help here. There are good answers and no, it's not easy.

Be well.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 11:57 AM on November 15, 2011

One more thing - assuming that her husband ends up with custody of the kids (at least temporarily), it would be good for everyone (especially your mother) if your family makes an effort to support the kids and their father (while being very careful to show respect for the father's role as custodial parent). The trickiest thing is that your family would need to have good boundaries with your sister - you can imagine that the father wouldn't want the kids to have a sleepover at Grandma's house if it ends up creating lots of drama.
posted by metahawk at 12:46 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older How to stop rattling in car?   |   Name that London restaurant. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.