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Sister in recovery sneaking vodka – what do I do?

answered 12:13 PM EST, Thu August 04, 2011
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My sister came to live with us after finishing up with treatment for a serious problem with cocaine and crack and drinking. She has been staying with us for 4 months and she has been doing very well. She goes to meetings and to her group a few times a week and it feels nice to have my real sister back from the dead.
We have been burned by her too many times in the past so the deal was that she could stay with us but if started using or drinking again she would have to go. My husband was very serious about this due to our past problems with her. She has been doing really great and has a full time job as a landscaper and seems to be avoiding her old friends and lifestyle but this morning I was gardening and I found a half empty bottle of vodka hidden in the bushes behind her room.
If I tell my husband she will have to go. But if I let her drink against the rules then I am just enabling her drinking again, like before. On the other hand, she really seems like she is trying hard to get her life turned around. What should I do? Should I confront her about it? Should I make her go like the deal says I should? Should I pretend like I never saw it?

Loren Gelberg-Goff Says...

While you did a very loving thing by allowing your sister to come live with you and your husband, you also made the rules crystal clear.  You absolutely have to confront her and honor the boundaries and rules you set when she returned.  She knew the rules when she came to live with you, and if you ignore her drinking, then your word and rules mean nothing, and you are being disrespectful to both yourself and your husband. 

I understand that you'll feel badly about turning your sister out, but she is the cause of this NOT you... Her having to leave is a direct result of HER actions, not yours.  How will you feel if you "let this slide"?... What will it do to your relationship with your husband, with yourself.  How will you feel carrying this secret?  Yes, the consequences are big, but they are bigger if you do nothing and let this slide.  You  know that you saw the bottle...You know that you are keeping a secret, and your relationship with your sister and your husband will suffer because you won't be able to be authentic with her because you'll know the truth. 

Take a deep breath, and know that you have an obligation to yourself to make sure you are treating yourself with love, respect and compassion, and you deserve no less... You are not being mean by telling your sister that she has to leave, you are being respectful of yourself, your husband and ultimately of her, because you are holding her to the agreement she made... You don't have to judge her for relapsing, you, in fact can still love and accept her... she just cannot be in your home.  Please remember, you didn't cause her to relapse, you can't control her relapse, and you can't cure her relapse... Her behavior and the subsequent consequences are up to her. 

Take a deep breath, and focus on taking loving, respectful and compassionate care of you, and trust that you can cope with the outcome... I wish you, your husband and sister all the best,  

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Page last updated Aug 04, 2011

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