Dear Annie: I adore my husband of 20 years, and we have the best kids on earth. The problem? My parents. My older sister is divorced and has several small children. She also is an alcoholic and a horribly toxic person.
In the past few years, “Hettie” has pulled several stunts where her drinking has put herself and her children in extreme danger. She insists she is sober, but I know from several reliable sources that she is not. She won’t admit that her cheating and drinking drove her husband away, and she has my parents snowed into thinking it was all his fault. She swindled her ex and my parents out of enough money to net her a nice income, yet she twists everything so that she comes out the victim.
I do not allow my teenagers to baby-sit for her or get in her car because she allows strange men in her home and drives drunk. She only calls when she wants something, and if I don’t drop everything (I work full time), she screams at me.
My parents believe I am a horrible person because I don’t buy in to Hettie’s lies or give her money. I’ve tried to help in the past, and it brought nothing but trouble. She is a mean, lying drunk. My parents say I need to look past this because she is “family.” I cannot deal with the drama anymore. I am cordial to Hettie, but won’t make her our charity poster child like my parents do.
I have done my best, but I am still the “disappointing daughter.” Last year, their intense disapproval sent me into the hospital with a major anxiety attack. Talking to them doesn’t help. This is breaking my heart.
— Refuse to be an Enabler
Dear Refuse: Your parents have blinders on when it comes to Hettie. Accepting that she is a “mean, lying drunk” makes them fear it’s their fault, and that is why they blame you instead. You cannot change the way they think, but you can change how you deal with it. If you need help, get some counseling to learn better coping skills.
Dear Annie: I have repeatedly told my daughter to remove her things from my home because we no longer have room for them, but it does no good. We plan on moving soon and cannot take along 10 boxes of our daughter’s books and clothes. She lives out of the country and visits two or three times a year. Each time she visits, she buys more than she can possibly take back and leaves the rest here. It is prohibitively expensive to ship boxes of books to her. What do we do?
— Out-of-Space Mom
Dear Mom: Notify your daughter that you will pack up her things and put them in a storage facility for six months or until her next visit, whichever comes first. After that, you will stop paying storage fees. She can then decide whether she wants to keep paying the fees herself, ship the items to her current location, sell them or make other arrangements that don’t involve you. The important thing is that you stick to your guns.