Annie's Mailbox for Feb. 21, 2011: Uncomfortable around my drug addict brother

Dear Annie: My adult brother is a drug addict. "Keith" has been in and out of rehab programs, but hasn't succeeded in staying clean. He lies to family members and lives in his car and various fleabag motels. He is still working, but only enough to support his habit. Frankly, I'm amazed he can hold down a job.

I feel torn when it comes to being in his company and having him in my home. I try to be understanding of his addiction, but I am extremely uncomfortable around him. And I don't trust him. He stole from my parents, and when he received thousands of dollars through an inheritance, he spent all of it on drugs.

Am I wrong to want to distance myself from my brother? Keith keeps saying he's going to get his act together, but it hasn't happened. Meanwhile, I dread his calls because I feel obligated to listen to his sob stories, and then I feel guilty for wanting him to leave me alone. How do I handle this?

— Torn in Maryland

Dear Torn: It's hard to remain lovingly invested in the life of a drug addict. It requires tremendous patience and effort, and there's no guarantee of a payoff. You do not need to have Keith in your home if he is not trustworthy, nor do you have to spend a great deal of time in his company. However, if there are family gatherings, we urge you to be there, not only to support your parents but to give Keith hope that his family has not given up on him. Please contact Nar-Anon (nar-anon.org) at 1-800-477-6291. It's an excellent resource for friends and relatives of drug addicts.

Dear Annie: My sister-in-law, "Edith," is a professional organizer. Recently, we invited her to our home for a social visit, along with her husband and children. While here, Edith noticed a messy pile of papers on my kitchen counter. She took it upon herself to sort through the papers, unsolicited, going so far as to open a folder to determine its contents. I was so shocked that I didn't know what to say.

I am reluctant to invite Edith into my house again because I feel her behavior was an invasion of our privacy. Is this acceptable conduct from a professional organizer?

— Fuming Sister-in-Law in Canada

Dear Fuming: Professional organizers do not stick their noses in your private papers without an invitation. Edith sounds like a Nosy Nellie who found a career that suits her proclivities. However, she is your sister-in-law, and cutting her off will create hard feelings within the family. Instead, give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she is overly accustomed to going through people's things. If you catch her at it again, say with a smile, "Edith, I know you are only trying to help in your professional capacity, but we insist you let us clean our own messes." Then steer her somewhere else.

Dear Annie: "Confused and Restless" wanted to take a break after college, but felt her father would question that decision. You mentioned Habitat for Humanity, but missed a great opportunity to also mention AmeriCorps.

My daughter is a recent college grad and joined AmeriCorps. Young people have a wide variety of projects to choose from and can travel to almost anywhere in the United States. After each of the first two years of service, the students receive scholarships for further education. After two years, my daughter was accepted for her MAT degree and will have the AmeriCorps scholarships. It is a great way to get experience, travel, meet new people and participate in public service projects.

— Proud Mom in Oregon

Dear Mom: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to mention AmeriCorps. This is a national service organization for adults of all ages and backgrounds who want to work with local and national nonprofit groups. To contact them, visit their website at americorps.gov or call 1-800-942-2677.

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