Originally Published: March 4, 2017 6:04 a.m.
Dear Annie: My sister and I used to be close, but after I married and had a baby, everything changed. When our father died, our relationship got worse.
We have a small family; it’s just the two of us and our mother. Every year, I invite everybody to our house for Christmas, and every year, my mother gets hurt all over again because my sister makes other plans. My sister, her husband and her daughter travel to another state, where there’s no family. On Christmas morning, my sister calls and says how much she misses us and how it’s a shame her daughter never sees us.
When the family used to get together, my sister would get so stoned she could barely stand. It took her about 15 years to admit to me that she was getting high. It was only after I had smelled all the pot in her bathroom. She said it was her way of coping with a stressful job. She is not a typical stoner. She has a powerful job that has made her very wealthy. She also has eating disorders.
Their visits were always stressful for my parents and for my family. My sister would boss everyone around and fight with my mother. And she fed her daughter all the sweets she herself refused to eat. For years, my sister said (in front of her daughter), “Someone remind me why I had a child.”
When my father died, my sister inherited his business, making her even wealthier. For a while after that, my sister and her family visited us for holidays. My husband and I did all the cooking and cleanup. Neither my sister nor her husband ever helped. One year, after they left, I went to change the beds and discovered that their 6-year-old had wet the bed. The sheets were soaked through to the mattress.
During that trip, my niece confessed to me that she hated her life and that she needed to hit someone at least once a day.
Our son was in high school then, and I just didn’t feel good about his being around his drugged aunt, so we saw them less and less. But I really worried for my niece.
Here are my two problems. Problem No. 1: I feel a need to save my niece from my sister. I have invited her to spend a summer with us, but my sister does not respond. Now I’m inclined to just stay away. Problem No. 2: After inheriting our father’s business, my sister is in charge of my finances and my mother’s. If I took my account away, I know she would never speak to any of us again. Help. – Exhausted and Not High
Dear Exhausted: Your niece needs a hero, so don’t give up yet.
It sounds as if your sister suffers from a substance abuse problem and an eating disorder. That’s not a good environment for your niece to grow up in. An intervention might be the wake-up call your sister needs to seek professional help. Join forces with your husband, mom and brother-in-law – whom I should hope is equally concerned about his wife. If she refuses treatment and her husband doesn’t cooperate with you or acknowledge the seriousness of the situation, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800-422-4453) to see what resources are at your disposal to help your niece.