Tough Love…will it work?

“If you don’t understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck atsisters the same time, then you were probably an only child.” This quote is so true!! I have 3 sisters, all I love very much. My oldest sis, is my best friend, she’s 10 years older than me and we have never ever gotten in any kind of argument. She has and always will treat me like her baby and will always favor me. I can’t help that but believe me it has caused some fights! The 3rd oldest is the needy one who is always looking to others to solve her problems. The 2nd oldest, we find out at age 12 that she in fact may not be my sister at all (that’s a post in it’s self) she’s the manipulative one, always starting fights and is a compulsive liar. I may elaborate on her in another post, this one is about the 3rd oldest.

Sometimes I think she’s completely hopeless. That’s bad to say but after hearing the same old shit all the time, I just can’t help but think that this is how it will always be. Joy and Sue know her and know Jason and I have tried to help her. She won’t work, she gave her kids up, she drinks too much and takes too many pills that she says she needs. It’s always something with her. She lives in absolute filth and doesn’t try to change. When she lived In Iowa I would go to visit her. I’d spend my first 2 days just cleaning her place. She wouldn’t help, but I can’t sleep, eat or live in filth. She’s lazy and has no zest for life. ALL these things break my heart. I can’t count the times on my hands that I have heard these words…”it’s different this time, Nikki, I have a whole new outlook on life. I’m done with men and I’m getting my life on track.”

I didn’t talk to anyone about this other than Jason. About 3 months ago my sister called me in tears, saying those words I have heard so many times before. I guess my heart said believe her but my brain was saying, “DON’T DO THIS!” I discussed it with Jason and decided to invite her to come stay with us and I’d help her…again. I know! I know I shouldn’t have even offered it. She’s still my sister. I want so bad for her to have a good life, to achieve happiness in her life and with herself. She’s going down the same road our father went down, the same road that killed him at age 49.

I told her she could come here under certain circumstances, no men, no alcohol no unnecessary pills, no drugs of any kind in my house. She said she understood and she was going to take the next 2 weeks to gather her stuff, tie up any loose ends and make her way to Minnesota.

3 months later…I finally get a call from her. I hear these words again…actually I won’t bother repeating them. Lets put it this way, if I had the means to fly to Montana just to slap her silly…I would! Would it do any good? No. Would I feel better? Maybe for that moment! She has decided to stay there. I guess I should really be thankful, it’s not my problem. I’ll let our other sister deal with it. That’s not how I feel though. I’m very mad at her. I’ve gone through the stages of feeling sorry for her, wanting to help her, and now I’m just flat out pissed at her! How can one not want a good life for themselves or their children? I truly believe anyone can accomplish anything if you want to bad enough. I think when times get tough, she looks for others to fix it. She takes no responsibility for anything. Her 2 oldest children, 8 and 10, are with their father. Her youngest, she has signed over rights to a friend. She was even thinking about somehow sending him to me to raise. I, of course, said I would. Sorry, I can’t say no to any child.

I’m wiping my hands clean for the last time. Jason and I have worked too hard for the life we have, the marriage we have to let someone come in and mess that up as she did the last time I tried helping her. Where was she when I needed her, when I was homeless and hungry?? I will always love her and will always be there for her children, but that’s where I draw the line. I will never offer my help to her or open my home to her again. I refuse to try to help someone that refuses to help themselves. When I was on the phone with her this last time, I barely said 2 words to her. I’m tired of being disappointed by her. I’m the youngest yet I’m the one that has to cut the string, break this cycle she has pulled me into. All I can do now is hope that one day she will get it, want more in life, get her children back and have a normal life. Never did I think that my greatest disappointment would come from my sister. It’s such a sad and horrible feeling. I almost feel like it’s a slap in the face. She asks for my help, I offer her the best opportunity to a better life. To have a good life requires work, effort, things she’s obviously not willing to do. You screw me over once, shame on you. You screw me over twice, shame on me. I won’t allow that again!

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16 Responses to Tough Love…will it work?

  1. I know what you mean, I have a younger sister and it is so hard to just let her be and let her work out her own problems.
    I’ve had nowhere near the experiences you’ve had with yours but my sister is always mothered by everyone, especially by me. I wish I could slap -myself- silly for starting the brutal cycle in the first place. She thinks she’s entitled to everything.
    I think just because you love them, you need to let them go just so they can learn otherwise you’ll spend your entire life taking care of them. That’s what I’m going to start doing… any day now…

  2. SKL says:

    I’m the oldest daughter of six siblings, and I have always had somewhat of a maternal instinct for those younger than me. Two of them have made some bad choices and I’ve helped them somewhat. But my mom has helped them a LOT, out of money I gave my mom to take care of my parents’ own financial issues. It all seems to go into a bottomless pit. I give advice and such, but everyone always has an excuse why the advice doesn’t apply to them.

    For many years, I lived very frugally because I didn’t have the heart to see my parents struggle. I have always known that the money’s been redirected to my siblings, yet I have rarely had the guts to say anything. My siblings would laugh and say I was trying to emulate Mother Teresa, while they bought themselves new clothes and luxuries from money that ultimately came from me. Recently, I’ve cut back on the generosity as I am a mom now and my current “mommy track” job pays a lot less than I was making before. I could still give, but I don’t want to do it any more. The guilt is still there, but it is fading.

    Like you, I love my siblings. One is a truly good and loving person who was slow to develop self-worth and self-discipline. She’s getting better and hasn’t been a “taker” for years, but it’s hard to walk away from big problems created in the past – such as health issues from decades of unhealthy eating. She’s talking about going bankrupt, and I’m not saying much. About 15 years ago, my mom talked about bankruptcy and I promised to help her stay out of it, even though at the time I was barely scraping by with huge student loan bills. I hate to tell you how many thousands of dollars later, she’s even deeper in debt than before, so I wonder if I did the right thing. Either way, I don’t even feel inclined to offer to keep my sister out of bankruptcy. I wish her well and hope bankruptcy allows her the fresh start it’s supposed to give. (I should note that the people who will get “screwed” are credit card companies who have already gotten their original money back and more due to excessive interest and fees, so I don’t feel sorry for them.)

    Now, my brother, he is a different story. He is a lot younger, so maybe he is just a late bloomer – I hope so. I don’t even want to know how much money he bummed off my parents to finish his bachelor’s degree, but he was in school for like 10 years getting it. Now he is in a high-demand profession and could easily work lots of overtime, but he only works 36 hours a week and moans that it’s SOOOOO hard to do that much. He switches jobs about once a year and I’m impressed that he manages to keep finding good jobs with that record. It’s always waah, waah, nothing is good enough for His Majesty. He buys unnecessary, expensive stuff on credit and then calls family and says he needs help paying his gas bill. He bought a big old house and he is such a slob, he won’t even clean the litter box nor the cat poop that ends up on the rug. Disgusting. He talks a good game, though! He always has a great plan for how he’s going to make lots of money and pay Mom back and bla bla bla – tomorrow. He’s very talented and finds it easy to win over people’s hearts. Honestly, I wish him well and want to believe he is a good person deep down, but I am not giving him any money. I begged my mom to stop doing it too – though I don’t think she did. She doesn’t seem to believe in tough love for him. It’s funny, because she never had any money to give me, and I came out fine, so why would she think her other kids would suffer from a bit of reality? But she’s my mom, so I don’t feel right saying too much.

    Nikki, you remind me of my youngest sister. She is great friends with my brother and has done so much for him. It’s hard to believe how much he has always asked of her, considering he’s about 4 years older. Even harder to believe how many times she’s given in to him. Now she’s trying the “tough love” stand, or so she said the last time we talked about it. We shall see if a certain somebody ever grows up. I sure hope so.

  3. This isn’t an easy situation, Nikki, but I think you’re right in what you’re doing. You’ve tried, and from the sound of it you’ve tried many many times. She’s not currently in a place where she’s able to help herself. I’d say get her into rehab, some sort of program, but I don’t know if she’d stick with it or would be willing to try even. If she has a friend who lives near her, perhaps they could help you persuade her to go to rehab? It might get her into a better place in her life, might give her perspective about what she’s doing to herself, and might eventually give her the motivation to do something with herself.
    However, if she keeps refusing to help herself, or even try, then I agree – you should wash your hands of her. Not willingly, not with a whole heart perhaps, but you can’t jeopardize your life for hers when she’s unwilling to even try.

  4. Laura (LS) says:

    I don’t know what it is to be disappointed by my siblings – I’m lucky to have two brothers who are awesome, and we are very supportive of one another. But I do know, very well, what it is to be let down and hurt, time and again, by someone that you love, that you have sworn to stand by throughout your life. And I know how it feels to have to take a step back from that relationship and ask, “what now? How do I get myself out of this before it drags me down with it?”

    It’s not an easy thing. It’s heart-wrenching and life-altering. And the thing is, because we are SO compassionate – we are the caregivers, after all, being moms, and sisters, and wives – we feel like crap when we have to draw that line. We feel selfish and low because for ONCE, we are putting ourselves (and that includes our own families and children) before that person who is sucking the life from us.

    We all have to make our stands, big or small, when and where it’s right for us. And then we have to weather the storm of insults and hurtful remarks that are sure to be hurled at us, by that person that we are most trying to help. But as we face the storm, we open our eyes and look past the wind… we see the trees, standing strong against it, even protecting us from the worst of it by offering shelter… those trees are those who TRULY love us… the rest of our family, our friends, even coworkers and acquaintances. So stay strong. This storm will eventually calm down. The winds will swirl, debris will be thrown about, but it will calm down. And then you can continue forward, knowing that you did the best that you could.

    And perhaps THIS time, when the last string that held her up has been cut, your sister will finally learn to stand on her own two feet.

  5. Joy says:

    Okay Nikki, I’m going to use Amber’s line here: “I’m rolling up my sleeves!” Listen!!….You have tried your very best with this sister. Let me start from the end. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want help. Your sister only wants someone to bail her out. She doesn’t want to change, she only wants to “use.”

    I just want you to think back to when she lived with you. She turned your home upside down and it affected all of you. I’m thinking mostly of Bailey since he has no choice. He didn’t even have his own bedroom anymore. Why would you even consider his best interests over someone who doesn’t give a crap about you?

    You and Jason have hearts that are way to big and you just can’t always save the world. I know you want to but she has to want to. You finally got rid of her the last time and you got stuck with the boyfriend who she just left there. Look at the trouble there was there!?!?!? Please, please don’t forget all that this sister did to you. I know you feel bad but this time, you have to cut it off. You have better and kinder “sisters” who you aren’t even related to.

    When I first read this my first thought was “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” You guys have just come to FAR to risk having her ruin it for you. Your right, leave her where she is. Her children are a different story but they are already being taken care of and that’s sad in itself but you have no control over it. Please don’t feel bad and please stay strong. Call me or Sue and we WILL REMIND YOU of what it was like last time when your house was a dump, you had half naked kids running around telling you what to do, crying constantly. You guys couldn’t even sleep at night. She didn’t even wash her own dishes and she was living with you for free!!! I’ll stop now but I could go on and on.

    Don’t have a big heart this time. Just this one time. Okay?????

  6. nikki says:

    I knew you’d say this Joy. I appreciate it. I just got a call from her last night. She met a man last Wednesday and she’s now living with him. I knew I didn’t have to ask but I did, “are you sleeping with him?” Her answer was of course…yes. I immediately felt sick. This is the one! The man that will take care of her and make everything better! All words I’ve heard 100 times. No joy…I’m done 100%!
    I think my need to help or save people stems from the fact I had no one to help me or save me. I know how it feels and I don’t want anyone, especially my family to feel that way.
    She’d never go to rehab, every time I ask her about the pills she’s taking and the drinking, she says something like,”I need the pills to not be in pain and I don’t drink as much as you think.”
    It’s very sad when it’s your own flesh and blood chooses this lifestyle.

  7. Just a Mom says:

    Nikki ~ I have a half-sister who is 8 years older than me and she sounds exactly like your sister. I washed my hands of her 12 years ago. Her 1st husband with a little help from me got custody of their 2 boys. Once I knew her boys were safe from her I told her where to go and how to get there! Now she just bounces around from guy to guy. I still wish I could help her but I know that she has to be the one to help herself.

  8. Joy says:

    I can imagine this is a very hard thing to do but you have to save yourself and your family first. People like this don’t want the help. They only want the handout that you have worked to hard to get.

  9. Morocco says:

    I can relate to this post as well. I am the oldest of 6 children. However, my brothers (3) seem to struggle far more than my sisters (2).

    I am currently raising my niece (she’s 2 and has been with us almost a year) because my brother is very irresponsible and self-centered. He is a loafer and appears to be content with this lifestyle.

    I take care of Jazmine because she shouldn’t have to suffer because of her mother and my brother’s ignorance and poor parenting skills.

    Even the Bible says that God helps those who help themselves. But take heart because you are not alone–I hear your sorrow loud and clear!

    I anxiously wait for the day when my brother will decide to turn over a new leaf!

  10. Elena says:

    I can relate to your situation for a couple of similar things that have happened in my own life, and I admire you, Nikki, for the generosity you have shown your troubled sister and for the love you obviously still have for her, but in my opinion you are right not to let her take any further advantage of you. If you ever again feel the urge to help, just think about how you can be a good example of productive adulthood to her from afar, and the rest has to be up to her.

  11. pammy says:

    I feel for you.It so hard to say the “no” word.Its tuff love.You cant let others pull you down,cause it will take all you have and destroy you,then you have nothing left for those you love.You can change no one,they have to want to change, for it to work.My mom had a phrase i like,when i was dealing with a family member who constantly lied,used and hurt me.My love never leaves,but I step back so it doesnt destroy me as a person.Here is my quote for you.”You cant hate them,you gotta love them.But you dont have to like who they are,or what they do, and you can choose not to be around them”.

  12. Joy says:

    Aunt Dorothy’s quotes are WELCOME any time Pam. I still miss her and wish I could pick up the phone and call. She was very wise and that saying is so true.

    Thanks for putting in on here.

  13. G-Ma says:

    When a member of your family is an addict, the hardest thing to accept is that you cannot help them. The only person who can help an addict–is the addict themselves. when they talk about accepting the 12 steps to recovery, and that an addict must accept that they are helpless against their addiction, they should also be saying that the members of their family are also helpless against that person’s addiction.

    Your feelings are so 100% normal. Your roller coaster ride is not done. Brace yourself for days when your resolve is strong and you really feel able to say “no”, and then there will be days when your resolve will be weak and you will feel guilty for saying “no”. Sometimes, you may even think, “Why should I be so blessed, while she goes without?” Hang on during the weak times–they will pass.

    Every day you make choices for the well-being of your family. Every day the addict makes choices, too. You cannot control what others say or do–only your reaction to them. I’m not saying these things to make you feel worse, or to bring you down. I’m saying these things because they are true, and I would like you to be ready. Roll with the flow, and be easy on yourself. Take pride when your own decisions are the right ones, and don’t dwell on things you cannot change. My heart goes out to you.

  14. SanityFound says:

    Nikki I know what you say, know what you are feeling and how hard it can be but I am so proud of you for finally putting your foot down … not only for her but for you as well.

    We can only do so much for those we are “supposed” to love but there comes a time when they have to start doing things for themselves, standing up and being counted… if they never do that the onus is upon them not you.

    I admire you for not willing to let a child be homeless, your heart is big and bright.

    Hang in there and if it helps… write a letter to her even if you don’t post it but write all the things that have upset you out, all the things that have really pissed you off, what has hurt you and tell her that enough is enough. Some how writing letters to those in our lives such as this really helps… as I said even if you don’t post it, perhaps burn it afterwards (the best therapy out there and closure at that… ah how many bonfires I have had!)


  15. Sue says:

    Ugh…those were the first words that popped into my head as I was reading this! No, not again I thought! As everyone has stated above, you can not help someone who doesn’t want help. My sister also let me down and caused me many a sleepless night and by the end all I could think was “how f$#%^*# stupid can you be???” Until they are ready for help and make that transition there’s not much you can do. Concentrate on YOUR family and YOUR child b/c they are here with you NOW and need you 100%.

  16. Tessa says:

    Nikki, I had no idea you had 3 sisters! I thought you just had a brother! Wow. Big family! I always had wanted more siblings. Well, I can relate a little because I have a friend I consider a sister we are so close. She has low self esteem and jumps from guy to guy. But not this bad. I think that’s great you’ve decided enough is enough. “Help me, help you” is the best line from Jerry McGuire. I tried and tried to help my friend, but realized one day that all I can and will do is be here for her as an ear, only give advice if asked, and keep my emotional distance. I love her, but I know now she has to figure it out on her own. Hopefully, the way I live inspires her and I know that my love for her is enough, is all I can give.

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