Dealing with Addicted Relatives

kitschyKitchAugust 7, 2014

I have a close relative with a son who is a drug addict. Like many, he has been in and out of Rehabilitation Clinics.

The relative is planning to visit us at our country place, and to bring the son and his girlfriend, who both live with our relative. The girlfriend he met in rehab.

I have not been close with the son. He has not been part of many gatherings, or ever visited our weekend place before.

I do not want them to visit, but I am conflicted about it. It seems perhaps unfair to exclude someone with such a problem, and so hurtful to their parents. And it is only a weekend. But, honestly, two drug addicts (heroin) in my home? I don't really want to take the risks. I also will have young children visiting from the other side of the family.

Have you dealt with this? What are your thoughts?

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This is a thorny problem. We have a few addicts in our extended family, both to drugs and alcohol. Luckily, none have ever asked to stay with us, but they all attend our annual Christmas dinner and celebration. Mostly, they have behaved well, but a few small valuables disappeared throughout the years and there were some uncomfortable moments as substance abuse seems to break down inhibitions. All-in-all, I think we've been pretty lucky. BTW, we always locked up all the liquor, prescriptions and possible huffing targets and never served alcohol.

It's your house and of course you should do what's comfortable to you. If you can, have a frank discussion with the addict's parent about your concerns and any adjustments you need to make to the environment. If you don't feel you can express your concerns to the parent, then maybe you should tell them you have other guests that weekend and cannot accommodate their visit.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:05PM
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This is tough. Talk to the parents and see how they are doing. Can they even be around alcohol if you serve it? Lots of questions to get answered. It seems cruel to deny them a visit if they are doing OK for now. The outdoors and natural setting will probably be very therapeutic for them and for the family members who support them.

I would lock up valuables and prescriptions, but I'd do that probably regardless.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:21PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I'm presuming they are both clean, but who knows?

As f2bh suggests, lock up all valuables, liquor and rx meds and anything else. If you aren't comfortable with an overnight stay, then invite them for a daytime visit, but suggest that they would be more comfortable at a nearby hotel and offer to make reservations for them. (I think I'd be up all night with shotgun in hand protecting my stuff!) I don't like to think of myself as a prude, but I'm not comfortable with young unmarrieds staying overnight together at my house, addicted or not.

My GF has a son who is (was?) dating a gal with an addiction problem, she had them over for a visit and the next a.m. she found a bunch of jewelry missing from her bedroom. She managed to get it out of her son what happened to it, and she ended up having to retrieve it all from the pawn shop.

Who knows? As I get older and more curmudgeonly, and as I watch more Judge Judy, I'd want hair follicle tests done before I'd let them stay over!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:26PM
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Thanks, Fun2BHere and Gsciencechick.

I am kind of in a bind because we already agreed on a date (they never brought their son before so I did not expect it.

We do not take prescription drugs and are very light drinkers. We do not mind in the least giving up drinking for the visit.

To us, heroin is a totally different risk. And they have both been in and out of rehab, supposedly okay for a week here and there but it is not as though they have been clean for a year or even months or weeks.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:26PM
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I take it you can't use the excuse that with the other family visiting, you don't have room to put up so many people?

I feel your pain. My mother and her aunt got in a lifetime feud when pain pills went missing after my addict sister had visited. My great-aunt accused my sister of taking them. Mom sided with my sister and never spoke to her aunt again. Sadly, after the aunt died my sister went back into rehab and it's now looking like she probably DID take the pills, though no one speaks of the incident. That's the kind of bad thing that can happen in this situation.

If you do end up letting them stay, I would absolutely make sure all the medications and prescriptions are removed from the house. Also remove all your valuables like jewelry, camera equipment, anything easily taken and pawned. You've got the good excuse that young children will be there as to why some of your things are put away (didn't want the little kids to get into it, etc.).

I think about my aunt and if she'd just removed her pain pills from the house while my sister was there, the feud never would have happened. It would have been as easy as her putting them in the trunk of her car.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:31PM
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Maybe I am being overly dramatic, but my worry would be that they OD in my home, far more than the issue of valuables are being able to serve sangria.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:40PM
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Good advice from Loribee and good (but sad!) example of what can happen.

Judge Judy? Seriously Annie? I think that would make anyone curmudgeonly!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:47PM
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I agree with Mtn, and was thinking more along the lines of dirty needles, disease risk from accidental needle sticks when cleaning up after they leave, etc. Sounds dramatic, I know, but that is where my mind went. Not to mention the fact that addicts are sick people (I have several in my family), and you never know what they might do in front of the other kids, etc. We had to ask our own son to leave our home when he was 17 to protect our 2 younger kids. Addiction is a tragic illness which makes a person become a different person than who they were originally.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:59PM
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It occurred to me, is your relative bringing her son because she doesn't want to leave them alone in HER house while she's visiting you?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 4:19PM
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I think that you need to have a conversation with your relative about her son - is he currently using, there will be children present etc.

While I understand your hesitancy to undertake this less than perfect group of house guests, It's not like they have the plague. Most likely they're in therapy and trying to stay clean. I also doubt that your relative would bring her son/girlfriend if they were actively using drugs - but again, that's a question you need to ask her if it's weighing on your mind.

My son's roommate became addicted to heroin and he lived in a two bedroom apt with this boy for 6 months before he realized he had a drug problem. It's not like all drug addicts are strung out and not able to function responsibly. This boy attended college and studied engineering. Once his friends realized what he was up to when he left the apt. they staged an intervention and he went to rehab - that was two years ago, and while he's doing ok, it will be a long road to truly being free of this terribly addictive drug. While traveling that road I would think it would be pretty hard and sad to be ostracized by family and friends - opening your home and welcoming him would be the kind thing to do.

If he is actively using drugs then I would agree with others that a visit would not be a good thing at this time. I really don't think your relative would want to bring that into your weekend home.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 4:57PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Just say No!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 5:19PM
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Watch your stuff! I know of a meth head who cleaned out his parents house when they were on vacation just for a fix. They had to go buy back all their stuff at the pawn shops. I heard that he was house sitting when they were gone and mentioned to my wife that he'll steal everything not bolted down (he had a history of theft for drugs)...

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 5:24PM
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Loribee, Yes, I am sure they do not feel they should be left alone.

Frank, I suppose you are right. Generally this is not about my "valuables" -as if I had those- but I would not want to be cleaned out, either.

Caroleoh, You see what the issue is. I do not want to "ostracize" anyone, especially someone suffering. But the tricky part is "actively using drugs". I do not know all of the details, but for the past year or two, we would hear "he is in rehab and doing well" then we would hear, a few weeks later "he relapsed". At first, I was naive enough to think he was "better" each time. But now I have no confidence in any supposed "rehab". If they were to visit I am sure they could find a place and a way to buy drugs and use them.

Texanjana, I am so sorry. I think I identify more with the parents then the child. I know in my mind that addiction is a disease, but I have less compassion for the child than the parents, and I would hate to make them feel bad by turning away their child.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 5:34PM
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I think you should be okay saying that you do not want the son to visit until he has been clean for at least a year. There is no reason to reward someone with a vacation who has not earned it. If you put a time frame on it, then you are not excluding them forever but are instead putting restrictions on it that you can be comfortable with, and you can decide what those restrictions should be.

I think it is too soon for a visit, and I think this is reasonable for you to express to your relative. You may also say that you do not approve of unmarried couples sharing a room in your house (if that is the case). You must stand up for your principles.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 5:35PM
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KitschyKitch, I understand how you feel. I have a hard time thinking of my sister as someone who needs help and support when she's made so many selfish moves over such a long period of time.

I should add that, though she has been in and out of rehab over a period of 30+ years, the family has always welcomed her to join in functions, and the vast majority of the time (aside from the aunt incident), there has been no trouble.

Maybe instead of giving advice, we should be asking what exactly are you most concerned about? Them using drugs while at your home? Things being stolen? Them doing something inappropriate in front of the younger children? Each of those issues would have a different solution.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 5:53PM
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You need to have a probing conversation with the relative and decide your comfort level from there. How long have they been clean? Have either one of them been involved in criminal activity (minus the actual heroin use)?

It's perfectly reasonable for you to change plans even after the date is set since they went ahead and invited two people you weren't expecting.

If it were me, I would be most uncomfortable with the girlfriend and would not allow her to come. She's not in your family therefore she presents an even higher level of liability.

This happened with my brother. He's an alcoholic and he wanted to bring his drug addict girlfriend (with close criminal ties) to my house for Thanksgiving. I said she couldn't come, he yelled at me and we didn't speak for over a year.

You may have to weigh which is more important - your relationship or comfort level.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 5:56PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Ditto to Lars. That^^

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 5:57PM
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Yes, exactly, it can be hard to have compassion for the addict rather than blame them.

My biggest fear is that they will use while in my house, which for me taints the home. That they may hide something or leave something behind. I had an alcoholic friend who hid empty bottles in dropped ceilings in my guest room, and I felt very violated by that. I am not sure if that makes sense to everyone. Or, as someone said above, that they may become ill or even overdose. They have been rushed to hospitals before. I do not want to go through that, or have other guests go through it or even the neighbors.

On top of this, is the girlfriend we have never met, and yes, "cohabitation" which no, I do not allow in my home either. It is all a very unsavory mess that feels plopped into my idyllic country retreat. I am torn between feeling that is very selfish, and feeling, as PublicMan said above, that this person has not earned a vacation right now.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:03PM
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Don't even leave your handbag or wallet out of your sight while they are there. Hide any extra checks. Don't leave the computer on. Seriously, my best friend's daughter was horribly addicted and stole whenever there was an opportunity. She stole $10K from her aunt's house.

It's an awful way to live. I imagine that the relative will notice what is going on, but that can't be helped. Of course, if they are using drugs in your home, they will have to leave immediately.

Happy ending -- my friend's daughter finally kicked her heroin habit and has a successful career, a good marriage and a cute daughter. Never give up hope.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:07PM
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The parents sound like enablers for allowing the girlfriend to live with them and bringing them on vacation. That would concern me as enablers are in denial. The addicts may not be as clean as the parents say. The whole time they are there you will be stressed out watching their every move.

Ditto what Lars said.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:15PM
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If they're not clean, heroin addicts do not belong in family gatherings. Period. If a close relative of mine, even a child or grandchild, I'd grieve, but they would not be welcome in my house.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:15PM
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My wallet was stolen from my purse at work in my out of the way office with a door, the morning a co-workers heroin addicted son came by. He also was out of rehab and apparently not using. He died of a heroin OD less than a year later.

You said it in your sentence, ''I do not want them to visit.'' I'd just say no. It is your house. I'd be honest and say that the invitation was intended for the relative only and not 2 additional guests, that you cannot accommodate at this time.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:27PM
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If friends or relatives knowingly exposed my small children to drug addicts I would be livid, and that's putting it mildly.

And to ask you to host a total stranger, who's a drug addict to boot, is beyond the pale.

I certainly hope these two young people are in recovery, but unless they have been clean for perhaps at least six months, I would not welcome them in my home. The safety of your other guests and your property supercedes your relationship with these people, at least for now.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:35PM
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No way. Especially since you said it hasn't even been weeks since they've been clean.

It will be hard to do but you need to be honest with his parents. Maybe he could come, but definitely no girlfriend.

In fact, since he hasn't been clean for long at all, I'd say no to him coming also.

You're about to put yourself intoa potentially dangerous situation.

But what kind of guests would even suggest bringing the couple in the first place?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 7:10PM
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It seems to me that there are several reasons why these 2 young people should not be included in your weekend plans. First it sounds like they had never been invited in the first place and that your relative took it upon herself to include them. Her actions have made you uncomfortable and while you don't want to hurt her feelings or ostracize the young couple it is entirely your right to decide who comes into your home.

But you also have an obligation to the 2 young children from the other side of the family. Will their parents be with them? Are they aware of this situation?

Perhaps I'm being too cautious but under the circumstances I wouldn't permit the young couple to stay in my home. Would you be comfortable with the fact that now this young couple will know where the home is located? I don't know how far it is from where they live but it does add an additional worry.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 7:24PM
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Thank you all for your very helpful viewpoints.

In re the other young guests, they are related, too. I planned to decide on this issue myself, and then run it by the parents . I am not sure where they would come out, and I would take the fall for whatever decision.

But that is moot now because I have decided to tell our relative that we would not feel comfortable with the son and his girlfriend visiting, given they have not really proven themselves clean for any real time, and we do not know the girl at all and would not allow them to share a room.

You guys really helped clarify for me that this was an unreasonable request, all things considered.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 7:42PM
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I would be worried about the young kid visitors! What if they had drugs with them (in purse or pockets, etc) and the kids found them?!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 7:49PM
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If I were you, I'd run with the angle that there are other family members coming that same weekend, and it will be too stressful having the additional guests, particularly if he's bringing someone you've never met.

Maybe you could soften it by saying he'd be welcome another time, when you won't have a house full, and after the son has had more time to get past his addiction. Are they close enough to make a day trip on another weekend?

I think if you are honest, especially about wanting to be supportive, but this weekend is just not the way to do it, no one could hold that against you.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 8:03PM
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I think you've made a good decision. My thought was the same as Mtn's...nobody needs an OD at their house. I think I would just say no.

It's all so heartbreaking. Three young men in our community died this week of overdoses. One was 19, one 24 and one 32.

Like Loribee said, if you are honest about your reasons they can't be mad. Or shouldn't be.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:09PM
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You may want to take this opportunity to offer additional support to your relative. She may be having a difficult time herself, trying to deal with the situation. She may welcome someone asking about how she is doing and how she is handling everything.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:47PM
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I'm the addicted relative, 6 rehabs, sober for 17+ yrs.

Caroleoh, I would be proud and happy to have you as a relative! You are right...addicts do NOT have the plague.

Kitschy, this young man has most likely been told in treatment NOT to get into a relationship in the first year of sobriety. He's not taking the advice of treatment professionals. He might not be using now, but he has transferred his focus to another person, not to doing all that it takes to stay sober. For that reason alone, I would have the conversation with his parents about this not being the right time for the young man/his girlfriend to visit.

Some here have suggested you lie about your reasons. I would not do that. Be honest with the parents.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:57PM
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No advice for the OP, other than what's already been stated. But I do hope you're one day able to tell your relative's son what I'm about to tell jmc01: Congratulations on your sobriety.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:42PM
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JMC, Bravo to you on what must have been such hard work.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 11:33PM
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You've received lots of good advice. I'm sure you'll make the right decision for you and your family, but I was struck by your thought that your home would be tainted should your relative revert to drug use during his stay. I was instantly reminded of the time a few years ago when my husband and I took in a paroled felon who happened to wander up looking for work.

We were extremely naive, or maybe just downright foolish. We heard his sad story and thought, "this man just needs an opportunity!" In short order, we let him move into the garage apartment of the 1920s home into which we poured our hearts and most of our disposable income. Soon our parolee was trying to move his "fiancé" in with him, and the two of them were busily draping heavy blankets over each and every window so as to black out any stray ray of sunlight. At some point, it became obvious even to us that they were abusing drugs (most likely meth).

I will take to my grave the memory of the Christmas Eve dinner with our meth addict parolee and his girlfriend, a federal judge and his wife, an elderly former Secretary of our state, and a couple of astonished lawyer friends.

I'll skip the two months or so of drama and note that eventually, our parolee friend wound up back in jail. We were left to clean out the mess of an apartment and deal with ample evidence of how sorely our trust was abused. But -- and this, finally, is the point of my unforgivably lengthy story -- I never felt our house was tainted or sullied in any way. In fact, I felt it was hallowed by our sincere (if misguided) efforts to throw someone a lifeline, and by his efforts to grab hold.

Obviously we all react differently to our experiences and our feelings are deeply personal. But I just wanted to mention the possibility that your own feelings might surprise you.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 1:15AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Everyone's risk tolerance is different. Addicts don't have the plague but they sure can contaminate other people and environments with their bad behavior. Best to keep them at length until they have a significant period of staying clean. (and they need professional help).
I've had too much experience with them for me to trust any who haven't been clean for a bare minimum of 6 months, a year is what the professionals recommend.
So much of what we think of as helping is actually enabling.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 1:38AM
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Jmc....congratulations to you! We all may not have drug or alcohol problems, but we all have something we have grappled with in our lives and can empathize on that level.

I don't think anyone here actually thought of the son/gf as having the plague and should be avoided ever more...the main concern was that there were also going to be children at the house and having a drug addict who is either just newly sober or still using puts those kids in harm's way.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 11:05AM
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Kitschy, good decision! Number one priority is your children. Children do not need to be around heroin addicts who may or may not be reformed. They especially do not need to be around heroin addicts that you do not even know or have fairly recently come out of rehab. Your children come first period.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 12:05PM
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I haven't read through all the responses so I hope I'm not repeating, I just feel very strongly about this.

I believe that part of recovery is accepting that there are consequences to one's actions. This young man made some unfortunate choices and bravo to him for trying (again) to clean himself up. But the reality is that he made bad choices and he's going to need to prove that he's trustworthy and able to make good choices. And he's not there yet, from the sounds of it, not even close.

I strongly feel you need to tell your relatives that, at this point in his recovery, you are simply not comfortable hosting him in your home, that you wish him the best and hope that once he has established a length of time in sobriety, you will be able to have him visit (well, if that's what you want, I think you said earlier you weren't really very close with him).

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 1:22PM
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I have not read through the many replies, so I apologize if I am repeating what has already been said.

However, I would ask myself if the parents are bringing the couple because they don't trust them to be left home alone. If so, why would they bring them into your home for a several day stay?

Additionally, the son may not know very much about his new girlfriend----and why in the world would his parents allow him to leave rehab with a move-in girlfriend in their house?

I would not touch this situation with a 40 foot pole. You should have a frank discussion with your relatives and let them know you did not realize they planned on bringing extra guests ---which is incredibly rude to begin with without all the addiction complications---and would like to reschedule the visit at a time when they can come alone.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 2:13PM
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I just noticed I did not respond to all of the replies. It turns out that the invited guest contacted me and cancelled. I think she decided on her own it was unwise.

You all have given me a lot of thought about the best way to handle this going forward, and made me feel less guilty about my hesitation.

Thank you.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 11:50PM
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