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Letters from April 2003

Question

My sister has been behaving in such a way (isolating herself from all contact with all family members) that makes me believe she could be back on heroin. She has been on and off of it for the past few years, and she recently lost her job about a month ago, and will not return all phone calls from either myself or our parents. I have always been a special confidant for my sister, and the heroin use is among those things she would confide in me. She made my parents aware of her using a few years ago, but they weren't very helpful or supportive of her so she stopped telling them. I live 500 miles away from both her and my parents, so my contact is normally one of a phone nature. My question is, should I inform my parents about this as they live closer to her and could possibly do something about this at the risk of breaching her trust? I don't want to let something happen to her because I kept this information to myself, but I don't know what the right thing to do is.

Answer

I don't think I can be of much help, but I'll tell you what I think. If your parents weren't helpful before, they probably won't be helpful now. Trust is such a precious thing, I wouldn't trade it for a chance that your parents would do better this time. Plus, given their history, your sister would likely resist their help anyway. Does she have an answering machine? Have you left a message telling her about your concern and your willingness to help? If she is strung out, could she come an live with you while she gets her life back together? Can you take a couple days off and drive to see her?

I'm just throwing ideas out. It sounds like you are in an excellent position to help your sister, and that you really want to help her. Personally, I'd pull out all the stops. I'd call and sob on the phone. Do what you can to break through.

And if she isn't talking to your parents, they probably suspect anyway. Do you know any of her friends who are near by? Apartment manager? Again, these are just ideas.

I can tell you care, so I know you'll work it out. Just keep carrying; it's hard, but there isn't enough of it in the world.

by Dr. H © 2003
Last Modified: 14 January 2004

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