How do I get my parents to see that they are enabling my sister to be a drug user?


This question is about addiction and enabling and how it relates to the Bible.

My sister got pregnant in high school and gave birth to my niece when she was 17 years old. My parents raised the child and formally adopted her. So, legally my niece became my sister. My parents spoiled her growing up; she had no boundaries, rules, or consequences. Like my mother, she was very argumentative; and the two of them would get into screaming matches. One was so bad that dad broke a chair over the dining room table to stop the screaming and arguing.

My adopted sister got pregnant and gave birth to my niece when she was 17 years old. (See the cycle?)  My parents have now raised her daughter since she was a newborn and allowed my adopted sister to move to another town to attend college. During this time my adopted sister became involved heavily with alcohol and drugs; attending raves and not visiting her daughter for spans up to two weeks at times.  Her drug use became increasingly worse, she began stealing my prescription pain pills, as well as my mother and grandmother's, and drinking wine regularly. As her drug use worsened, her manipulating and lying grew.

My adopted sister has dated many men over the years and several seriously in recent years. Each time she told her daughter that this one was going to be her new dad.  My adopted sister manipulates her daughter and uses her as a tool; she has threatened each family member multiple times that she will never let them see her daughter again if they don't do this or that. Fortunately, my parents gained managing conservatorship over her daughter earlier this year.

My adopted sister received her first DWI a few years back and her second this year. The second resulted in an interlocking device being installed in her car. She had seizures due to abusing prescription medication only last month, yet my parents still allow my niece to ride in the car with my adopted sister.  She has now moved back into my parent's home for the second time in the last nine months.  She is involved with another addict whose parents are raising his two children from a previous marriage.  My adopted sister rules the house when she's there. Her daughter does not want her mother living there because her mother causes chaos and stress in her and my parents' lives.

However, my parents cannot or will not say "no" to their adopted daughter.  My parents have bailed her out of every situation she has ever gotten herself into. My parents are in extreme denial; they do not believe their adopted daughter has a drug problem, even though she has two DWI's and has had seizures because of her prescription drug abuse.  She even admitted to our mom that the seizure was brought on by abusing prescription drugs. Everyone in our immediate family knows K has a problem and is slowly killing herself.

To make matters worse my adopted sister is now pregnant by her addict boyfriend.  I, my other sister, my brother and cousin all knew months ago she was trying to become pregnant via her MySpace page, and my mother found an ovulation kit in her bedroom. My parents refuse to believe this. They have even allowed their adoptive daughter to bring, keep and drink wine in their home.

We are attempting to plan an intervention, but we are up against great odds.  Unless my parents change their enabling, my adopted sister will continue in her same destructive path and die. We have spoken with many therapists, all of which suggest she has BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). She has not been formally diagnosed as she will not see a therapist, but they highly suspect it due to her behavior. The counselor my niece was seeing even told my mom that her adopted daughter should only have supervised visitation with her daughter and should not live in the same house with her and my parents.

My parents have attended the Church of Christ for over 30 years and are devout Christians. I believe my father is confused about what the Bible teaches about forgiveness. He will not turn his adopted daughter away. He continues to give her money, car, place to stay. He does not see he is helping to slowly kill her. He absolutely hates confrontations and my adopted sister is a master manipulator, crying, to get sympathy so my parents will back off.  My dad grew up with an alcoholic father and thinks that alcoholism is a matter of willpower and doesn't see it as a disease.  My mother is the same way and refuses to see her enabling behavior. My mom believes that her adopted daughter is not taking any prescription meds, alcohol, etc. now that "she's pregnant" because she's given my mom all her "pill bottles."  The rest of the family knows that she is still abusing medication and probably alcohol. If she doesn't have one, she'll use what she can get.  This is ultimately going to harm the health of the unborn child.

They have both put my niece in a very troubling situation by allowing her mother to tear her emotions apart, see her when she wants, even though my siblings and I have urged my parents to only allow our adopted sister supervised visitation with her daughter.  My niece is stressed, depressed, and confused.

Is there any advice you could provide me with to try and get my parents on board and help them to see their enabling ways? They seem to think forgiveness is allowing someone to walk all over them.  Any advice would be most appreciated.  My apologies for the length of this question, I am at the end of my rope here.

Thank you.


You are in a tough situation because you know what is right, but you don't have any power to make the right happen. Because you are focusing on what you can't control, you are spinning your wheels.

Your parents do know what is going on. They allowed alcohol use in their home. They know your adopted sister comes home stoned. They know about the DWI tickets. They knew your sister was trying to get pregnant by someone she isn't married to. They have seen more "facts" about the situation than you are aware of. The truth is that they are pretending that it doesn't matter. In this they are behaving just like the church in Corinthian who had a fornicator in their midst; the church knew it but pretended that it didn't matter. "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you" (I Corinthians 5:1-2).

I'm pointing out these facts because you are doing the same thing to your parents. You're finding excuses for them; telling yourself that they aren't aware, that they didn't know, or that they don't understand forgiveness. You and your siblings need to face the hard reality that your parents are deeply involved in sin; "who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:32).

You have to treat your adopted sister and your parents just as you would anyone else who calls themselves a Christian, but practices sin. "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person" (I Corinthians 5:11). Just like in Corinth, until you and your siblings put an action in place of your words, your parents aren't going to believe you.

As hard as it might be, tell your folks that you are cutting off all social ties with them until they stop supporting a sinner in her sins. Make it clear that your niece is welcome to come over as often and for as long as she wants, but your adopted sister and parents aren't welcome. Make sure your niece hears this directly from you as well so there is no "miscommunication."

At first, your parents won't believe you. Then they will try to argue or whine that you are being unfair and unjust. Likely they will refuse to let your niece visit as a threat to get you to change. Each time you will have to tell them that until they change their ways there isn't anything more to say and then end the conversation. No yelling, no arguments, no nagging, just a firm stance that you will stand with the Lord in this matter. Remind yourself that if you support them in supporting sin, then you are responsible as well.

I hope that if you, your siblings, and even better the church where they attend all put their collective feet down to say, "No more," then perhaps your parents will wake up to reality. You can't control your parents, but you can control who you support and fellowship. It won't make matters easy, but it will be less stressful overall.

If you think your niece is being harmed in any way, then find a lawyer and see if you can file for custody of your niece. Even if you don't gain it, at least there will be records both of the problem and your willingness to take your niece in. It might prove beneficial in the future.

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