FAMILY: Sibling asking for money, suspected drug abuse
Article #: 255782
My sister consistently begs me for money. She typically does not contact me for a few months, while she neglects normal bills, purchasing things she cannot afford (I suspect drugs are among them). She then calls or emails the day before some crushing bill is due (power being turned off, eviction notices, etc.) and begs for money, requesting it be sent immediately. In the few cases I refuse, she manages to keep things going somehow (which leads me to believe the emergencies are exaggerated, and that she needs the money for other reasons) I am her only immediate family in the area. She has 2 children. She does not work (lives on welfare) and does not have reliable transportation. In the past, I have enabled her behavior by co-signing loans on a car (which we later confiscated as our own due to her not making payments) as well as giving money or paying bills as they came due. I recently loaned her some money with the stipulation that she meticulously record all of her spending, then show me why she could not afford to pay her bills the next time she asked for help (I assumed this was inevitable). She asked for more help today, and I refused since she was not able to produce any information to show the least amount of effort on her part. In many cases, I ignore her phone calls and emails about her "emergencies;" so I don't have to deal with the guilt associated with refusing them. I'm looking for some advice on how to deal with her moving forward. I fear that she will never “grow up“ and learn to live within her means. I have no concrete evidence of drug use, but I have heard disturbing accounts from someone who lived with her who mentioned she was selling pills of some sort. I fear that she is using her welfare money for drug deals and abuse, then assuming that “big brother“ will help out with the regular bills. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
When I was young and first employed, I had a brother who immediately started hitting me up for money. I knew without a doubt that I'd never see that money again, so with great reluctance, I just told him I didn't have the money, which was actually true. I had my own bills to pay and lived from paycheck to paycheck as many young singles do at first. He never asked again.
Since that time, whenever my husband and I have been asked for money by a relative, we decide whether or not we're going to GIVE them the money. They may consider it a loan, but we consider it a gift. We don't tell them that, but in our hearts and minds we don't expect repayment. In that way, we keep the peace in the family. However, if repayment is not forthcoming, we NEVER loan them money again. Our answer remains the same as it did when I was single, "we just don't have it right now." Usually they don't ask again either.
In the case of your sister, you can follow the same rule of thumb as we do. Since she's already in debt to you, rather than remind her of that, just tell her that you're tapped out right now. If you truly believe that drugs are the issue, then I think you really MUST not give her money to support a deadly habit.
If you truly believe that she's in danger of losing power, water, heat, or phone or can't buy groceries, then consider asking her to send you the bill and you'll pay it. Buy groceries for her if necessary, but I would not give her any cash--ever.
However, I truly feel the best option for both of your sakes is to quit bailing her out whenever she's in trouble. She's got your number. She knows you'll help her out. She'll never figure out how to get along on what she earns if you continue to support her. I think you already know that. Guilt is an uncomfortable state, but if you can remember that by bailing her out, you've become part of the problem, then you might ease that guilt somewhat. It's called enabling.
I would suggest keeping an eye on her children as best you can. Maybe you can pick them up once in a while for an afternoon in the park or a lunch out somewhere, just to make sure they seem to be thriving despite your sister's questionable behavior.
I hope I've answered your concerns to a degree of satisfaction. It's a difficult problem, but I truly understand your desire to help considering the children and all. I had the same problem because my brother had 5 small children. It was very hard to say no to him.
I hope these thoughts have helped. Please write back if you wish. Thank you for using The Elder Wisdom Circle for advice.