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Coping with parents who are favouring an addicted sibling

Community Member

Hi everyone,

This is my first time posting in any sort of forum so I'm sorry if this is long and rambley. I'm about to turn 22 and I have an older sister turning 24 who for the past 5 or 6 years has been a challenge for my parents and I. To sum it up, she has been taking my belongings from my room since I was around 15 which has always been an issue. She got into drugs heavily and has moved in and out of home due to her disrespectful and angry behavior. A few years ago she was taken by an ambulance to the ICU due to overdosing and has been in and out of psych wards multiple times due to her irrational and dangerous behavior, including her borderline personality disorder.

She has been out of home again for about 12 months, paying rent for her own place as my parents refuse to let her move back in after her behavior. She has pretty much stopped using and is trying to get her life back on track (which I am happy she's doing) but my parents are babying her and I feel like I'm the forgotten child. I simply cannot be around her anymore due to the trauma and emotional abuse she has put me through, which I have been to a counsellor about. My parents have always let her come to visit but during the past 6 months she has gradually been staying the night, which has now turned into her staying here 4 or 5 times a week. When I try to explain to my parents how being around her so much and not feeling safe in what is supposed to be my home affects my mental health they tell me I'm being silly and I just have to deal with it. I have tried to understand my feelings better by speaking to a counsellor but it's gotten to the point where tonight my dad brought her home, a fight started (my dad hadn't warned me she was coming and something happened which resulted in me calling her a name) and she ended up hitting me. Instead of my dad having my back he proceeded to tell me it was all my fault and that I deserved it after calling her a name. I got told I had to leave the house for 24 hours as a 'punishment' however my dad just took my sister home as a consequence for hitting me. Although she has her own place to live which she pays for my parents still let her stay here half of the week and I can't understand it. I would move out but I'm a full time uni student so I'm limited on options. We have no other family in Australia so I don't really have anyone else to turn to.

Sorry if this doesn't make sense, it's a lot to explain but I would love some advice.



3 Replies 3

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi emyaates,

I’m sorry to hear you’re going through such a terrible time. It can be particularly distressing when it’s your family as those are the people who are supposed to support and understand you, your safe place. Although it’s probably little comfort, I don’t think that your parents are intentionally taking your sister’s side, but I have heard similar things from other people in similar situations - I think that it’s true that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Your parents likely feel that your sister needs them more, and they are likely so grateful that she is not using at the moment that they are trying to support her any way they can for fear that she may go back. Do you live at home? Is moving out an option for you? It may just give you the space you need to distance yourself from the situation.

Hi Juliet_84,

Thanks for such a quick response 🙂

I can understand that that is probably what's going on, it's incredibly frustrating when my parents can't seem to understand that - obviously being nearly 24 she doesn't need to be staying at home 4 times a week but they allow her too because she's getting better and they'd rather her at home than in a bad situation. I'm currently studying full time and working on the side so I'm not in the best position to move out, rent is pretty expensive where I live unfortunately otherwise I would've been out of home a long time ago. I feel I have tried everything to manage it and cope but it's got to the stage where I feel it's really going to ruin my relationship with my parents and my mental health if it continues. I'm unsure of what else I can do.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi emyaates,

I completely understand, I grew up with a friend who’s sister ended up becoming addicted to drugs. Her parents spent all of their time and energy focused on the sister because “she needed it more”, she was stealing cars, robbing the house etc and my friend, who was actually going to university and trying to better herself was virtually forgotten because all their time and energy was focused on her sister and she “didn’t need them as much”. It’s pretty messed up logic and seems almost a punishment for doing the right thing, but I imagine it’s unfortunately fairly common in these situations. I can imagine the resentment that you must feel, not only for your sister, but also your parents given the current situation. Kudos to you for studying full-time and working on the side, despite the circumstances. My family made it quite difficult for me to complete university, but I just had a laser focus on looking out for myself and doing what I needed to do and get out of there. I really hope that you can focus on you and get it done so that you can get it out of there and not let anyone derail you.