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damage control

The question

My 28-year-old daughter lives with my wife and me. I love her but I need to get her out of my life. She hates my wife, who does everything for her. She can’t keep a job due to drinking and we find drugs in her purse, which she denies. She loudly curses at my wife, eats and sleeps all day, and doesn’t contribute one penny to household expenses. We paid thousands for college and she dropped out. I don’t work, I collect old-age benefits, which don’t amount to much. Any advice?

The answer

There’s clearly a nexus of intersecting issues here. But perhaps a good start would be to try to steer your wayward daughter to Alcoholics Anonymous.

AA isn’t for everyone: Opinions differ, as do statistics, on the success rate/long-term efficacy of the program.

But I’ve seen it save careers, marriages, friendships, even lives. (Of course there’s also rehab, which would have the added bonus of taking her off your hands for a while. But stints in rehab can be costly and/or have long waiting lists, and it sounds like time is of the essence and money is in short supply.)

Your daughter, it seems to me, needs help in just about every aspect of her life. It’s hard to imagine anyone to whom the phrase “needs to make some changes” more readily applies.

But Step 1 (so to speak): Help her get off booze and drugs.

Of course, you may experience some pushback, especially if she’s not ready. But point out to her that, in the midst of our pandemic pandemonium, AA meetings have now gone virtual via Zoom and other platforms, and may stay that way for a while.

(Wish I’d bought stock in Zoom in, say, January. But who ever heard of it before that?)

They’re a point-and-click away, and if she is unwilling to try to turn her life around, then well – “ultimatum” is an ugly word, and could backfire in the short run – but you should make it clear to her she needs to make some kind of effort in order to continue to reside rent-free under your roof.

True, that’s easier said than done. Kicking a kid out of your house? Fughedaboudit, it has to be one of the most fraught familial interactions this life has to offer.

But “it’s for her own good.” That should be your mantra going forward.

And for your own good, too, let’s not forget. If your daughter’s arrested-development antics start causing stress fractures in your marriage; or if one or both of you go around the twist from being cooped up with her rages and recalcitrance, it’ll be hard for you to help anyone else.

As they say on airplanes: When experiencing a loss of cabin pressure, put the mask on your own face first, then attend to those around you. Same goes for you, as you undergo both rising cabin pressure and cabin fever.

Ach, parenting. Never ends, does it? Only the grave brings a surcease of worry.

While I’m recommending programs, I may as well mention many exist for the families of addicts, which might help you deal with this thorny, Gordian-knotty problem.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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