My mom is stealing and abusing drugs

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: For the past 2 years I have been aware that my mom is taking drugs from her hospital where she works and using them at home. Her behavior started changing after the death of a few family elders, when I asked her about her changes, she said she was despressed, and yes, sometimes came home from work and cried for hours in the bathroom. I accepted this answer. It got worse and worse; I saw bruises on her arms, and bloody tissues in the bathroom waste. I confronted her again, and she said this time it was menopause, she had trouble sleeping at night because of hot flashes, and because of her job she HAD to be well rested the next morning, so sometimes she would mix wine and some PM medicine to help her fall asleep. Again, i accepted this (though i shouldnt have). Then, a year later, and a year ago this time, I walked in on my mother on the floor of her bathroom, blood on her hands, and a syringe on the floor. I asked her what the hell she was doing and shut the bathroom door–she said she had a cut on her foot.

I have yet to confront her again, but i did confide in my brother and father. My father told her that if she was taking anything for her knee injury she needed to stop and get it fixed–for a while the problem stopped. We all thought this was her wakeup call, and it would be good. However, i have recently realized she is back into the habit, having found a new stash where her old one once was, and had been empty for months.

I want to talk to her, soon, so as to make sure she does not fall back into her old habbits. However, everytime I try to, I become afraid and make excuses–it is an inapropriate place, or time, or day, i am wrong, etc.

My mother and father don’t get along well, but we all live in the same house. They just don’t speak much. When they do, it is pleasant conversation. I have an older brother who i talk to about the situation who also does not know what to do. We have a younger sister who is always aware of my mothers erratic behavior, but i believe does not know why it occurs, as me and my brother try and shield her from it. I am tired of having to make excuses to her about my mother and get her out and distract her when my mother is acting this way.

What should I do???

A: This is very, very hard. As the oldest daughter, you have taken on the responsibility of protecting your younger sister and trying to help your mother. It’s no wonder to me that you are having trouble talking to your mom about her problems. You love her. You are angry with her. She should be “mothering” you, not the other way around. You know she probably won’t listen to you but you can’t give up on her. Your father isn’t taking charge of the situation, leaving you much too much on your own. Something does need to be done. Your mother is not only letting her family down but she may be endangering the patients in her care.

My best suggestion is that you find an Alateen meeting in your city. Alateen is part of Alanon and is a program that helps teens deal with an alcohol or drug-abusing parent. You can find information at

If there is a counseling service at your college, you could also ask for a referral to a local family counseling program. A family counselor would help your whole family talk to your mom and would provide support for each family member.

The best way to help your mom and the rest of your family is to get some help for yourself. You took an important first step by writing. Now follow through by reaching out for some support.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 May 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). My mom is stealing and abusing drugs. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/05/28/my-mom-is-stealing-and-abusing-drugs/