Is My Sister Bi-Polar, a Drug Addict or Something Else?

My 40 year old sister has bi-polar disease--or so she believes.  She has been to several psychiatrists and none seem to agree on this.  Most think she suffers from extreme depression and anxiety.  My family and her friends have also begun to talk with one another about her behavior as it definitely has changed.  She takes a lot of pills--everything from anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, mood stabilizers, pain meds, migraine meds, premarin, and meds I've never heard of.  They come from different doctors and she has multiple prescriptions at five different pharmacies.  Her moods are all over the place--hostile, paranoid, angry, depressed, panicky--and she's never happy.  Her latest "mantras" are "I will get them!" and "I'm going to bust them!" She can't hold a job for longer than a week or two and lies and steals constantly.  To date, over the last year, she has stolen more than $200,000 from my mother and I using our checking accounts and credit cards and pawning jewelry she's stolen from us.

The baffling part is that when we try to talk with her, she looks us right in the eye and denies everything--even if we have proof in hand.  Then she gets really irrate and rather violent (smashing things and on at least two occasions, pushing our mother very hard, which frightens me as my sister is twice the size of our mom). 

Part of the problem is my mother and the fact she won't press charges--or hasn't been willing to until now. I called the police and was ready to prosecute her after my sister took $39,000 out of my bank account--and then said she didn't remember writing the checks-- but, once I'd decided to do it, my mother spent most of her time waiting for me to come home and then begging and bullying me ("You will no longer be part of this family" and worse) until I gave up and didn't go forward. 

We did an intervention yesterday and my sister left the house--she lives with my mother--and then took an overdose of pills in the parking lot of a local psychiatric hospital.  I believe she is a drug addict: I mean, her purse is loaded with pills and she keeps it joined to her hip and never lets go of it.  It might also explain why she is going through so much money: She tells us she has no idea where the money is nor how she spent it when/if she finally admits she took it.  Now, she says she is bi-polar and, therefore, can't be held accountable because she doesn't know what she's doing.  Yet some of her actions have been very well planned out.

Sorry for the long story but wanted to provide some background.  Does this sound like bi-polar disease and, if it does, are bi-polar patients truly that out of it and, thereby, not in control of their actions?  If you know of this illness or have had it yourself or know someone who does, I would greatly appreciate any help you can provide.  The stress on everyone--including her 10 year old son who she now wants nothing to do with--is taking a major toll.

I think what keeps us all hanging in there praying for a miracle is that my sister used to be the most wonderful person--kind, funny, a great mom and friend; just a great human being!  But things started to change seven years ago and have progressively deteriorated and even my mother is at the point where she realizes this cannot go on.  It would help a lot if we had any clues as to what we are up against and how "accountable" she truly is.

Thank you.

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This is an extremely serious situation and all of you are contributing to it by "enabling" her like a family enables a drunk. She is a danger to her son and herself when she is high and unable to think. Her true mental health picture cannot be ascertained until she goes through a lengthy drug treatment program. Only when she is not under the influence and has been observed for a long time will an accurate diagnosis be possible. She is using this "bipolar diagnosis" stuff to manipulate you. She may be bipolar, but I kind of doubt it. She obviously is a serious addict, illegally buying and using drugs, stealing, manipulating, etc. It is not an excuse in a criminal charge to be under the influence. You will still be convicted. If your family has money and wants to help, you should get her into an inpatient drug treatment program. If she refuses you should press charges and report her to the child welfare agency for endangering a child and be willing to take custody of her son. Without help the only way this situation will turn out is very badly. She either will die of an overdose, at the hands of criminals taking advantage of her and stealing from her, by the police killing her when she becomes dangerous and tries to hurt someone, or she will end up in prison for a long time on some criminal drug or violent crime charge. Her son is also in danger of death or serious injury. You need to consult a psychiatrist and if she won't cooperate or you don't have the money to help her, you should consult the police as to what to do. You might try calling one of the 24 hour on line drug addiction counseling numbers or try contacting any local groups similar to AA that deal with drug addiction. A social worker at the local hospital may be able to give you guidance in this area. You might also consult a doctor specializing in drug addiction at a local university. They usually are psychiatrists in a psychiatry department with this specialty for advice as how to handle the situation. My prayers are with you.  Unfortunately you are not alone as drug addiction and its consequences are quite common in this country. Good Luck!

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Unfortunately, I must  point out that drug addicts often engage in extensive unprotected sex with a high risk population. There is even a very serious risk of AIDS, fulminant hepatitis, hepatitis C, and many other serious illnesses including complications from drug abuse such as heart attack (seen often in cocaine abuse), stroke, end stage liver disease, malnutrition, brain damage, etc.  This situation is so serious and catastrophic you should seek immediate help. She can then go on to infect others and damage more lives.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Dear Linda,

First and foremost, thank you for your response.  I agree with everything you have written--and I never thought of the fact that she could be (actually, she does) engage in high-risk sexual behavior with all sorts of partners and the resulting consequences from that.  I believe at least one of the men she's been having sex with gives her drugs.  She showed me a plastic bag a few months ago, filled with tiny square pills, and said "he gave them to me to help cope with my anxiety."  I have no idea what they were and told her what I thought but she didn't get rid of them.

I just spoke with my mother who met with my sister and a new psychiatrist at the psych hospital where my sister is staying since her overdose yesterday.  He really told them both what he thought of the situation.  That my sister likely isn't bipolar but rather a drug abuser who lives in the day and doesn't care about anything because my mom takes care of her and makes sure there are never any consequences when she steals, lies, abuses drugs, neglects her son.   And that my mom is an enabler who sees herself as all powerful and capable of changing outcomes and has made it clear to my sister she can't take care of herself without my mother's help--which has always been there.  My mom said "Well, what do I do when she steals?" and he stood up and shouted "Call the police!  What she is doing is illegal!"  Then, it was "Well, I'm not comfortable having my daughter homeless" and he said "She will be homeless or in jail and, here we go again, you are telling your daughter she cannot make it without powerful you."  My sister said she hated him and hated her family and friends because she couldn't trust them.  She hates men for the same reason and his response was "Your family can't trust you either....and you are the only one who can help yourself.  As for men letting you down, what kind of guy do you expect to end up with when you are willing to ignore your son and lose another job everytime some guy calls up wanting sex.  And you go because you can get some more drugs in exchange.  You are making your own decisions and need to get that through your head.  Your marriage ended because your husband cheated on you--and, with it, your fantasy about living with a great husband with a house and white picket fence 'died,' according to you. Yet you sleep with married men yourself and engaged men, guys with girlfriends, guys you meet in bars just because you can get some drugs from them.  You need to grow up and figure things out for yourself because no one in this room is going to do it for you.  And (since she keeps threatening to kill herself) whether you live or die is your choice."  He concluded by saying my sister has been given a lot of chances--too many--to get her act together and the lies and stealing and drug abuse either stop now or she will be in prison.

He also drove home the point--I think--that mom and I and other family and friends are hurting her by making her sicker by tolerating her behavior and keeping secrets about what we are seeing from one another, just because she asks us to do so.  He said no one in my sister's "group" should ever be threatened again with being drummed out of the family for reporting her to the police for stealing or taking drugs.  And he said there is no way she should be traveling around with her son as the crowds she's hanging out with include some pretty serious drug dealers "who don't take their work lightly" and would have no compunction about hurting my sister or anyone with her.  He said it would be his recommendation to let her go through therapy and rehab but also file for guardianship of her son.  And if she relapses, then custody. 

So, you are on target with everything the psychiatrist said.  I don't know if my sister will agree to rehab.  She was most concerned with taking her son out trick or treating on Friday--which says a lot right there.  She's still in denial about her problems and, if she's not going to take it seriously, she isn't going to get anything from rehab, right?  I am going to discuss the promiscuity problems with mother tomorrow morning as those are very, very serious and she has all the makings of being a health hazard to unsuspecting partners and their partners--in addition to being a hazard to her own well-being and, even more importantly, her son.  I could tell Mom's eyes had been opened tonight and hope that lasts.  I am not going to let this go though.  The psychiatrist said this is a "family disease" and we need to finally see it as such.

Thank you for your advice and opening my eyes to things I hadn't even considered.  It will help; already is as far as I am concerned.  I really appreciate it, Linda--so very much.

Keebler1

I thank God that you talked with the psychiatrist and along with my slight nudge are seeing the light. You clearly love your family very much and your mother is guilty of nothing but loving her daughter too much. Unfortunately many have to learn the hard way and it is important that you all understand you can't fix everything and your sister will likely have to get in a bit of trouble before she is forced to start dealing with her problem. Your whole family may want to seek out a support group for families of addicts. Ask the social worker at the hospital for some help finding a group. This will make coping easier. Having an addict in the family is a family disease and it hurts everyone. You all need help and lots of support. Don't be afraid to seek it out. Don't be embarassed. There are many many families in your situation. Your mother in particular will have a hard time changing her behavioral response to your sister. This is the sad truth and the result of failed government policies regarding drug addiction and crime. Our country does not have a reasonable approach or set of policies regarding this issue. Please do not let anyone in the family blame themselves or anyone else for your sister's situation. Also please understand and help your mother understand that by calling the police or refusing to take your sister in when she is high and refusing treatment or if you take custody of her son, you are not hurting her. You are helping her and giving her another chance to live and survive. Without your help by stopping enabling her, she will likely die.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

After three "interventions," with the Sheriff's Department, her psychiatrist and her therapist, I just learned my sister stole more money from me.  This time, I went to the Sheriff immediately and filed charges.  They are investigating and haven't arrested her yet but plan to (part of this delay is that they are tailing her, hoping she will lead them to her drug connections).  In the meantime, she has left messages for me telling me I am "a dead woman for doing this. Dead, dead, dead!"  This could mean she wants nothing more to do with me or could be a threat of harm.  To be on the safe side, the Sheriff has squad cars going around my home several times day and night.  I also have a restraining order in place, which if she breaks will mean she is arrested immediately.  The good news is that my family and I are committed to this course of action and presenting a united front.  It sounds awful but I will be relieved when she is finally arrested.  But I feel that at least there is a plan in place and things are going in the right direction--for us and for her.  Again, thank you again for all your advice and encouragement!

So many of us know how hard this is for you, but know that the world is FULL of people praying for you and your family. "As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me . . . " Draw strength from our collective thoughts however this turns out. No matter what, your love for your sister has made you act not just lovingly, but ethically, honorably, and by the grace of God!

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

I think you will get the correct and exact answer from some professional. Experts who are experenced can guide you with genuine information. I know one site whose helpline you could call and discuss your problem with.  They have enough information online to educate someone who does not have the basic knowledge of these addictions. Check out http://www.recoveryconnection.org/

I have delt with people who are bipolar. It is a disease of the mind. They can have very high hopes one momemt only to go down quickly with there feelings as if on a roller coaster. They love to spend money not worrying about tomarrow what they will do if they have none. They don't seem to look at the full picture like you and I would. When it comes to sexual behavior they will have it with whom ever to get the desire met. Sometimes steal things and go into denile of doing it because they did get caught but feel it was worth it at the time. I would defenetly have this person seek council and perhaps have the medications rechecked. Ther are new and imporoved medaictions out there now. Some people having taken the same medications for a long time will become immune to the effects.  Perhaps a day program to see others that are in the similar situation helps also. This gives them the chance to interact and be more awre of what they are enduring with thir lives.. This does not make a person a bad person. They just need a little more understanding of why they do what they do. Counciling will help greatly!!!

What about me???? I am Changing!!

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