If You Were Really Up a Creek, WWYD?

My MIL has been destroying her life for years. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say Hubby and I have opened our home, hearts and wallets to her many times & she’s still a mess. I’m fed up, but she still calls my Hubby for help.

Her latest peccadillo was going to be an attempt to “save” her equally maladjusted brother by quitting her job and relocating to his city to live w/him. At the last moment he bailed on her. There may be hope for him yet.

So I’m wondering - how do people recover from many years’ worth of bad decisions?

Say you’re 62. No money at all, no retirement money or even much Social Security. She was a public employee for 25 yrs & that’s a separate fund. Which she depleted several years ago).

No job - The last one she quit doesn’t want her back. MIL was a Social Worker up until 15 yrs ago, based solely on a BA in Psychology. She didn’t further her education in that field & no longer meets the minimum requirements. Then she took a series of low-paying jobs in various cities (Denny’s waitress, Ikea clerk) to which she has no desire to return. I don’t think she could physically DO those jobs at this point anyway, she’s become really obese and claims to have a heart condition.

No home. She abandoned her paid for home when she quit that job. At one point she was living in her truck. With two cats.

I swear, I am not making this up.

No friends. She’s mooched off everyone moochable.

Oh, and no computer skills. Refuses to even try to learn. The Internet is beyond her.

Yes, I know she’s depressed. Actually at one point she was catatonic - her neighbors found and hospitalized her. I took her to my own shrink myself once she was released, and paid for the sessions. This was 10 years ago.

Oh, and she’s got a terrible attitude. Bit surprise. She’s a huge misanthropist. She claims to love animals and nature, but the one time she pursued it by going to work at a wolf sanctuary (this was how she concluded the therapy I’d arranged) she decided the wolves were too “noisy” and left.

I figure there may be a Doper or two who’s known someone in similar circumstances, or found a way to bounce back from life’s misfortunes themselves. Obviously she’s generated these disasters herself, but then most of us do.

Thanks in advance for any insights offered.

I guess the first thing would be recognizing the bad decisions and deciding to change.

To be honest, from what you’ve written it doesn’t sound like she’s there. If she doesn’t genuinely want to change, she won’t.

God, I wish I had something more helpful.

This thread remids me of a recent thread called “When Do You Stop Helping?” or something like that.

Maybe lloking at that thread would help you. Some of the themes were very similar.

Some stores, like B&Q in the U.K., actually prefer employing older people.


I’d add that, even if you won’t be able to help her in major, life-changing ways, the little things matter. Call and talk occaisonally; send a gift on holidays; etc.

You can’t save everyone. If someone is determined to make a mess of things, they will, and all you can do is not get dragged down with them.

You can see my thread here in IMHO earlier this week regarding the mess my dad left when he died this month, if you want to see what happens to people determined to do absolutely nothing with their lives. It’s not pretty.

Whatever decisions are made regarding how you handle this IMHO you and your husband need to present a united front. If you and he decide together to continue helping through whatever means, it needs to be a mutual decision. Ditto and even more especially if you decide to write her off and let her sink or swim on her own.

Ummm, I am a Creek Indian. That kinda sends the question in the OP in a whole new direction doesn’t it? pardon the hijack…it’s my first.

Why should they? :stuck_out_tongue:
They always have you to save them! ;j

You mentioned that she owned a paid-off house at one point, but abandoned it. What became of it? Did the city confiscate it for unpaid taxes or something? Would there be any possibility of recovering anything from the equity?

Also, have you contacted Social Services in her area? Maybe they have some ideas.

Sorry I don’t have any better suggestions. Where is she living now - still in her truck?


I put myself about as much behind the eight ball as one can get. As someone said, the key to turning one’s life around is the decision to do so. Without that decision, there will be no change. Once the decision is made, hard work and lots of it is required. So long as the woman refuses to make that decision, there is nothing you can do that will be successful. I hope you don’t beat yourself up over her decisions. It sounds as if you and your husband have done much more than most people would–you must be very caring people.

Thanks for the replies - I shared this with my Hubby.

jsgoddess you’re right.

Ca3799 interesting thread, thanks for the link.

Quartz talk about a win-win! I’m not sure the UK wouldn’t send her right back, though! The equivalent over her might be Wal-Mart greeters.

Metacom oddly enough, she’s actually a thoughtful gift-buyer. It’s probably her best quality. I lost interest in buying things for her several years ago, when during one of her fits she mailed back everything I’d ever given her. I thought that was indescribably mean. So now my Hubby’s in charge of buying for her.

featherlou I’m so sorry about your situation. I was lurking on your thread, just didn’t have anything helpful to add. How awful for you.

Otto excellent point. I’m trying to just support my Hubby’s decisions & go along if he wants to continue a relationship with her. In truth I’d like to ream her out.

CateAyo :stuck_out_tongue: . Did not even occur to me - you must’ve laughed when you saw this thread title!

Shodan her home had already been seized previously, for failing to pay property taxes for something like 10 years. She used her inheritance to buy it back from the man who’d purchased it at auction, and then promptly abandoned it a couple of years later. We stopped by there when we were in town many years ago & some young guy and his kid were living in it. At one point I urged her to follow up, but she just got angry at the guy she’d bought it back from. No idea what the details of their arrangement were.

I haven’t contacted any Social Services agencies for her. When she was living with us (the 2nd time) we went to all of the agencies together, but she’s living 400 miles away right now. Her truck broke down years ago, no idea what she’s driving now. The one time she came to town to meet her grandkids, it was b/c we’d bought her a Greyhound ticket. With twin toddlers to take care of, I’ve got my hands full already.

Sorry for rambing so much, this is probably more than anyone would ever care to know about somebody else’s life.

I’m equally revulsed and fascinated by her trainwreck.

Thank you so much, LouisB, you are very kind. We hope that we are caring people. When we told her about my pregnancy, her response was that we should not have kids b/c we were too self-centered to be parents.

It is really difficult to watch someone you love go down, but sometimes that’s just the way it is, and you have to keep telling yourself that they’re an adult, and they make their own decisions and live with the consequences, and their problems are just not your burden to carry. I know I’ve told myself that many, many times. A little healthy selfishness goes a long way (and it doesn’t make you a bad person, either.)

I know what you mean about being fascinated and repulsed at the same time - it really does have a trainwreck quality to it, doesn’t it? You know you should look away, but you just have to know how bad the damage is.



Hubby and I have a name for the place these kind of folks like to be. It’s The Pit. Some folks in the Pit really want out, and all they need is a helping hand.

OTOH I think we all know folks in the Pit, whose only goal in life is to see linking hands of others trying to help … let that chain grow… and then yank the whole nine yards down with them.

It’s different when it’s folks in your family. My childrens’ dad comes to mind. It’s so much more painful when you have to turn your back, to protect … your family against someone you once loved.

I had to let him go, to see him fall. It’s only now, 16 yrs later, that he’s trying to climb up out.

Some people will never get that desire to get out. That’s fate, or laziness, or some ism greater than I am as a healer.

We don’t have to like it. BUT you cant’ jeopardize your family and loved ones to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. Sometimes you have to walk away.

And, I suggest to you that this is one of those times.