DEAR ABBY: My brother, "Dick," was a sheriff's deputy for five years. He was arrested recently on felony theft charges, stemming from burglaries committed in the rural area he was assigned to protect.
I gave up on Dick years ago. He has almost destroyed the family farm by not showing up for meetings and spending money that wasn't his. He also stole items from the farm, as well as a substantial amount of cash from our mother.
I am worried about Mother. She knows Dick is guilty, but makes up every excuse under the sun for him. He takes anti-depressants -- she blames them. She blames his soon-to-be ex-wife. She blames his girlfriend who "put him up to the crimes and then turned him in." She bails him out and lets him stay with her if he wants.
Anything negative my siblings say about him, she takes as a direct insult. Dick broke Mom's heart years ago, and my siblings and I were left to pick up the pieces. Now she's allowing him to do it all over again. He's tearing our family apart. How can we convince her it's time for tough love? -- TRYING TO HELP MOM IN THE NORTHWEST
DEAR TRYING: It might be better for your brother if you could, but you can't. Your mother is so fully invested emotionally in your brother that she can no longer differentiate between him and herself. That is why, when you criticize him, she takes it as a personal insult. That is also why she is so determined to "protect" him from the consequences of his actions. What's sad is, she is not helping your brother. She's only allowing him to continue his anti-social behavior.
Let's hope the state steps in and prevents your brother from continuing his criminal activities -- for a while. However, even then, don't expect him to change until the consequences of his actions become so severe that he feels he must. Why should he? Until now, his mother has tossed him a featherbed every time he should have landed on his fanny. It's called ENABLING.