Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Must Establish Boundaries With Addict Neighbor

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a neighbor who complains about her daughter all the time. Her daughter is an adult who started her life off great. She is smart and was driven to make something of her life, but then she got caught up with a ne’er-do-well guy, and everything went downhill from there. They started smoking crack, and the next thing you know, this young woman with so much potential has taken a nosedive. She can’t keep a job. She has stolen from the family home and destroyed property in the house. The police have come to their apartment several times, causing disruption and fear in many of the neighbors -- especially those who have children.

Some days this young woman seems perfectly normal. You would never know she has a problem, but her mother assures me that she is still addicted to crack. As a neighbor, I’m not sure what to do. On occasion this young woman has asked me to buzz her into the building or to use my phone. I have known her for most of her life, but I don’t want to become a pawn in this. I also don’t want to let her into my house. How can I establish boundaries? -- Neighbor of an Addict

DEAR NEIGHBOR OF AN ADDICT: Start with the mom. Ask her how she recommends you interact with her daughter. Ask if she thinks you should let her in the building or engage her in any way. If she recommends no engagement, you may have to keep your head low when you see the young woman and not comply with her requests. If you have to go that route, you could also apologize and say you’re sorry, but you can’t help out anymore.

Given that the mother has told you that the daughter has vandalized her own home, you should not let her into your home. As awkward as it may seem, even if you let her use your phone, do so outside your door. Mostly, you need to stay out of this. Until this woman is successfully treated for drug addiction, her behavior will likely be unpredictable.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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