Q: Jody, I have a problem with my roommate. But first, let me give you a little background information so you can understand where I am coming from. “Karen” and her daughter moved in with me about one-and-a-half years ago. We worked at the same office but I didn’t know her well. One day she came in with a black eye and was telling me she had been beaten up by her husband. From what she said, this had been going on for a long time and she felt she had to get herself and her daughter out of the house. She was afraid to go to the local women’s shelter because her husband knew where it was located.
I told her I had an extra room if she wanted to temporarily move in with me. I have two daughters about the ages of her daughter. At first she wasn’t sure she wanted to but then decided it was a good idea. I wrote up a rental agreement that we both signed. I wanted to make sure the arrangement was clear when she moved in. Everything was going well the first three months. It was really easier for me to have her living with us. The girls got along great. Her daughter Angela started going to the same school as my daughters. We shared cleaning, food preparation and helped with the kids when either of us needed it. After three months we decided that it was working so well that she and her daughter would continue living with us.
I was aware that Karen drank some in the evening and seemed to take a lot of pills for her aches and pains, but it didn’t seem to be a problem. About six months ago Karen started going out a lot more and coming home drunk. Now I have been taking care of Angela more often and Karen doesn’t seem to be doing her share around the house. She also was late on her rent a couple months. I talked with her, asking what was going on, and she blamed the behavior change on having a new boyfriend. She was embarrassed and promised she would be more responsible. For a while things got better, but gradually she has been reverting back to being irresponsible, not there for her daughter and coming home at all hours of the night.
Last night was the last straw. I got a call from a bartender at a place an hour from here. He said someone needed to pick Karen up as she was too drunk to drive. She had given him my number. I had to get the girls out of bed and pick her up in the middle of the night.
Today she was totally apologetic and promised she would change, but I just don’t know. If it wasn’t for her daughter, I would ask her to leave, but I am afraid of what will happen to Angela if Karen moves out with her. I just don’t know what to do. Her behavior is affecting all of us and I don’t trust that she will change even though she says she will. What would you do if you were me?
At the End of My Rope
A: I don’t know from what you have said whether Karen is dealing with alcohol or drug addiction or both, but it certainly seems that she is using too much, too often. If I were in your shoes, I would tell her that her drinking and coming home drunk is affecting you and the girls, and if she continues she will need to find another place to live. I would suggest to her that she look into AA to get an evaluation and hopefully get her drinking under control.
Make it clear to her that if her behavior continues you will ask her to move out. I know you are worried about her daughter but taking care of Angela while she drinks and parties is enabling behavior. Hopefully she will choose to stay and get her drinking under control.
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