Questionable mom enters the family

Dear Annie: My brother-in-law, “Ted,” and his wife decided to call it quits over the holidays after being together since high school (about 25 years). Their relationship was very strained and was more of a roommate situation than a marriage for at least 15 years, getting worse every year. His wife moved out of their house in February, and he immediately went on dating sites. About four months ago, he started seeing a woman he had met online. Before they even met, she was sending him racy photos and text messages. He is now completely hooked on her. He doesn’t have any kids; she has four, from three different men. All the kids, at one point or another, have had issues with self-harm or depression. We’ve witnessed the mom giving one of her children alcohol.

She and Ted are already planning on moving in together. She lives about two hours from here. She won’t be moving in until December, but she has asked whether the 16-year-old girl can move in with Ted now, before school starts, so she doesn’t have to switch schools halfway through the year.

Am I being unreasonable because I don’t want to support this? I think it’s a huge mistake for the family to move in with my brother-in-law, but it’s not my place to say. My biggest concern is that a 16-year-old girl would move in with a man whom her mother barely knows. My brother-in-law would never hurt her or touch her, but still it seems inappropriate. Am I reading too much into this? I don’t even want him bringing her to my house without her mother. My husband is extremely upset with me for not being supportive of his brother’s relationship but does see there is something wrong with a child’s moving in without her mother. — Extremely Concerned

Dear Extremely Concerned: This situation is wonky every which way. If your husband can’t see that, he’s got his head in the sand. What concerns me the most is the well-being of all of this woman’s children. It’s devastating to hear that children are engaging in self-harm. It’s disturbing that she was giving one of them alcohol. I encourage you to document and report any maltreatment to your local child protective services agency. To find the pertinent contact info for your state, visit www.childwelfare.gov, and click “Topics,” “Responding to Child Abuse & Neglect” and “Reporting.”

Dear Annie: We see and hear of so many folks struggling with addiction issues of all types, yet frequently, a major component is missing.

Many addicts have an undiagnosed and untreated mental health condition that is the cause of the addiction. Our son began using drugs as a teenager to treat his (undiagnosed at the time) bipolar disorder and thus stunted his brain growth/maturity. After several starts and stops in facilities and despite our own love and care, he died of a heroin overdose at age 26 (three years ago). His forever-17-year-old brain could not grasp the concept of constant treatment from the medical community, and he possibly would have lived out his life in the type of struggle described by “Sad Stepmom.”

In addition to Al-Anon, I would like to suggest support groups from the National Alliance on Mental Illness as other resources to guide those struggling to understand another component of addiction. — Mom in Louisville

Dear Mom: I am so sorry for the loss of your son. You raise an important point, that addiction can be a symptom of mental illness. Thank you for mentioning NAMI. Readers who would like to learn more can visit https://www.nami.org.