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Behavior contract ideas?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi, all!

My husband and I will be welcoming my very troubled cousin (18 years old) into our home in a month or so. We want to come up with a behavior contract/ code of conduct so our expectations and boundaries are clearly laid out for her.

She has had/ is having issues with narcotic abuse, acting out sexually (she's been stripping), harmful relationships with abusive men, debt, general age-appropriate irresponsibility, and some mental health issues. I'm not sure that she's really bi-polar (she'd been dx'd with multiple things, and has been hospitalized a few times) but I do know that it mostly doesn't matter if she is or not- she isn't well, she doesn't think clearly or critically, and she makes bad choices. No one in our family believes that she's at risk of harming anyone other than herself.

Our #1 priority is keeping our daughter (5 months old) safe. We will not be allowing any drug use or other illegal activities in the home, she will be expected to work, help out around the house, and conduct herself in a respectful manner. I'm not sure if it would be too much to require a once-weekly NA meeting, which I would attend with her (I don't need to, but for support, if she wishes).

While we reserve the right to send her home (2k miles from here) at any time, I don't want her to feel manipulated or like she doesn't have physical security.

Do you all have any ideas for what we should include in a behavior contract? I'll also be writing one up for her- a behavior contract for us, so she knows that it's a two-way street; she can and should expect certain things from us, too.

Thanks so much. She's running out of options very, very quickly.
post #2 of 19
Thread Starter 
EDITED: I'm working on a less confrontational, more welcoming house rules thing that everyone will be expected to follow.
post #3 of 19
I don't have any experience with this kind of thing, but one thing that came to mind when I was reading your second post is that it might come across to an 18 year old as overly picking and maybe overly controlling, not so much because you are actually being controlling, but because it is so long. If that makes any sense at all...

OTOH, I certainly think it's a good idea for everyone to have a clear idea of what's expected, but I could see your cousin glazing over after the first couple of paragraphs.

I hope it all works out well for your family and you are obviously a caring person to take on this challenge.
post #4 of 19
I think the list itself is fine, if a little micromanaging, and appropriate for someone who suffers from bipolar. My dd does and something like this, which would have offended me in the past, makes sense now. I do think that the intro does pass judgment and I would nix it or rewrite it so that it focuses on what she wants to achieve, like independence, and does not make judgments about her past. I don't know if I would mention attending NA with her. The whole point of that is that it's anonymous and I certainly wouldn't want to attend with a family member that had a behavior contract on me.
post #5 of 19
I think you are the best thing that the last 18 years of her life has produced. You're fantastic.


She'll tell you that in a few years. Your own 5 month old will tell you for a few years, and then her adolescent years may be quieter, but you'll hear it again.

You are wonderful.
post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thank you!!!

You've all raised some good points (especially those ones about me being awesome- hee hee!) and we've thought it over a lot- I think we're going to tone it down quite a bit, and make more of a general house rules list- no lying, no stealing, no fighting, etc. I think what I have will make her feel attacked ("they really think I'm going to be so bad?!") at a time when she really needs to feel trusted and valued.
post #7 of 19
I agree that a house rules type of thing sounds good. (even a small behavior contract might be reasonable).

For instance, that you can/might ask her to leave for raising her voice? I get the principal, that you want calm,respectful relationship with her, and not to have yelling in the house. However, everyone sometimes forgets, and raises their voice, and I think with things like that, stating something like a house rule of "everyone needs to talk to eachother in a calm, rational manner. If someone is too heated to do so, they need to say so, and take a break, and come back to the conversation when their head is cooler." would be better. Having a "threat" attached to stuff that everybody does occasionally might not start things off on a great foot, you know?

things like no drugs, no violence, limit swearing, quiet hours, respecting private spaces could be house rules.

I do think having something (a document or talk) laying down specific ground rules, that apply to her/this relationship might be helpful. Like that you are not going to contribute financially to her medical costs/treatment costs. (who is? I imagine someone is? I find it highly unlikely that a not so together 18 year old could pay them, and she may need that help to get her stuff together. I'm 20, fairly together, and my parents pay my medical bills. No way could I afford therapy myself)

I also think mentioning that it is ok if it takes her a little while (specify. a month?) to get work, but maybe she is going to need to do 10 hours of childcare during that period, etc. not a lot, so she can still look for jobs.) She won't get a job the first day she looks for one, and you and she will need to aknowledge that to eachother. She may also need/want help looking for jobs.
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
I totally agree. She needs boundaries and limits, but I agree that making her feel like a criminal in her own home is not the right way to do it.

Our first priority is to help her get clean, for her good and our own. She says that she's currently shooting 4-6 bags of heroin a day, so I'll be calling the local methadone clinic tomorrow to find out if they do a 30-day detox- she is getting her CNA licence and needs to be able to pass urine tests; some places test for methadone, some don't. We are planning for her to start treatment, be it methadone and NA, or just NA, the day she arrives.

Her parents pay for everything currently, and they'll continue to pay for her car, insurance, etc. As she's now 18 and not a student, we'll help her find either a sliding scale therapist and/or see if she qualifies for Medicaid.

She sounds so hopeful for the first time in a very long time. She's scared, but every day I tell her how proud I am, and how she'll be starting a new life, getting a fresh start, and it seems to be giving her more confidence daily. It's very overwhelming for us, too, as we're closing on our first house in 2 weeks, and we're so used to just the three of us, but we feel called to this, and hope it will be a great thing for all of us.

Thank you so much for your thoughts!
post #9 of 19
My concern is when will she start babysitting for you? A recovering addict is not someone I want caring for my baby. I would be very nervous about that.
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Earthy Mama View Post
My concern is when will she start babysitting for you? A recovering addict is not someone I want caring for my baby. I would be very nervous about that.
Ha, by "childcare" I really mean "keep an eye/ear on the baby while I paint windows"- we won't be leaving her alone in the house for a long while, nevermind with the baby while we're not within a 5 meter sprint.

I have a lot of moderately heavy reno projects I want to undertake, and a lot of them are no-gos while wearing a baby, so simply having an extra set of hands to occupy the baby as a mother's helper is what we want.
post #11 of 19
I was thinking that was what you probably meant-in that case, I think it's a good idea to focus some of her energy on caring about someone else.
post #12 of 19
Whoa!!!! She is currently a heavily using junky? I absolutely would not have her in my home until she had completed a detox and was in recovery. She cannot be expected to be able to control her actions. She can agree to all these things and mean it but she does not own herself at this time.
post #13 of 19
A heroin addict with a bipolar diagnosis might want to look into disability because with the medical help she will need I don't see how she can do it without insurance.
post #14 of 19
Your intentions are wonderful. However, I think that you underestimate what's needed here, if I'm reading your op correctly. The behavior contract really seems like it should be the endpoint of a process that includes time with a family therapist knowledgeable about dual diagnosis-addiction and mental health issues. I think that you need to really think through what you are potentially facing. Have you been to al-anon or other program for family members affected by additiction? You may want to explore this as well.

What I hear is well intentioned, but you are not being realistic to say that you won't allow using in your home. You probably won't know. You cannot know, if the using continues, what that will mean for the social/drug contacts that your niece may have, and what that may mean for your family.

You are focusing a lot on your niece's behavior, which in reality you have no control over. The only behavior and decision making within your control is yours. So, you may want to sit w/your dh and a therapist and talk about all of your expectations, all of the what-if's, what recovery and relapse look like, what your boundaries are, what your safety plan is for your family, and most esp. your child. Has your niece been intreatment or a recovery program before? Do you know what that looked like? How clear are you that what she says she's using is true-many times what's acknowledged is a fraction of what's being done. If she's stripping, is there more?

I say this not to say you are making a bad choice, but rather to say that addiction is an illness, and not easily treated. It is far better to go in to a situation well prepared, eyes open, and in control, with appropriate and knowledgeable supports, than to try and find this once a crisis has occurred.
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
We learned about the extent of my cousin's addiction after inviting her. At first we were like, Oh nuts, we can't do this. But as more of the family is also learning about it, no one else will touch her. Everyone loves her, of course, but, much like some of you, there's no way they'd take the chance of having her in their home.

She's agreed to go into 3-5 day detox immediately upon arrival, and do whatever outpatient treatment she needs to to get and stay clean. She desperately wants help, but refuses to listen to her parents.

She understands and agrees that getting clean is the first thing she has to do before she can stay with us. Hopefully the plan will be: she flies out here with her wallet only, we pick her up and drive her to detox, and her folks drive her car and belongings out so we can all be sure we find the bags she'll have hidden in her luggage.

I've been on the phone all morning with the behavioral health places here, and we've put together a pretty solid gameplan. My husband was a counselor at an inpatient rehab some years ago, and his mom is a nurse at a methadone clinic, so it's not as though we're going into this totally blind.

It sounds a little dramatic, but we're the only hope she has. Our daughter's safety is paramount, and she understands that. We unequivocally won't take her if she doesn't go right into detox and treatment, and she understands that, too.

She's also sending me copies of her ID so I can apply for Medicaid on her behalf. Financing detox won't be an issue, and I pray that it goes through so she can have coverage, not dependent on her parents (as she is now) for medication and therapy. We're also about 1,500 miles away from her home state, so it's good that she won't know anyone here.
post #16 of 19
It sounds like you have some resources between your dh and m-in-law. I hate to sound like a broken record, but it still would be a good idea to meet with a counselor to seperate out what your family's needs are going to be versus what your nieces needs are going to be. Explore all of the what-if's, the scenarios you feel you can manage, those you can't. Get really, really clear about your boundaries. If your hsb. has worked inpt. rehab he's probably pretty familiar with doing this.

It is incredibly easy to get caught up with the security of a "plan"-but that's her plan. You need your plan, your supports and your resources. I would not take an actively using person into my home to live without being very clear about all of the above, and making a plan for active, on going support and reality checks with a therapist familiar with dual dx.
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
Oh yeah, for sure! I totally hear you. We don't have any Narc-Anon meetings here, but we will be hitting up a few Al-Anon meetings in the next few weeks to help us come up with an Us-3-guys plan, on top of an Us-4-guys plan, and my cousin's Just-her plan.

It's going to be stressful for sure, as (prayers please- the appraisal is tomorrow!) we'll have JUST moved into our first house as she arrives. It's kind of cool, though, because on top of designing the house to be baby-proof (hello, built-in bookcases!) we can protect our personal property (like some really high-end audio recording gear, etc) without having to tear the house apart.

I really appreciate your input!
post #18 of 19
I really wish you the best and I hope it works out. My dh is a recovering addict (clean a little over 10 years) and the heavier drugs never really leave you. She's going to be detoxing way longer than she's actually in detox so plan to have a lot of trouble with a lot of your requirements (being pleasant around loud children, handling things well, etc.). I would either require her to be in out patient rehab or at the very least attend a meeting a day (NA doesn't work for everyone but it's free). I would also lock up any valuables/alcohol, etc. because she may be completely incapable of controlling her drive to use. I would also have a rule that she couldn't be in the house alone until she had a certain amount of time clean. Hope for the best because it is possible that she could clean up and start a new life...but it's not probable. If you don't have Narcanon in your area I recommend the forums at www.soberliving.com
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
After an incident yesterday, we've decided that, unfortunately at this time, we can't risk the safety and health of our own daughter by taking my cousin in.

I'll still be supporting her to the best of my ability in seeking help, and her parents are much more aware of her issues than they have been, and are actively trying to help her.

Thank you for your thoughts, everyone.
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