From Austin to San Antonio to Beaumont this weekend, arguing kids and chaos continue for the Texas Twins.

Cindy and I have been working at convincing my nieces, Leigh Ann and Stephaney to budget and prioritize their finances for years but this year has been really challenging with Stephaney.

Due to yet another relapse two weeks ago, Stephaney lost her job. A job she had successfully kept for three months.

Wendy and Cindy were determined to get her back to work ASAP for a number of reasons including the added expense to both of our households from covering her expenses. Cindy even threatened to make a cardboard sign for Stephaney to panhandle if she didn’t find a job soon.

My twin sister tells it like it is and it ain’t always pretty. “Tell Stephaney to apply at Jack In The Box. I saw a sign posted that they were hiring.”

Convincing my sister that working at Jack In The Box won’t cover Stephaney’s rent resulted in an argument between us which is rare. I checked my schedule. I then told Cindy “I have time Friday to take her to a few restaurants. I will find her a job before I leave town.”

I always find jobs for Stephaney. Cindy is really angry about this latest setback. I’m really sad.

Relapses with Stephaney are daggers in my heart. I’ve reinforced to her over and over that “neither Cindy or I will be around if there’s another setback and we are serious.”

Stephaney was released 11 days ago. Starting over yet again.

Stephaney’s behavior while I was driving her to work on the Friday prior to the Saturday she was taken back to the psych ward was erratic. I knew she was using. Cindy did too.

Why addicts think no one can tell I have no idea but everyone can tell. I was shocked she still had a job at that point. In fact, a discussion that Friday with the group home manager “who had noticed Stephaney’s behavior has changed the past few weeks and I’m really concerned about her medication being the cause” had Angela convinced that Stephaney had already been fired. I suggested a 51/50. Angela was in a position to request it.

Angela (like me) couldn’t believe that Stephaney was still working.

On that Friday I had picked my niece up to get her rent money off her payroll card at the ATM. I called Cindy. “She’s acting really weird. She told me I was a Martian and that autobots were in the parking lot. How on earth is she going to work a job today? She is out of it. I told Angela to issue a 51/50. If we don’t get her stabilized she’s going to be lost to the streets AGAIN.”

I am always heartbroken to give my sister bad news about Stephaney. My nieces choices have hurt our family for nearly 17 years. Stephaney’s choices have resulted in Cindy’s heart and blood pressure issues.

Other people watch my niece talking to herself standing in front of the ATM. I’m highly concerned about taking her to work but have no choice. Arguing with her never ends well. I’m also due on site at a wedding in an hour and don’t have time to sit in the parking lot waiting for my niece to get fired. I have responsibilities to my clients.

Dropping Stephaney off, I call Cindy again. “She’s not going to make it through this shift. She’s erratic and thinks people are following her.” I then call Angela and ask her to please get a 51/50.

By Saturday morning, my sister calls me as I’m headed to a venue to ask me to drive by my nieces job on my way to the venue and “see if she’s really at work.” My son is on the call with my sister.

Conference calls with my son or my other niece, Leigh Ann or even Stephaney or the twins are a regular occurrence.

My son is angry about another “Stephaney setback.” We all are.

I drive through the strip mall center and see Stephaney in the middle of the parking lot screaming and acting crazy. I tell my son and sister what I see. How I’ve managed to “act normal” in front of my clients all of these years while dealing with my niece I have no idea. The crazy phone calls. Messages from FB friends or even my son telling Cindy and I (often while we are on location with clients) that “Stephaney is shadow boxing a light pole” or “I just saw your niece in the street yelling at cars” make acting normal under incredible stress, anxiety and concern essential for requirements for Cindy and I both.

We must compartmentalize the drama and act normal on location. We have to.

How parents and other relatives of addicts with mental illness act normal at work and in life when consistent interferences from their loved ones disrupt their lives shows how strong these people actually are. They have a firestorm of fear. The phone ringing late at night. Someone banging on their door.

If you have a loved one with mental illness and addiction issues you know exactly what I’m saying and describing. You like Cindy and I have lived it.

My niece was dressed in her work clothes that Saturday. She called Cindy upon seeing and recognizing my vehicle. My son was also on the call. “We have her. We have your mom. She’s right here.”

My son who was on the job himself yelled “who is WE?” Cindy tells Stephaney “go to a hospital and get some help.” I warily watch other shoppers alarmed at the “crazy girl in the parking lot.” My niece.

I’ve been through things like this so many times now with Stephaney that I’ve learned not to react in anger and try to instead react with reason. I roll down the window to talk to her. “Stephaney you need to get some help. I will call your job for you. Let me run you to intake I’m on my way to a client meeting and don’t have a lot of time. Get in.”

My son is screaming at Stephaney who is still on the phone with her mom and my son and me on my BlueTooth. Robert is beyond sick and tired of Stephaney’s relapses. He’s a new father and cannot understand why “Cindy and I continue to try and help someone who won’t help themselves.”

My son is a NEW father. He has no idea what dealing with a teen will be like. He hasn’t had to directly deal with a loved one who has a problem. Cindy and I have. We ARE the parents. We ARE the only people in our family who still care about Stephaney. Who still try to help her. Who hope for the best but are consistently faced with the worst.

My son and my other niece, Leigh Ann direct their anger at Stephaney on Cindy and I because “we keep helping her. Let Stephaney go. Forget about her.” Easy to say. Hard for us to do. Robbie and Leigh Ann don’t “have any skin in the game” regarding saving Stephaney.

Wendy and Cindy have invested tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of sleepless nights and nearly 17 years of trying to save Stephaney. Wendy and Cindy HAVE A LOT of skin in the game. Wendy and Cindy have been trying to save Stephaney WHILE raising her twin daughters for 16 years. We know sacrifice. We know setbacks. We know where our priorities lay. With clients and the twins first and Stephaney second.

Everyone in our family pointing a finger or giving their opinion is doing so while sitting on their ass and not putting any skin in the game.

Sitting on the sidelines passing judgment is easy. Cindy and I have never had the luxury of being on the sidelines.

Thanks to Stephaney’s most recent setback, Cindy and Wendy are YET AGAIN standing in the front lines.

Stephaney leans into my passenger window. Her eyes are crazy. She’s still arguing with my son and her mom on my Bluetooth as I have yet to disconnect the call. With all this yelling going on, I turn down my Bluetooth.

Stephaney is strung out. Meth again. I hate it so much. I hate what Meth has done to my niece to our family and to Cindy’s health. “Don’t hate the addict hate the drug” rings in my ears. I’ve heard it in family sessions with my niece from a counselor who had no skin in the game. I hate both the drug and the addict. I’m 56 years old. Cindy is 56 years old and a heart surgery survivor. We don’t need this trauma in our lives. No one does.

Stephaney isn’t going to get in my car or go to treatment. Instead, with Cindy, Robbie and me on her phone she walks into her job and tells the manager “my family says if you don’t fire me they are going to come after me.”

The manager gets on the phone and says “don’t come here and start trouble or I will call the police.” I reach for my xanax. The manager doesn’t realize my niece is on drugs.

The manager doesn’t recognize that we aren’t the problem. What on earth does that manager think is going on with Stephaney? Why haven’t they fired her? There’s nothing I can do but leave and go to my client meeting wiping tears along the way.

By Saturday evening, Angela has called an ambulance. After making a run for it from the group home, Stephaney is found and hospitalized. My family can breathe for at least 47-72 hours.

Three days later, Stephaney calls Cindy to pick her up. Cindy was busy taking the twins to school and work when Stephaney was released. I was in Corsicana on location. We called Angela to pick her up. Angela was at one of her other group homes. The hospital made transportation arrangements back to the group home.

My niece called Cindy to let her know she’s back at the group home. Cindy tells her to “call your job I’m sure they fired you. I’m so mad at you I can’t even talk to you right now” and hangs up.

Stephaney is told she has the week off. Cindy and I are shocked she hasn’t been fired.

A week later Stephaney is told she has been fired. She’s shocked because as usual she doesn’t remember what she said or did. Cindy recorded a few of those “crazy calls” and forwards them to Stephaney with a text that reads “this is you on drugs. This is how you talk to us and treat us. If you relapse again I swear to God you are dead to me. Get a job. I don’t care if you have to wash dishes. I don’t care if you have to panhandle. Supporting you while I’m supporting your kids is going to stop right now. Support yourself.”

This conversation was Monday. Tuesday I took Stephaney to fill out applications. Stephaney had burned a lot of bridges the past 16 years. She’s been fired from so many places that finding a job is challenging. I allow her to choose where she wants to apply Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as she will be riding the bus Wednesday and Thursday since Cindy is busy with the twins and I’m traveling to Arkansas and Oklahoma for federal prison weddings.

I tell my niece “I’m back in Fort Worth on Friday for the day and will take you to where I think you can get a job. I will have 4-5 hours for this mission so get yourself together. I’m going to be traveling all weekend. You need a job and you need it now.”

Friday at 10AM I pick up my niece. She’s got makeup on and is ready to look for work. Stephaney is upset about her mother’s anger and that the twins won’t speak to her.

Cindy and I stopped asking the twins to talk to her a few years ago. They are 16 and sick of their mothers choices. They’ve lost hope and trust so many times that they no longer care.

I take my niece to print applications then head to lunch at a nice restaurant where I’ve heard they are hiring. We enjoy lunch and she fills our the application.

Leaving the restaurant I search for a bus stop and cannot find one near the restaurant. This is a problem.

I then drive to another nice restaurant and say “go in there and ask if they are hiring. If they aren’t, ask if you can fill out an application.” I then call Cindy to update her.

Cindy still wants Stephaney to take ANY job she can get. Wendy realizes that ANY job won’t cover her medications, rent, food and cigarettes. I discuss the transportation issue at the other restaurant. The manager liked Stephaney. I feel certain she will be offered that job but how would she get there?

I check my watch. Stephaney has been in the restaurant for 32 minutes. They must be hiring. After 41 minutes my niece walks out and gives me the thumbs up. She has a job and starts Monday. I look at her and somberly say “don’t screw this up. It’s a nice restaurant. You will make enough money to buy a car and eventually move into your own apartment if you stay on the straight and narrow.”

I then take her to buy a work uniform when she answers a call from “someone who picked her up at a bus stop.” What the? I argue about this. “Your mother isn’t buying bus passes for you to get in cars with strangers.”

Stephaney argues back “Leigh Ann went on internet dates. I want to go out and eat Mexican food and drink margaritas. I want someone to treat me to a nice meal.”

I argue back “I just took you to a sixty dollar lunch. You don’t know this person. Have you heard of human trafficking? Stop getting in cars with strangers!”

By the time we find what she needs the phone rings again. It’s him. He wants to know who she is with. He also wants to know if she has been talking to any other guys. He knows where she lives. I don’t like ANY of this. I lean over and say “don’t you dare tell him where you will be working.” I mean it.

For many years my other niece, Leigh Ann went on 2-3 internet dates a night. They were all disasters. Cindy and I laughed so hard about these adventures with Leigh Ann that we suggested she start blogging. Leigh Ann is actually hilarious when describing the hundreds of internet dates that didn’t work out.

Stephaney’s idea of dating someone trolling bus stops greatly concerns me. I need her at work. I need her being productive. I need to be able to stop worrying about her. Cindy does too…