Confessions of a Family “Traitor”: Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

By Valerie Rice | December 12, 2020

Photo by kat wilcox on

Nobody wants to be “that guy,” especially not me, but sometimes you just gotta be. I’m serious. Especially when it comes to your family. There are a lot of things you can overlook, or actions you don’t actually have to take and are just dick moves, but I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about things that are literal life and death situations, not feeling like being a judgemental bastard, or feeling superior and wanting to teach someone a lesson. Not sure what I mean? Well, I was that guy, a couple of times, and caused problems in my family.Look, I ain’t a snitch, and I loathe, abhor, detest, despise, distrust and absolutely will not call these people even if I am dying. No joke. I ain’t seen sh*t, heard sh*t, know sh*t, nothin’, understand? F*k ‘em. Except for this one time.  So here goes…


I was living with one of my sisters and her husband and their 6 children in a 3,000 square foot house that was filled with garbage. Yeah. Literal garbage. She was a hoarder. I would spend every hour after work trying to clean it only to have her children or husband throw more garbage on the floor, their animals defecate everywhere, and…it was bad, ok? Not only that, they were physically and emotionally abusive towards me and  my children, not to mention their own. Screaming at them if they wanted friends over or for opening the door, pulling them from school so nobody would find out how bad it was, and threatening them with pain of abandonment if they  talk about life at home, and when they broke bones trying to maneuver around the trash piles, not allowing them to speak to healthcare providers. 

Now, we were in the middle of a housing crisis and there was literally nowhere to go, the homeless shelters had waiting lists. Not to mention they demanded all my income in rent, which I paid, and used all my food stamps without allowing my children to eat. My kids’ shrink called the cops. It wasn’t even me. So after putting off thm entering, and a 15 hour “cleaning” spree (shoving garbage into locked rooms) CPS and the Sheriff were allowed inside. They couldn’t do a thing, until I texted the social worker woman that I needed to talk to her somewhere away from the house. And I spilled it. All. I couldn’t take it anymore. So the Deputy asked me to take pictures and I complied, sending them to her phone before deleting them from mine, and took my kids to live on the street while waiting for a bed in the shelter. Was it wrong? I don’t think so.

The kids were malnourished, not being educated or parented, and the home was filled with all sorts of filthy, disease causing agents. Not to mention that every person in that house was terrified. After a year of my other sister and I trying to intervene and help, it took the state doing it. They lost their kids for a bit, were arrested, and we don’t speak. I have no idea how they are now, but I hope things are better. They were sick, mentally, and refused to acknowledge it or accept help and I was LITERALLY obligated by the code of ethics to report. So yeah, I may not have started it, but I ended it.


It doesn’t feel good. I am a bit of a pariah. You know how inspirational posters tell you to stand up for what’s right, even if you are standing alone? Well, it sucks and everyone hates you. But you really should do it anyway and this is why. Actions have consequences, and not just for the person taking them. The untreated mental illness in that home spread out and caused other disorders in the people who lived there. They created an unsafe and absolutely terrifying living environment, one  of abuse and control, when it should have, and COULD have been supportive and nurturing. Reality ended when you crossed that threshold. The worst part was that everybody knew it, and nobody really knew what to do, it was too big. Somebody had to be “that guy.”


I will never see my sister or her children again because of what I did. I am a traitor. I can only hope that the social workers were able to actually help them before putting the children back in the home so that this doesn’t repeat, and the kids can grow up. I don’t need forgiveness. I don’t need anything. I want people to realize the devastating effects of mental illness and how hard it is to have to be the one to draw the line. I’m not saying be petty. I am so tired of people getting into arguments, of disagreeing with how other people live, and calling authorities. No. Stop it. My former drug dealing neighbor has called them 4 times because I wouldn’t let my kids go to her apartment. This isn’t a revenge agency, the more time they spend investigating your petty BS takes away from real problems. You have to have a really good reason, guys. But when you do, you should be the one everyone hates. Be well.

Published by vrice2010

A mother, an author, a nerd. After many years working in the fields of mental health and developmental disabilities, graduating from the University of Phoenix, and pouring my talents into my local community, I decided to spread my wings and reach a wider audience.

4 thoughts on “Confessions of a Family “Traitor”: Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  1. I hate how this was even necessary. Yes, It’s my family too. I was the one who said if it didn’t get better I would call first. I was banished then, and I remember despising you for it. For not standing with me at the time. But I understand now, and I’m all better.

    Situations like this should never be allowed to go that far. WE should have called much sooner. It was only love for our older sister that held me back. Now they don’t talk to any of us girls at all. Nobody knows where they live, how they are, if sister is dead or not. It’s horrible.

    The worst part about it was the kids, not the brother-in-law, when I was still allowed in, anyway. Seeing the baby covered in sh*t crawling over a pile of garbage should have been some kind of ending point for me, but it wasn’t. I tried to help clean instead. Stupid.

    I should have realized that hoarders gonna hoard until somebody in authority brings them to stop. And no, I do not believe this incident has changed the unstoppable garbage house at all. I think it maybe slowed down for a while. But by no means has it stopped…she was always like this since we were teenagers, it’s a very deep-seeded mental illness and I am sorry for her.

    How do we as a family move on from this? I sure do not hate you and I know you know that. But I have a couple very deep-seeded mental illnesses myself, including a pretty hardcore addiction. Luckily, I am open and honest about it so the authorities in my life work with me, not against me, I am so grateful for that. I am about to enter treatment again-today , actually. I am scared, but I know it is the right thing to do.

    Can we ever really be a family again? Well, I don’t think so. The rift is too wide and the necessary changes will likely never be made. She will probably die in Garbage House, trapped by her own filth and fear. It’s sad. Will I die from an overdose? I guess it’s possible. But if I hold tight to my family and what I gain from treatment, I think I might be okay. At least I hope so. Mine is an insidious disease, but we all know that.

    Anyway, thanks for being brave enough to post this, sister. I know it eats you up inside, but I will always stand by you, even if I happen to be mad at you (which I’m not). Much love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. After much soul searching I realized that this was her trauma response, as is your addiction, and my (insert MDD and so on). We work tirelessly to keep it from our children. The difference is that we acknowledge and confront our issues. We were paralyzed by her issues and desperate to help. It was what we were trained to do. It is hard to shake that. We may never know, and I fear you are right about the garbage devouring her, but we have been rejected. I love you.


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