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ASK AMY

Friend’s alcoholism is out of control

Q. My friend is a drunk. This is disgusting to watch.

At several points over the years, when I have traveled with her, she has found ways to drink while a passenger in my car — often from a “water bottle” that has vodka in it. If I were stopped by police and they found open liquor within reach inside my car, I would be immediately fired from my job.

I have discussed this with my friend, but she has still violated my trust.

She has gone to rehab, tried cold turkey, and been hospitalized. She lost her job due to her alcoholism.

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She is an educated, vivacious, loving, caring friend who stood at my side when life kicked me in the head and heart as I dealt with the loss of my mother, and as other friends backed away. I love our friendship.

I recently hosted a holiday celebration. I thought I was on alert, but I didn’t notice how much she was drinking. I looked across the table and saw (once again) the half-mast eyes, mouth agape with food dribbling out, down her dress, and onto the floor. Her face was almost in her plate. She spent the night passed out on my couch.

I have reached my limit.

I spoke with her the next morning. She apologized profusely, but I realize that means nothing. I would be mortified to be in that state of inebriation, but she doesn’t seem to have any shame at all.

I want to include her when I entertain or go out with other friends, but I don’t want to watch her get drunk or have to take care of a drunk.

I don’t want to have to lock up my liquor when she is at my home. I shouldn’t have to be the “liquor police” with her.

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What is there left to do?

DISGUSTED

A. You say that your friend has no shame, and yet you seem determined to shame her.

Think of her as an addict, not a “drunk.” Shelve your disgust and replace it with compassion for someone who has a disorder which is currently raging out of control. Look at all she has lost!

Yes, you should lock up your liquor when she is at your home. You should not drink in front of her or with her. You should not serve alcohol to her, or have it accessible, and expect her to be able to control her drinking. Because she obviously cannot.

You cannot save her from her addiction. But you needn’t enable it, either.

Stop chastising her. Tell her that you love her and that you value the gift of her friendship, but that she has relapsed, and you are worried about her. (Relapse is extremely common).

She needs professional help and rehab, as well as your ongoing compassion. Offer to research options with her and encourage her to enter a program.


Q. I am blessed to have retired before the age of 50. I am now in my mid-50s, and my life is great, but my in-laws think I should go back to work.

We had a fairly OK relationship before my retirement, but now when I am around them, they tell me I am too young to retire, and this has caused a disconnect in our relationship.

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I didn’t know there was an age requirement on retiring, as long as you are financially secure.

How can I respond to this?

ENJOYING RETIREMENT

A. I suggest you respond with a version of “Aren’t you sweet?” before transitioning your in-laws away from you as the topic of conversation.

One way to do this is to ask a question: “Do you remember how old your own parents were when they retired?”

They might say, “Our folks never retired!,” which would give you some insight into their backstory and point of view.

There is nothing wrong with a little disconnect between the generations, but I hope you won’t let this difference of opinion grow into anything more than that.


Q. Thank you for your “Book on Every Bed” column. I love this idea.

I recently returned to the workforce, working with low-income preschoolers. Each day before rest time I read the same very sweet book. For the holidays, I gave each of my students their own copy.

I hope I have helped instill the love of reading and a good book.

HAPPY WITH MY LITTLE ONES

A. Your preschoolers will treasure this book. Thank you for encouraging literacy.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.