Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I live overseas but recently spent almost two weeks in my brother’s home. He has become an alcoholic.

His wife is strangely complacent. When I confronted her she maintained that he drinks in moderation. He does not drink in moderation.

One night I measured that he drank more than 20 shots of scotch. What should I do? Talking to him is useless.


Should I tell his college-age sons from his first marriage, whom he adores? Should I tell my parents (who are now in their 80s)?

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I worry that if we keep our heads in the sand I will lose him forever.


A. Alcohol addiction is fed by denial, but despite your frustration you should not hold your family responsible.

The person you should communicate with about your brother’s drinking is your brother. Tell him how much you care about him and urge him to get help.


He will not like it. He will either lash out or ignore you.

After that, you can tell other family members.

Unfortunately, you cannot save him. You also cannot force him to save himself.

You can only express your concern, love, and support. After that, the person responsible for your brother’s life will have to step up — and that is your brother.

Q. I have been married for 10 years. When my husband and I take a drive anywhere I sometimes want to stop along the way. If I do, my husband makes faces, gives me excuses of why he absolutely does not want to stop, and has a mini-tantrum.


I find this behavior thoughtless and it makes me enormously sad. His excuse is that his mother used to take him shopping when he was a child.


A. Many a little boy has been traumatized by the communal dressing room at Loehmann’s, causing late-onset PTSD, which in this context translates to Prepubescent Terror of Shopping Distraction.

If he is a reasonable person, he should be able to see that you are not his mother. You should also understand that his tantrums are the result of real anxiety.

The way out of this is to build toward traveling triumph by having small successes.

Before you set out, agree in advance that any stop will be limited to a predetermined time. Keep your promise. You can assume that his mother disregarded his entreaties to leave when he was a child. As an adult he needs to prove to himself that he can handle a little diversion.

After all, the best adventures are to be found when you stray from the path.

Q. To the pregnant lady whose mother-in-law insists on calling the baby “Skipper,” I had a similar situation with my father-in-law.

He absolutely refused to call my daughter her real name, and instead came up with a European nickname that, if shortened, would translate to “Ham.” My husband’s brother had a nickname that, when translated, was “Egg.”

One day when my daughter was playing with her uncle I remarked to my father-in-law, “Oh look, isn’t it nice to see Ham and Egg playing together!”

No more “Ham.”


A. One little nickname, and these two were yoked together for life!

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