Ask Amy

Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 10:47pm

DEAR AMY: I'm a 16-year-old girl with an alcoholic father.

I figured out my dad had a drinking problem a few years before my mom caught on. I saw him hiding beers and being sneaky.

He always seemed out of it, and this really upset me, not to mention a very scary car ride with him where he was swerving and I was screaming at him while my poor friend was in the back not knowing what was going on.

After a while of watching him try to hide the alcohol from my family and me, as if I were stupid, I confronted him. He promised me he would stop.

I found out a few months later that he had been caught at work and had to go to rehab.

Since he has been back, he has drunk a few times and acts as if he still does.

He expects me to act normal with him after he has broken promises and is breaking our family apart. I've even made him cry because of how upset I am with him.

I don't know what to do. I know this is a disease, but it doesn't matter to me. I'm upset and uncomfortable.

Am I wrong for feeling this way? — Done With Dad

DEAR DONE: I give you so much credit for confronting your father over his drinking. Unfortunately many times family members react to drinking by trying to hide from the problem.

You are right that alcoholism is a disease, but it is a treatable disease, as long as the person who is drinking will get help.

All of the feelings and frustrations you express are normal and understandable.

You would benefit from meeting with others who are affected by a family member's drinking problem.

Al-anon is an organization founded to help family members like you. Meetings are free and are held in just about every community.

Al-anon also helps young people through Alateen. If you attended a meeting, you'd meet other kids who are engaged in their own struggle with this disease. Check al-anon.alateen.org for details of meetings near you.

Ask your mom to drive you to a meeting. She should also attend, but even if she doesn't, go by yourself.

 

DEAR AMY: "This One" wrote to you about her mother-in-law's propensity to hurl insults at her.

My advice to "This One" is to face the problem head on, and soon. If she lets this behavior go on, she will only have herself to blame.

More than 45 years ago I was in the same boat. It took me years to realize that the rest of the family had turned a deaf ear for so long that her insults just bounced off.

One day, in front of everyone else, I decided I had had enough and I said, loudly, "Excuse me. May I talk to you privately for a moment?"

Nonplused, she walked into the kitchen where I told her very politely that I was sick of her barbs; that I was not going to come to her house again if she kept it up; and that if and when we decided to have children she would not be allowed any access to them because I thought she was pure poison.

She was so amazed that "the mouse" had finally turned into a lion that she was stunned into silence. From that point on, however, she never said another unkind word. I kicked myself for years that I did not take her on after the first insult. — Former Mouse

DEAR MOUSE: I don't like the idea of using access to children as sledgehammers, but in your case the children were theoretical (they hadn't been born yet) and the sledgehammer worked, so I'll grant you a special dispensation.

Thank you for sharing this real-world example to show how important it is to establish that you have a backbone — certainly with a bully.

 

DEAR AMY: I'm following up on the question of giving to charities in a deceased person's honor.

I don't think it's necessary to give to the charity the family designates — frequently the obituary will include the phrase "...or a charity of your choice." Even if it doesn't say that, I feel it's implied. — Faithful Giver

DEAR GIVER: The tension arises when the family's choice is clearly stated but people make an alternative choice, anyway.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com 

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