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Dear Abby: Recovering alcoholic feels helpless as cousin implodes

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Dear Abby • I was an alcoholic. I have been sober since 1994. I live with my elderly aunt and assist her while working in ministry. Her son lives with us and is, basically, a hopeless alcoholic. He drinks all day and lies on the couch. I know that if this continues, it will be fatal.

We have tried to get him into two or three rehabs, and I can’t count how many times he’s been to the hospital for detox. Because I don’t know what else to do, I have committed myself to saying, “Well, if he wants to drink himself to death, there’s nothing I can do.”

Am I doing the right thing or IS there something else I can try? — Conflicted in Illinois

Dear Conflicted • Congratulations for hanging onto your sobriety. I can only imagine the stress you are experiencing watching your cousin drink himself to death. If at all possible, it might be beneficial to you if you found other living arrangements while assisting your aunt.

Your aunt — not you — as well-meaning as she may be, is her son’s enabler. Her passivity is partly responsible for what’s happening to her son, not you. You have done everything you can, and you cannot save him from himself. Your aunt may need counseling to help her break the unhealthy pattern that has been set with her son. Please suggest this to her. I hope she is receptive.

Dear Abby • My friend has this habit of phoning me while she is walking her dog or driving somewhere. To put it bluntly, she calls when she is otherwise engaged and biding her time until she finishes the walk or reaches her destination.

When she walks “Gonzo,” I have to contend with his barking, her admonishing Gonzo for pulling on the leash, or the wind, which makes it difficult to hear her. When she’s driving, the connection is often iffy. She has done this for years, but recently it has started to seriously annoy me. I wish she would call when she’s sitting in a quiet room and not preoccupied with something else. How can I politely tell her this? — Ticked Off in Texas

Dear Ticked Off • It shouldn’t be too hard. “Politely” tell her you would prefer she NOT call you while she’s walking Gonzo or driving — particularly the latter because it’s dangerous. THEN tell her you prefer talking with her when she’s in a place that’s safe to talk and she’s not distracted. If she persists after that, ask when she’ll be home, suggest you talk “later” and hang up.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


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