DEAR AMY: I am in my mid-60s but I am still struggling with an issue with my ex-husband. He is an alcoholic and due to that, and all that goes with that, I divorced him more than 20 years ago.
Recently he moved to where I live to be closer to our children. My children and I are close and we get together for holidays, birthdays and sometimes just to talk.
My divorce was hurtful and it took years to get child support, so I do not have any good memories of my years with my ex. He has no family and thus, I have invited him to Thanksgiving and other events at my house.
Lately, he has shown up to several family events (not at my house) with beer. He has become so drunk that he had to be driven home. It makes all of us uncomfortable; and more than once, he has acted out (yelling in one child’s face; threatening, being rude and inappropriate).
Recently I decided not to invite him to a family party. I really want to set a good example for my children and it seems that at my age, I should be able to be around him and not react, but truly, I do not want to be around him. What do I do with this? Am I selfish and small because I can’t get past his behavior — past and present? I need help! -- Haunted
DEAR HAUNTED: The most significant thing you could do for yourself at this point would be to attend Al-Anon meetings (urge your children to do the same): al-anon.alateen.org. Sharing stories with other people connected to alcoholics will give you insight about how to continue to cope with this relationship.
You must continue to establish and enforce your own personal boundaries regarding your ex-husband. You sound generous and also long-suffering. You can continue to be generous but diminish your own suffering by employing natural consequences when it comes to your ex’s drinking. If he brings alcohol or becomes belligerent while with you, then he needs to leave. If he drinks or becomes belligerent while you are with others, then you need to leave.
DEAR AMY: Due to several recent health issues, I have a very restricted diet. I’m wondering how to handle dinner and weekend invitations. The restrictions are too many and varied to ask the hosts to arrange a meal around my needs.
Should I tell them I’ll bring my own food? Or should I eat beforehand and eat whatever I can at the dinner table? How should I respond to others’ questions about my own food or a limited partaking of the host’s meal (yes, they ask)?
How should I handle meals when I’m staying for a few days with friends? I don’t drive so I can’t bring my own groceries or pre-cooked meals. Because I enjoy the socializing, I’d hate to decline dinner or weekend invitations. -- Digestive Distressed
DEAR DISTRESSED: You should inform your hosts that you have a complicated dietary issue and ask in advance if it would be okay for you to bring your own meal, which you could plate and eat alongside the other guests.
If you are invited to spend the weekend with someone — if you are packing and transporting your clothing, then what’s to prevent you from also bringing groceries for your meals — and also to share with others? You simply need to be organized and have a cooler.
DEAR AMY: I am an avid reader of your column. I think you may have missed the mark with “In a Quandary,” who was torn about attending the memorial service of her abusive brother-in-law. You told her to attend because it presents an opportunity to reconnect with people she has been forced to avoid. I think her real opportunity here is to practice forgiveness before and during the memorial service. Practicing forgiveness will take the sting out of listening to nice things said about him at the service and help her talk to her sister in a truly supportive, nonjudgmental way. -- Bob
DEAR BOB: Forgiveness is a “practice.” And when we practice forgiveness, eventually we get good at it.