Ask Amy: Alcoholic friend in need of some tough love

June 9, 2013

DEAR AMY: I have a male friend who is recently retired. He fits the description of an alcoholic. His day revolves around buying and consuming beer. He cannot function without it.

He’s a decent enough sort in the morning, but once noon rolls around he becomes a slurring mess. He doesn’t seem to think there is a problem and rebuffs my suggestions of AA or other help. He can be very demanding and needy, and he’s wearing me out.

He phones a lot; sometimes I answer, sometimes I don’t. He wants me to visit, drive him somewhere, go shopping, etc., and I do have a life of my own, but he tries to monopolize it, and I am really fed up and getting resentful.

I’ve tried talking to him about cleaning up his life, but he doesn’t seem interested. I have not yet said I will have to step away from this “friendship,” but I am getting closer every day. I don’t know how to say that to him because he will start to cry and whine, all part of trying to make me feel guilty, which I don’t.

He really doesn’t have any friends and is not interested in seeking out any. I get almost nothing out of this friendship. How do I tell him I can’t do this any more without hurting him? Is that even possible? -- Had Enough

DEAR HAD ENOUGH: You are going to have to dole out very reasonable and rational consequences to your friend, while at the same time behaving very calmly and being neutral.

You say, “I’ve urged you to get help for your drinking, but you won’t. I’m so sorry that is the case. Our friendship has become exhausting for me, and I won’t be able to continue unless you get sober. It’s really that simple.”

Don’t attach elaborate conditions, don’t make suggestions and don’t give in. If your friend calls and asks for a ride to an AA meeting, you might want to grant it, but that’s the only favor you should be willing to do.

DEAR AMY: My parents divorced when I was very young.

My father remarried and had two daughters. He paid child support and met his financial obligations regarding me, but he was never really interested in knowing me. He was not curious about me, then or now. Although I receive birthday and Christmas cards from him, I rarely see or hear from him.

I wanted him to meet my son (his grandson), and he paid one visit in 15 years.

I’m 44 now, and although I should know better and forget him, I have to admit it’s still very painful. Being an only child was lonely and difficult for me. I would have loved to have had a dad and sisters in my life. Any advice to help me overcome this would be greatly appreciated. -- Sad

DEAR SAD: My advice involves doing the hard work of accepting what is, including accepting your sadness over this loss. You are grieving the loss of possibility.

My insight into this tough state is that you want what everyone wants — a happy childhood — but you were not granted that particular stroke of luck. In that regard, you have lots of company.

You cannot change your past, but you have control over your future. Mine your current situation for nuggets of joy and count yourself lucky that you’ve been granted the opportunity to do better for your son than was done for you.

DEAR AMY: I am responding to “HOV Lane Forever,” whose boss had been shagging rides with her for six months. It seems odd that the boss continues this one-sided carpool arrangement with a subordinate. Perhaps the boss is concealing a suspended driver’s license. This explains why the boss never offers to drive his own car. A subordinate is less likely to question the reasons. I agree that HOV should confront the boss as you suggested.

Over 20 years ago I had to hide a suspended license from my job by using a “carpool.” It was very difficult. I was a manager. -- Legal Now

DEAR LEGAL: I believe you have solved this mystery. Thank you very much!

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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