Dear Carolyn:

My cousins in their late twenties are doing drugs recreationally, as is their dad. They are educated and wealthy and think this is okay. No getting through to them -- I'm told, "Well, that's your opinion." Morally, I've been told, I should turn them in to the authorities, no matter how much money they have. What do you say?

Boston

So -- to make sure drugs don't ruin their lives, you're going to ruin their lives. Sounds like a plan.

Morally, I can't see how money has anything to do with this. And maybe I've seen "The Godfather" too many times, but unless they're pushers, rapists or Unabombers, turning in family doesn't pass my sniff test. Just say no to squealing.

You said your piece, they ignored it. Fine. Now act on your own moral imperatives. Do you feel compelled to help? Then keep protesting -- focus on the cousin you're closest to -- and watch for deepening trouble. Treatment is the solution here, not jail.

Or do you feel compelled to disassociate yourself? Then leave them to their own decay.

Hi:

I have a good friend who ruins every relationship by being clingy. She's dating a really great guy right now, but I can already see them on the road to ruin. The pattern is always the same: She spends a few months single, whining constantly about being alone, then meets a guy at a party, bar or wherever. After a brief "normal" courtship, she dives in full-scale, spending every waking, non-working moment with the guy. After about two months, if he says he's too tired to go out or doesn't sound enthusiastic enough, she bombards him with demands to talk about the relationship. Needless to say, the guy bails.

Is there anything I can do, short of being mean and saying, "If I were a guy, I sure wouldn't stay with you"? She reads your column faithfully, so if you respond directly to her she might recognize herself.

H.

Sometimes, the ends justify the mean, so don't rule out the awful-truth option. The trick is to say the right mean awful thing, and I'm not sure your "If I were a guy . . ." line qualifies. I admire its awfulness, and it's certainly true. The problem is, she's already heard it -- again and again and again on an endless loop in her own self-loathing head. The problem is, she believes it.

Picture two single women home alone eating bonbons and watching "Clueless" for the third time. The first, "Xena," is dateless because she hasn't met someone she likes, she's home because she's tired, and alone because she's got bonbons and "Clueless" and are you kidding? This is bliss.

The other is your friend "Wussbag." (Swedish, I think.) She is dateless because no one wants to date her, she's alone because everyone else has plans, and she's home because are you kidding? She's not going out by herself.

So what's the difference?

Right. Wussbag has cats.

But there's another difference: Confidence. Xena is confident there will be other nights and other dates, and so solitude is a choice. Wussbag is confident no one will ever want her, and so "home alone" is a life sentence.

And if she gets a date, or even a boyfriend? Useless, as you know, because she doesn't believe she deserves one, which means it's just a matter of time before he agrees with her. So, racked with fear and uncertainty, she seeks reassurance like a terrier after a rat. She digs and digs and finally gets the only answer she believes: "Later, freak."

Hello, Wussbag, are you there? Here's your awful truth: You hate to be alone because you hate yourself. Your doubts, your insecurities, your fears -- they're what fill the empty spaces when no one's around to distract you. This isn't something any one man or friend or video-bonbon night is going to fix; it's a larger problem that taints every relationship you have, because to you, any relationship beats being alone. You don't choose people; you accept whoever chooses you, and hang on for dear life. (And no, that doesn't qualify as devotion.)

There's one way out: take the aaaaa out of "alone," and learn true, emotional independence. For that, you need a more forgiving view of yourself. Start with the fact that you do have friends, which I know because everyone I know has a friend like you. Presumably, they enjoy you. Do you know why? Ask them, even if it sounds pathetic. Then take those qualities, and accept them already -- or better, add your own. "I am bright!" "I am compassionate!" "I can belch `The Star-Spangled Banner'!" If you stay home alone one night eating bonbons? You're still the same bright, compassionate gasbag people like so much. Add or subtract a guy, it's still the same you.

Please grasp this. We love you, but you're driving us all nuts.

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