Dear Abby:

My parents are divorced. I'm glad, because all they ever did was fight and put my brother and me in the middle. I am now away at college. Dad has found a terrific girlfriend who I love. The problem is Mom.

Mom has also found someone. His name is Tom, and I can't stand him. She never drank or gambled before she met him. Now they frequent casinos, and she has multiple beers with dinner -- even when she is on medication that specifically warns not to mix with alcohol. The other problem is that Tom is always there when I come home to visit. I want some private time with Mom, but he refuses to respect that. In the 12 days that I was there, Tom ate every meal at our house. He even came along when Mom drove me back to school. I have tried talking to her. She keeps pushing us together and has invited him to come for the weekend when she visits me at school next month. She has invited Tom to my graduation, even though tickets are limited, and has made plans to invite him to my wedding, which is almost two years away.

Abby, I don't want Tom at any of these special occasions. How can I get her to stop inviting him to things I'd prefer only my family attend?

Had It in Ithaca, N.Y.

You may not be able to, particularly if your mother thinks this new man in her life "completes" her in some way. She appears to be an addictive personality -- she's addicted to alcohol, gambling and HIM.

Since your mother refuses to visit you without her boyfriend, face it: Your mother has decided the price you must pay for her company is to tolerate Tom's presence. If that price is too high, limit your time with both of them. But accept the fact that having your mother at your graduation and/or your wedding means you will have to tolerate the person who has become the new center of her life.

Dear Abby:

My concern is for a nephew living with my sister in another state. "Bret" is 19. He lives at home, rarely leaves the house, and spends his days in front of the television or at the computer. His weight currently tops 300 pounds. (He's about 5 foot 10.) Bret dropped out of school at 16 and eventually earned his G.E.D. He cannot or will not get a job and refuses to go to classes or counseling. His mother, her boyfriend and two brothers are classic enablers. They provide him with everything he needs. They are literally killing him with kindness.

I am very worried about Bret and at a loss as to what I can do, if anything. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Frustrated on the West Coast

You're right; Bret's family is doing him no favor by enabling him.

Your nephew needs a friend. Make an effort to get closer to him, one-on-one. If it's difficult to visit him in person, start talking to him online and invite him to come to visit you. If he accepts, try, without being pushy, to show him some of the possibilities that are available to him outside his home environment and away from the computer. If you know people his age, introduce him. It's a start in the right direction.

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

(c)2002, Universal Press Syndicate