Nov 02, 2018

DEAR ABBY: "Addicted in Kansas City" (Aug. 24) asked you for secular alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous. There are parts of your response that I feel need clarification.

First of all, AA doesn't require lifetime attendance at meetings. AA doesn't "require" anything. (The third tradition states the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.) Regular attendance at meetings is encouraged but certainly not a requirement. Many people continue to go to meetings one or more times a week, while others stop or go only occasionally after a period of time.

The other point is tougher -- and perhaps more subtle. AA encourages individuals trying to get sober to find a "God of their own understanding," a Higher Power, something bigger than themselves. Many agnostics and atheists get and stay sober in AA.

AA is a spiritual program, not a religious one. This can be a difficult concept for people who are just coming in (and a great reason not to stay). That's one of the reasons AA encourages anyone new to attend different meetings, if possible, and check out other groups. In many cities there are meetings expressly for atheists and other nonbelievers. -- SOBER AND HAPPY IN ATLANTA

DEAR SOBER: Thank you for writing to clarify this. However, there are different programs (different strokes for different folks), which is why I also encourage anyone trying to achieve sobriety to research and explore the alternatives.
Jan 01, 2020​

Dear Readers:
   Welcome to 2020! The New Year has arrived, and with it our chance for a new beginning.
   Today we have an opportunity to discard destructive old habits for healthy new ones, and with that in mind, I will share Dear Abby's often-requested list of New Year's Resolutions, which were adapted by my late mother, Pauline Phillips, from the original credo of Al-Anon: 
JUST FOR TODAY: I will live through THIS DAY ONLY. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once.
   I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
JUST FOR TODAY: I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.
JUST FOR TODAY: I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things that I can correct and accept those I cannot.
JUST FOR TODAY: I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.
JUST FOR TODAY:  I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others. I will improve my appearance, speak softly and not interrupt when someone else is talking. Just for today, I will refrain from improving anybody but myself.
JUST FOR TODAY:  I will do something positive to improve my health. If I'm a smoker, I'll quit. And I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block.
JUST FOR TODAY:  I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.
April 26, 2020

DEAR ABBY: My fiance has a friend who is, for lack of a better word, a train wreck. When I started dating my fiance, I heard about this guy, "Al," from my fiance's other friends even before I met him.
​   The group of friends has an on-again, off-again relationship with Al, and he has made a scene at each of their weddings. He has gotten obnoxiously drunk, gotten into huge arguments with his girlfriend (now wife), or done something rude like bring his own fast food to the head table at the reception. I tried to keep an open mind when I met him, but he has made us uncomfortable at every get-together.
    We recently attended Al's wedding, and he became aggressive with my fiance after drinking too much. We have now decided we don't want him or his new wife at our wedding next year. we hoped to just drift away from them. Unfortunately, Al has realized that he hasn't received a Save the Date and repeatedly texts my fiance that he wants to "go out" with him to talk. 
    We know he's going to ask about his invite, and he'll probably expect one because he invited us to his wedding. Are we justified in excluding him? How would you handle this?  --TOUGH SPOT IN ILLINOIS

DEAR TOUGH SPOT: Your fiance should handle it by giving Al a straight answer. He doesn't have to see him. A phone call will do. Your fiance should state clearly that Al isn't being invited to the wedding because he can't hold his liquor and has made a scene at each wedding he has attended. He should also be told that until he gets help for his alcohol problem, the two of you no longer wish to maintain the friendship. It's the truth, and the truth will set you free.
May 1, 2020

DEAR ABBY: My fiancee has two daughters (14 and 11) from a previous marriage. Their dad, "Brett", was just arrested for his forth DUI, the second within a year. The girls don't trust him anymore, and their image of him has changed greatly. 
   We have always encouraged the girls to stay with their dad on "his" days, but when they do, Brett rarely does anything with them. I know he misses his girls, and his siblings have told us the girls need to get past this because "tomorrow is not guaranteed." I understand. I live my life on that premise. But if Brett isn't willing to change, then why should we continue to encourage his being in their lives? He cares only about his image, not the actual relationship with his daughters.
   He has a history with drugs and alcohol, and in the last 12 months, he has been fired from three idfferent jobs. This is not the role model the girls need. I know I'm not their father, but it kills me seeing them hurt. Should we encourage them to still visit him? Or do we let them decide? I'm a soon-to-be stepfather who wants only what is best for the girls.  --PARENTING IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR PARENTING: When there is a divorce with children involved, custody arrangements are usually dictated by the court. Your fiancee's daughters may not have much choice but to visit their father on "his" days. That said, the custody arrangement can be altered if it becomes necessary.
   I agree that someone with four DUI's is not a great role model, and he could be a danger to them if he is still allowed to drive. Encourage the girls to keep you informed of what transpired during their visits with their father. I disagree with the relatives who say they must get past their father's neglect and verbal abuse.
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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O.Box 69440 Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Welcome to Al-Anon
April 7, 2020

DEAR ABBY: I have a friend who is an alcoholic. I met her when we first moved here five years ago. At that time, I wasn't aware of her drinking problem. Over the years it has become very apparent. I have yelled at her, shown deep concern for her, threatened rehab, begged her to get help, etc.

She calls me late in the evening rambling on about ridiculous things, repeating the same stories over and over, crying, claiming she's having panic attacks and all sorts of other health ailments that are most likely caused by her drinking. I am at my wits' end with her. She's a good person and has a good heart, but I know I can't save her because she's already stated she will never stop drinking.

How do I manage to keep my own sanity? I sometimes feel like I enable her by not calling her out on all her excuses for her problems when I know well they're all because of the drinking. -- ENABLER IN MINNESOTA

DEAR ENABLER: I have two suggestions for you, and I hope you will avail yourself of both. The first is to go online to al-anon.org to find the nearest location for meetings (you will find they are all over) and attend some. Al-Anon is a sister organization of Alcoholics Anonymous, and it was founded to help and support the friends and family members of people who have an alcohol problem. It will help you to understand that you cannot help your friend. Only she can do that by mustering up the resolve to quit drinking. Many alcoholics do this only after they finally realize the consequences their addiction has cost them. In this case, the price may be her friendship with you.

The second is to tell your friend -- while she is sober -- that she cannot continue calling you when she has been drinking, and that if she does, you will hang up. Then do it.
Please email 
[email protected]
with any questions or comments.
There are many Dear Abby articles dealing with alcoholism.
April 10 , 2020

DEAR ABBY: Is my daughter headed into an abusive, controlling relationship, or am I imagining the signs because of my own experience with domestic abuse for many years? She is 18 and, of course, parents are "idiots" who don't understand anything. The young man tries to control where she is, won't let her go anywhere without him, and suspiciously questions her if he thinks she spent too much of her own money.
   To me, these are signs of the beginning of years of hell, but to her, they're cute because he "cares," or I don't understand him. Am I being unfair because of my own past?  -BEEN THERE IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR BEEN THERE: Unfair? NOT AT ALL! You have listed some of the classic signs of an abusive partner, and your daughter is headed for trouble. Please share this column with her because it's important she recognized more of them:
   1. PUSHES FOR QUICK INVOLVEMENT: Comes on strong, claiming, "I've never felt loved like this by anyone." An abuser pressure the new partner for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.
   2.  JEALOUS: Excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly; prevents you from going to work because "you might meet someone"; checks the milage on your car.
    3. CONTROLLING: If you are late, interrogates you intensively about whom you talked to and where you were; keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.
    4.  UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet his or her every need.
    5. ISOLATION: Tries to isolate you from family and friends; accuses people who are you supporters of "causing trouble." The abuser may deprive you of a phone or car, or try to prevent you from holding a job. 
    6. BLAMES OTHERS FOR PROBLEMS OR MISTAKES: It's always someone else's fault if something goes wrong.
    7. MAKES OTHERS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OR HER FEELINGS: The abuser says, "You make me angry" instead of "I am angry", or says, "You're hurting me by not doing what I tell you."
​     8. HYPERSENSITIVITY: Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really mad. Rants about the injustice of things that are just a part of life. 
     9. CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN: Kills or punishes animals brutally. Also may expect children to do things that are far beyond their ability (whips a 3-year-old for wetting a diaper) or may tease them until they cry. Sixty-five percent of abusers who beat their partners will also abuse children.
    10. "PLAYFUL" USE OF FORCE DURING SEX: Exjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will during sez; finds the idea of rape exciting.
    11. VERBAL ABUSE: Constantly criticized or says blatantly cruel things; degreades, curses, calls you ugly names. this may also involve sleep deprivation, waking you with relentless verbal abuse.
    12.  RIGID GENDER ROLES: Expects you to serve, obey, remain at home.
    13.  SUDDEN MOOD SWINGS: Switches from sweet to violent in minutes.
    14.  PAST BATTERING: Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person :made: him (or her) do it.
    15.  THREATS OF VIOLENCE: Says things like, "I'll break your neck"
 or "I'll kill you," and then dismisses them with, "Everybody talks that way, " or "I didn't really mean it."
    Anyone at risk should contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 
at 800-799-7233 or www.thehotline.org