Ask Amy: Intervention with an alcoholic can be tricky

2014-08-03T00:00:00Z Ask Amy: Intervention with an alcoholic can be trickyBy Amy Dickinson Tribune Content Agency Arizona Daily Star
August 03, 2014 12:00 am  • 

DEAR AMY: My friend of over 50 years was always a heavy drinker. Recently his drinking has become a problem. He becomes very loud and opinionated. He has ruined the last four or five times we have been out with our wives, once even getting in a fight. We are both in our 70s.

Another longtime friend and I ran an intervention in which we told him of our concerns. His wife is co-dependent and fears she will have to change too. Partly because of her, the intervention went nowhere.

Now my friend has turned on me. He has sent many ranting emails, and "blame the messenger" is the theme.

We have told him and his wife that we will no longer see them after his cocktail hour starts (5 p.m.). According to his wife, other friends are doing the same thing, but you would think it is the biggest betrayal in human history.

We still value this friend but are stymied.

Any hope? — Sad

DEAR SAD: First, a word about interventions. Friends and family use interventions as a last-ditch effort to confront an addict, but these confrontations only work when there is unanimity among the group about the non-negotiable consequences if an addict refuses to seek help. In this case, your friend's wife is the key player, and as long as she continues to deny and enable her husband's drinking, an intervention will not work.

Now that you have told your friend the truth, there is some hope that he will finally seek help, but unfortunately alcoholism is an insidious disease. Your friend is acting out in rage and frustration, and you can see this as an effort to make you responsible for his problems. You are not.

Your response to him should be respectful and encouraging: "Please get help for your drinking. We miss your friendship. Let me know if you want to get together for breakfast; I'd like to talk." Fifty years of friendship gives you currency, and I applaud your efforts.

He would benefit from Alcoholics Anonymous (aa.org) and she from Al-anon (al-anon.alateen.org). Both organizations host local meetings and have helped countless people battling addiction.

DEAR AMY: I live with my husband and nephew who both do not work because they can't find work in their respective fields. I couldn't find work in my field, either, but decided to take a menial job because we had to survive.

I have footed the bills for six years now, and both men do not seem to feel the pinch because they live comfortably. I am considering getting a divorce and kicking out my nephew. Have I waited too long? —Conflicted

DEAR CONFLICTED: I don't know if you've waited too long to take action, but there is no time like the present to take steps to re-balance your marriage.

Kicking out your nephew might be a good first step. Without a male playmate at home, your husband might feel the urge to step up and rededicate himself to being a productive member of the family.

I don't know if there are other issues preventing you and your husband from salvaging your relationship, but I hope you will consider inviting him into counseling before calling a lawyer.

DEAR AMY: "Unsure" presented you with a tough dilemma; she was rethinking her relationship with her longtime boyfriend and also wondering about her sexual orientation.

I was 34 when I finally came out as a lesbian. I had been with my ex-boyfriend for 13 years, living together for 11, and it still took me that long.

Now, 10 years later (I'll be 44 next month), I can see the signs that I have always been gay. But when I was younger, I really couldn't see the forest through the trees.

So, no, Unsure. You wouldn't necessarily know by now if you were gay. There are people who go their whole lives without such self-awareness. Be grateful you're figuring it out now. — Deb in Orlando

DEAR DEB: It can take a lot of hard work and soul searching to arrive at the truth about one's sexual orientation, and it doesn't happen on a specific timetable.

Contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@tribune.com

Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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