Friendship With Alcoholic Causes Guilt and SorrowDEAR 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.
The other woman, "Rachael," recently contacted him saying she has cancer and has no family who want to take care of her. He put her up in his cabin in the mountains and hasn't told his wife. He asked what I thought, and honestly, I feel that although I am sad for Rachael, my brother should put his wife before his concern for this other woman. I'm angry with him for what he's doing to his wife. What should he do? -- DISAGREEING IN THE SOUTH
DEAR DISAGREEING: I assume that when your brother confided what he has been doing, you gave him your thoughts on it. If you didn't, you should.
I find it telling that the person asking me what he should do is you and not him. Rather than try to run interference for him, recognize the ball is in his court, and he has to decide for himself what he should -- or should not -- do, because he is playing a very dangerous game.
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