Dear Amy: I am a single mom. My main focus and passion has always been my children.

Yesterday was my birthday and I spent the evening with my oldest son, 31, and his girlfriend. They are fundamentally good kids and I enjoy being with them.

However, I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop when it comes to my son.

He keeps making bad choices: DWI last year, and then, after being sober for five months, he smoked pot and now has to go to jail for violating his probation.

He is now ineligible for most well-paying positions.

He's feeling bad, and I'm trying not to show how terribly he has disappointed me. He and his siblings have been my life's work.

I'm having a hard time accepting that my son is a depressed alcoholic and will never live up to the vision I had for him, nor fulfill his potential.

He's upset he doesn't have the good life, and yet he's not willing/can't do what it takes to be successful. I feel like my hard work has been wasted. Also, he will not take medication for depression, nor admit he needs to stop drinking.

How do I let him live his life and accept him, without the anxiety and sadness I feel over how he's wasting his life?

Amy says: Get yourself to an Al-Anon meeting (check Al-anon.org for place and time). Al-Anon meetings are for people who are worried about and affected by a loved-one's substance use or abuse.

You seem invested in a fairly specific version of the success you envision for your son. You have decided that he is a failure. He is 31, and yet you also seem ready to write him off.

Some loved ones contribute to an addict's problems by being in denial. You seem to be doing the opposite.

Understand that your own anxiety and reactions affect him. If he is depressed, then your judgment and disappointment will not help him.

You need to learn the art of loving detachment. This is especially tough for single parents, who have sacrificed and invested so much. A version of this for you might be for you to repeat this mantra (to yourself): "I love you, but I'm not you. I'm in your corner and always hoping for the best. I'm powerless over your drinking, but I'll continue to hope that you will embrace sobriety."

That's it. Shed your disappointment — make a choice to put it aside. Walk your own path one day at a time.

Boss is a talker

Dear Amy: My boss' boss is great. We work together frequently, and I genuinely like the guy.

However, whenever I pop into his office, I get caught up in a 40-minute (usually one-sided) conversation. It would be fine if it was work-related, but it quickly veers off to personal topics.

I don't want to stop popping in; I value his wisdom and support, but I don't want to be caught for nearly an hour every time I see him.

I need help diffusing these situations. There are almost no good segue moments to leave: the conversation just loses steam — or a meeting pops up.

Amy says: One technique you could try is to set an audible alarm on your phone for 10 or 15 minutes from the time you enter Mr. Talky Pants' office. Before engaging in conversation, say, "I've got to get back to my desk in a couple of minutes, but I wanted to say a quick hello." He will talk past that time, but then when your alarm buzzes, you will both have a tangible reminder that it's time for you to make a clean getaway.

Send Ask Amy questions to Amy Dickinson at P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068 or to askamy@amydickinson.com. Twitter: @askingamy