Dear Carolyn: I have a friend I have known since high school who has recently been in recovery for drinking. He is about six weeks into an outpatient system and has been doing well. A group of friends including my friend in recovery have been going on two camping trips a year. We have been doing this for more than 20 years.
I have asked that we make this next trip, which is in two weeks, alcohol-free. I explained to them that I know he will have to deal with friends drinking in front of him eventually but that it is too soon.
The reaction from some of the group is that I am being unreasonable and I should not be dictating what takes place on the camping trip. What should I do?
Carolyn says: They're right. You shouldn't be dictating.
And you're right, at this early stage it will likely be a big challenge for your friend to be around alcohol.
And everyone who's thinking, "People who can't go on one trip without drinking have a problem," might have a point, too, but it's beside the point here.
What the group does is up to each individual in the group. What your friend in recovery does is up to him. And anything you do will only be genuinely helpful if it puts the responsibility in the right place.
So, you don't determine how the group handles alcohol — they do.
And, you don't determine how your friend handles this trip so soon into his program — he does. His options include not going because it's too soon.
Accordingly, this would be an appropriate next thing to say to your fellow campers: "You're right, this isn't up to me. So I'll try this again: I've decided not to drink on the trip, to make it easier on [friend in recovery]. Any and all solidarity welcome." Same message, but with the authority where it belongs.
Who to tell first?
Dear Carolyn: My siblings and I are at odds on what to do with information about a woman who claims she is the daughter of our deceased brother. The conception occurred years before "John" married his now-widow and had several kids.
This daughter has made the connection through DNA testing and we are waiting for confirmation before deciding how to tell her immediate family. Do we tell the kids before their mother or the mother before the kids? We are not willing to turn our backs on our presumed niece but not sure how to approach the family without causing havoc. Any advice you can give us will be greatly appreciated.
Carolyn says: Oh, my.
The widow needs to know before anyone else, the moment you have confirmation, lest this already-airborne information waft its way to her. It's not even a close enough call to debate.
Yes, she's not related to John's maybe-daughter and their kids are, and yes, this relationship long preceded her in John's life, but: She is the top of the pyramid that is the family she and John created together. In that role, she deserves to be the first of her family to know something of such consequence, and to have some say in how her kids find out. It's a matter of basic respect.
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