Ask Amy: Intervention with an alcoholic can be tricky

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 told him of our concerns. The intervention went nowhere, partly because his wife is co-dependent. Now my friend has turned on me, sending ranting e-mails, with “blame the messenger” as the theme.

We have told him and his wife that we will no longer see them after his cocktail hour starts (5 p.m.). 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?

Amy says: 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 seek help, but 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 host local meetings and have helped countless people battling addiction.

Time to search ‘field’ again

Dear Amy: I live with my husband and nephew; neither can 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. Neither of them seems to feel the pinch because they live comfortably. I am considering getting a divorce and kicking out my nephew.

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

I don’t know if there are other issues in your relationship, but I hope you will consider inviting your husband into counseling before calling a lawyer.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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