Dear Annie: My brother “Nathan” moved into an apartment with my other brother, “Steven,” who lives with his girlfriend and her son. Nathan has an alcohol problem that already caused him to lose his job and is now creating problems between Steven and his girlfriend. Steven has forbidden my parents to speak with Nathan about his alcoholism for fear of betraying his brother’s trust and embarrassing him. I believe Steven is an enabler.
My parents recently visited my brothers and didn’t bring up the subject. I feel as if I’m living in a family of ostriches burying their heads in the sand, hoping the problem will go away. But I’m worried that Nathan will die of his disease if we don’t step up and intervene. How can I get my family to deal with this?
Dear C.: The problem with addicts, whether it’s drugs, alcohol or anything else, is that they are often in denial about the extent of the problem and unwilling to be helped. Without their cooperation, there is little you can do. People also use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate — most often for depression — and those symptoms can be hidden because the focus is on the addiction. It does Nathan no good for his family to pretend the problem doesn’t exist. You and your parents can contact Al-Anon (al-anon.alateen.org) for information and support. And if you can convince Nathan to talk to a doctor to rule out other problems, that might help him get on the right track.
Dear Annie: My wife and I are good friends with three other retired couples. A few years ago, one couple began looking to buy a second home in Arizona. This required that they put themselves on a strict budget.
The problem is, whenever the eight of us make plans together, the “Smiths” make it clear that they can’t afford it. So in order to spend time with them, we have to choose an activity within their limited budget.
I understand that they have to prioritize in order to achieve their dream of having a winter home, but this is their goal, not ours. In the interest of maintaining a good relationship, we have accommodated their requests for less expensive outings, but I am beginning to feel that it isn’t quite fair for them to impose their restrictions on the rest of us. Any advice would be helpful.
— Not Sure What To Do
Dear Not Sure: This isn’t about fairness. It’s about friendship. If this couple were ill, you would never plan activities you knew they couldn’t do and then resent them for being unable to participate. It works the same with income levels. When you want to see them, pick an activity they can enjoy, too. But you don’t need to be held hostage to their budget every time you go out. It’s perfectly OK to occasionally do something more extravagant, knowing they will probably decline.
Dear Annie: In your reply to “Sleepyhead’s Mother-In-Law-To-Be,” you missed an opportunity to educate the public about delayed sleep-phase disorder. DSPD is a circadian rhythm disorder that prevents sufferers from falling asleep until some hours after midnight. Consequently, we find it difficult to wake in the morning.
We are not lazy. In fact, we are managing the best we can on half of the sleep most people get. DSPD doesn’t respond well to medication, therapy or sleep hygiene (relaxation techniques, avoiding caffeine, adequate light exposure during the day, etc.) because it is not insomnia. It is impossible to force a normal sleep schedule by simply going to bed earlier.
But the most difficult aspect may be the social censure from people who are convinced we are lazy and self-indulgent. Future son-in-law is lucky to have found a job and a girlfriend who is understanding about his disability.
— No Early Bird in California
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