Dear Annie: I wanted to share a bit of what it’s like to be the family member of a person who drinks too much. I know. I had more than 40 years of experience by the time I finally sought answers. I studied brain- and addiction-related research to assess my loved one’s drinking patterns in order to protect myself from secondhand drinking. Secondhand drinking is a term to describe the impact on the person on the receiving end of another person’s drinking behaviors.
These drinking patterns cause brain changes — especially in the areas of the brain responsible for judgment, memory, coordination, pleasure/reward and reasoning. And we don’t fully understand the physical and emotional consequences to the health of a family member or friend who repeatedly deals with SHD. These include anxiety, depression, stomach ailments, skin problems, obesity, sleep problems, difficulties at work or in school, migraines and more.
April 11, 2013, is National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD). This year, I urge people who love someone who drinks too much to conduct an anonymous screening of their loved one’s drinking patterns. Screening for Mental Health has created a fantastic website, www.HowDoYouScore.org, where anyone can anonymously evaluate their own or a loved one’s drinking patterns through an online assessment. The website also provides information on treatment options and suggestions for what it would take to cut down on or stop drinking.
This kind of anonymous screening allows you to understand what you are really dealing with: a drinking pattern that is changing their loved one’s brain and causing hurtful drinking behaviors.
— Lisa Frederiksen, Author, Speaker, Consultant
Dear Lisa: Thank you for sharing your story and emphasizing the importance of screening for alcoholism. Once again, those who wish to be screened can do so at howdoyouscore.org.
Dear Annie: I have lupus and suffer terribly. Some days are better than others, but most include fatigue, pain or some other symptom. Yet, when friends greet me, they say, “How are you? You look good.”
Rather than greet me this way, I would prefer they not ask about my illness, because I haven’t felt well in 17 years. Could you please tell readers in this position to simply say, “It is so good to see you”? That way, I don’t feel obligated to speak about my current condition.
— Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
Dear Sick: Your suggestion is a good one, and we hope people will keep it in mind. But we don’t believe these friends actually expect a rundown of your illness, nor are you obligated to talk about it. Greeting someone with, “How are you?” is generally rhetorical. You aren’t expected to respond other than to say, “Fine, thanks,” or some short variation. Because you haven’t truly been well for years, it stands to reason that you would take questions about your health more literally than intended.
Dear Annie: Thank you for printing the letter from “Rocky Mount, Va.,” who thought dogs should be allowed at the funerals of masters who have died. To have a dog at a funeral privately, prior to the public gathering, is a good idea — probably for both humans and dogs. There is a famous painting by Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) entitled “The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner,” depicting a pointer leaning against a casket with its head on top of the casket. It brings tears to my eyes anytime I even think of it.
— Watertown, Wis.
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