DEAR AMY: I have a friend who is a controlling alcoholic. Her husband divorced her seven years ago due to her abusive behavior. The only one surprised by their divorce was her. Her adult children knew it was only a matter of time. My friend denies she has a drinking problem, partly because she is able to function at her job. Her drinking gets so bad in the evenings that if you speak with her after 8 p.m., she has no recollection of the phone conversation. The next day, she will say the exact same thing. I've asked her if she thinks she has a drinking problem, and she says no. She is so controlling that she will tell you how to drive, she demands you lower the radio, tells you where to park the car, where to sit, what to order in a restaurant, how to pay the bill -- and she will scold you if you do otherwise. I am the last remaining friend in our once happy group of four. It is too much work to be friends with her. I've chosen to see her on a very limited basis, and I try to limit our phone chats. I feel sorry for her because deep down she is a caring, nice person. She brings up the other friends who don't call her anymore. She says she can't figure out what she has done. I don't want to be the one to say to her that at our age, she is just too much work to be friends with.
--Tired of the Work
DEAR TIRED: In addition to this friendship being frustrating for you, it must also be heartbreaking. Now that she has lost almost everything, rather than ask her if she has a drinking problem, it is time to be brave -- and tell her she has a drinking problem.
Let her know, "Your drinking is killing you, and it is killing our friendship. Please get help." Talk to her in person, when she is sober. Expect her to respond in anger. And repeat: "I care about you. Please get help." You can point her toward AA meetings and offer to meet her for coffee afterward. She is responsible for making the commitment to sobriety; this is something you cannot do for her.
DEAR AMY: "Bewildered" wrote to you, complaining about children not opening their birthday gifts at their party.
I remember feeling jealous watching the birthday kid open his gifts on his birthday. I assume parents are trying to avoid this.--Reader
DEAR READER: It's better to deal with this very human reaction than to enable it by avoiding it. Coping with these feelings is how children learn and grow.