How best to deal with alcoholic ex-husband

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: I am in my mid-60s, but I am still struggling with an issue with my ex-husband. He is an alcoholic and, due to all that goes with that, I divorced him more than 20 years ago. Recently, he moved to where I live to be closer to our children. My children and I are close and we get together for holidays, birthdays and sometimes just to talk. My divorce was hurtful and it took years to get child support, so I do not have any good memories of my years with my ex. He has no family and, thus, I have invited him to Thanksgiving and other events at my house. Lately, he has shown up to several family events (not at my house) with beer. He has become so drunk he had to be driven home. It makes all of us uncomfortable, and more than once, he has acted out (yelling in one child's face; threatening, being rude and inappropriate). Recently, I decided not to invite him to a family party. I really want to set a good example for my children, and it seems that at my age, I should be able to be around him and not react, but truly, I do not want to be around him. Am I selfish and small because I can't get past his behavior -- past and present? I need help!--Haunted

DEAR HAUNTED: The most significant thing you could do for yourself at this point would be to attend Al-Anon meetings (urge your children to do the same): al-anon.alateen.org. Sharing stories with other people connected to alcoholics will give you insight about how to cope with this relationship.

You must continue to establish and enforce your own personal boundaries regarding your ex-husband. You sound generous and also long-suffering. You can continue to be generous but diminish your own suffering by employing natural consequences when it comes to your ex's drinking. If he brings alcohol or becomes belligerent while with you, he needs to leave. If he drinks or becomes belligerent while you are with others, you need to leave.