Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I am an alcoholic in remission. I am not recovering — I have a disease that I fight daily. For almost 17 years I have not had alcohol in any form. Also on the no-no list are painkillers. You cannot imagine how this has been. This is my sore spot: I have family and friends who bemoaned my drinking for the first half-century of my life. These people have never — and I mean never — hosted an alcohol-free event. It doesn’t matter what it is: funeral, wedding, barbecue, birthday party, Christmas, Thanksgiving, whatever. They have never honored me, or my journey, by saying, “Hey, we aren’t going to allow any drinking at this event — just for you.” I have requested that they do so, and they have flat-out said no. There are times that I can actually ignore the booze. But there are times when the walls start to close in and I panic because the mere smell of a deep red wine makes me lose all reasoning and all I want to do is flee (or have a drink). So — I flee. Then I sit in the car and cry. I want to still be part of the crowd, to laugh, to joke and eat good food. I want to enjoy the camaraderie of the group energy, but I can’t. I always have to be on guard. That’s so unfair and just once and a while it would be nice not to worry about it when I’m around Normies. Is that too much to ask?
DEAR SOBER: First let me express my admiration for 17 years of one-day-at-a-time. It might be a good idea to find a local sober/recovery group where you can check in and share your story, strategies and frustrations.
It is unfortunate that your family and friends don’t support your sobriety more fully. Either they simply have no idea of the magnitude of the challenge for you or they are being blatantly disrespectful of your reasonable request to attend an alcohol-free event occasionally. My instinct is that alcohol is an important part of your family’s culture.
However — guess what? Just as they couldn’t prevent you from a half-century of drinking, you cannot prevent them from continuing to drink. It’s the age-old Serenity Prayer challenge — to cope with those things (and people) you cannot change.
I hope you have at least one friend who is willing to host alcohol-free dinners and parties along with you so that you can enjoy food and fellowship without the constant worry that you will relapse.
DEAR AMY: There is an email discussion group in our community that my wife is a member of. My wife and I each have our own desk with our own computers. At her request, I always turn on my wife’s computer in the morning before she gets up. I’ve been reading my wife’s email, scanning the group message subject lines, to see if there was anything interesting enough to read. My wife got up early one morning and saw me doing this. She didn’t know I had a habit of reading her emails in the morning. She is now angry with me. She says she feels I’ve crossed the line and invaded her privacy. I feel that I’m not invading her privacy because the only emails I look at are from the community discussion group. Am I off base?
S in California
DEAR S: I agree with your wife. If you think of email as postal mail, then any letter that is addressed to both you and your wife could be opened and read by either of you. Any email addressed to your wife and sent to her computer should be considered her property. If you want to learn what the members of your community discussion group are communicating about, then it is very easy for you to get yourself on the listserv.
DEAR AMY: “At a Loss” wondered why her addict dad faded away from the family. You do not seem to know much about addiction. Sadly I’m also an addicted parent. The main reason I chose to fade away was because it became very hard to deal with a spouse and kids and still try to get my life on track. It took almost three years to get sober. Kids, unfortunately, were neglected. But there isn’t a day gone by when I don’t wish to be able to turn back the clock and be a better dad to my children.
DEAR SOBER: Thank you for your insight.