Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: A senior citizen member of my family (who lives in my house) gets high at least three times a day. I am concerned about her health. She smokes pot morning, noon and night. When she is somewhat lucid, it is with eyes half closed and a vacant smile on her face. Sometimes she stares at inanimate objects, or pauses for a long time in the middle of a sentence. I am worried that these are signs of a medical problem, rather than the fact that she is high. She doesn’t seem aware of these behaviors. Any attempt to talk about this is met with anger. Three years ago I managed to quit cigarettes. My house is now smoke-free. This family member smokes outside, or in her car, which is fine. She also feels the need to sneak around and hide as if I were her parent, which I am definitely not. She is over 60, but behaves like she’s in junior high. I am worried that this, too, is a sign of some mental deterioration, not just spending her life half-baked. She thinks that her pot use makes her cool and young. In reality, the younger family members find her behavior pathetic. I am embarrassed for her, but more importantly, how can I tell if there is really something physically or mentally wrong?

Worried

DEAR WORRIED: From your description, it sounds as if this person is indeed half-baked, more or less all of the time. I’m assuming that this drug use is legal where you live.

Her compulsive marijuana use means that it is always in her system, and that she is constantly stoking her high.

But — she is an adult. She is making daily choices, and even if you don’t agree with these choices, unless they have a significant and real impact on you (beyond your disapproval), there isn’t much you can do, other than express your loving concern.

If you are trying to get someone to stop a habit (or addiction), you can only tell your own truth, attach meaningful consequences and follow through.

Does her drug use disrupt or interfere with your life in significant ways? Does she drive while impaired?

It might help to make your point if you can film her during an impaired moment and show it to her when she is less impaired and you are both calm. Don’t use this to shame her, don’t share it with others, don’t call her pathetic and don’t judge why she does this or whether she thinks she’s cool.

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Express your concern and worry. Tell her you know from your own smoking addiction how hard it is to overcome her dependency, and offer to take her to the doctor for a screening for any underlying medical issues.

DEAR AMY: Last year, my mother died from a cancer that none of us — not even our father — knew about. She kept her diagnosis a secret until she could no longer hide the truth. We had less than one week to try and make sense of things before she died. Watching our elderly father grieve not only this crippling loss, but also the concealment, has been heartbreaking. I want to believe she thought she was protecting all of us, but it instead feels like a betrayal. Please urge your readers to carefully consider how withholding a cancer diagnosis or other life-altering illness negatively impacts those who love them. No matter what the reasons for concealing, it comes off as a selfish act and deprives families of the opportunity to walk a hard road together.

Grieving Daughter

DEAR GRIEVING: This is heartbreaking. I hope you will accompany your father to a grief support group. It would help all of you to grieve together, and to walk this journey with others.

You are all bewildered by your mother’s choice, but I’m sure you can also imagine the combination of stoicism, fear and sadness she was experiencing. I’m very sorry for this loss.

DEAR AMY: I was appalled at your response to “Horror-fied Dad,” the father who didn’t want his 13-year-old son to watch “The Exorcist” (and other R-rated horror movies). “The Exorcist” is extremely disturbing. I agree with this dad’s choice.

Another Dad

DEAR DAD: It is each parent’s right and responsibility to monitor the media their children consume. It helps if a parent is familiar with the content, in order to make an informed decision. In my opinion, not all “R”-rated movies are universally inappropriate for teens.