Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am in a predicament. I have a good new friend who is having a birthday party he very much wants me to attend. The problem is that he has informed me that the party will be "alcohol and 420 friendly." I don't have issues with the alcohol, and I live in Washington state, where recreational marijuana is legal, so that is not the issue either. My problem is that I have PTSD caused by an abusive stepfather who was a marijuana addict. The very smell of pot smoke sends me into flashbacks and gives me jitters. Should I attend this party and do my best to hold it together? If not, how can I tell my friend why I am not coming, without him feeling I am judging him?

Nervous in Washington

DEAR NERVOUS: If you have PTSD, you should not risk your health to attend a social gathering. Smells have a very powerful effect on our minds and memories, and marijuana has a distinctive smell.

Your choices are to tell the truth or to tell a social lie, which might contain a version of the truth. An example might be, "I'd love to go but I'm extremely allergic to pot smoke and I can't be around it. I'm bummed to miss your party and I hope you have a great time." Because this issue is likely to come up in the future, you should definitely mention that you can't be around pot smoke.

Marijuana comes in many nonsmokable forms, and you may find that you can tolerate being around people who choose to use it, as long as it is not smoked.

Check in with a therapist to discuss strategies to cope with this particular trigger; given the state-by-state tumbling down of marijuana restrictions, you will definitely be confronted with its smell, and you should prepare yourself as well as you can.

DEAR AMY: About six years ago, I made a personal cookbook for my daughter for Christmas. It took me two months and I had a great time going down memory lane. The recipes are from family or were just ones we both liked. At the time, she was 40 years old. I know she threw the book away. It wasn't in her kitchen and I asked her about it. She couldn't give me a real answer. I took it personally, even though I know that's useless. Included was a recipe for something her stepfather used to make (and she used to love). I asked her recently if he ever hurt her and she said no. I put a personal note on many recipes, saying when I cooked it, who was there, tips about cooking, etc. She's seeing a counselor occasionally (something I'm paying for) but wrote me the other day that she hadn't been going because she wasn't dating anyone (and I guess therefore had no problems!). Can you give me a clue about what's going on? It really hurt and I guess this is indicative of a greater issue.

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Hungry Mom

DEAR HUNGRY: You should not be paying for your daughter's therapy. Therapy is very valuable, but your daughter won't value this experience unless she pays for it herself.

I agree that your gift is very thoughtful and your daughter's response is unkind. But you seem like a mom who wants to push a particular agenda -- and even if it's a sweet, savory and delicious agenda, it's the pushing that your daughter responds to.

In her rude way, she is pushing back.

Take the money you are spending on her counseling and put it toward your own.

DEAR AMY: I felt sorry for "Upset Son," who was mourning his mother and didn't want his father's current wife to be called "Grandma" by the kids. He should ask them to call her Grandma -- followed by her first name. He can tell the kids about their "Grandma Mary," who is gone now, but still alive in his memory.

Been There

DEAR BEEN THERE: Many readers made this suggestion. Thank you all.