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Failed intervention leaves friendship on shaky ground

DEAR AMY: My friend of more than 50 years was always a heavy drinker. Recently his drinking has become a problem. He becomes very loud and opinionated. He has ruined the last four or five times we have been out with our wives. We are both in our 70s. Another longtime friend and I ran an intervention in which we told him of our concerns. His wife is co-dependent and fears she will have to change, too. Partly because of her, the intervention went nowhere. Now my friend has turned on me. He has sent many ranting emails, and "blame the messenger" is the theme. We have told him and his wife that we will no longer see them after his cocktail hour starts (5 p.m.). According to his wife, other friends are doing the same thing, but you would think it is the biggest betrayal in human history. We still value this friend but are stymied. Any hope?

-- Sad

DEAR SAD: First, a word about interventions. An intervention is a last-ditch effort to confront an addict, but these confrontations only work when there is unanimity among friends and family about the non-negotiable consequences if an addict refuses to seek help. In this case, your friend's wife is the key player, and as long as she continues to deny and enable her husband's drinking, an intervention will not work.

Now that you have told your friend the truth, there is hope he will finally seek help, but alcoholism is an insidious disease. Your friend is acting out in rage and frustration, and you can see this as an effort to make you responsible for his problems. You are not.

Your response to him should be respectful and encouraging: "Please get help for your drinking. We miss your friendship. Let me know if you want to get together for breakfast; I'd like to talk." Fifty years of friendship gives you currency, and I applaud your efforts.

DEAR AMY: "Unsure" presented you with a dilemma; she was rethinking her relationship with her boyfriend and wondering about her sexual orientation. I was 34 when I came out as a lesbian. I had been with my ex-boyfriend for 13 years and it still took me that long. Now, 10 years later, I can see the signs that I have always been gay. But when I was younger, I couldn't. So, no, Unsure. You wouldn't necessarily know by now if you were gay. There are people who go their whole lives without such self-awareness.

-- Deb in Orlando

DEAR DEB: It can take a lot of soul searching to arrive at the truth about one's sexual orientation, and it doesn't happen on a specific timetable.


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