DEAR AMY: I need your help with a very sensitive situation with my in-laws. My mother-in-law drinks too much at family functions. We recently celebrated my son's first birthday party (her first grandchild) and she (again) had too much to drink. She was slurring her words, wobbly on her feet and was having uncomfortable conversations with our other guests. When my wife confronted her about her behavior (at the party), she became defensive and immediately responded that my wife is too judgmental. She used profanity at my wife and said she was never coming to our house again. She also began to act like a teenager and stomped up the stairs and slammed doors, etc. We are concerned for her safety as well as the safety of our son. This has been a pattern for her over the past 15-plus years. I am only just coming into this situation within the last four years since marrying my wife. It seems to be a cycle where these situations occur, my mother-in-law backs off drinking for a few months and then she starts back up again. How can we address this issue without having her feel like we are having an intervention or attacking her? When she is not drinking she is the best mother-in-law and grandmother in the world. She is very helpful and always goes above and beyond for the family.
DEAR CONCERNED: The reason your mother-in-law responded the way she did when confronted at the party is partly because she was drunk. Never try to reason with a drunk. She'll just hurl invective and blame you for it later.
You and your wife should approach this firmly, lovingly and as a team -- in the form of a letter (so she can read and reread it).
You start with: "When you are not drinking, you are the best mother and grandmother in the world. When you are drinking, you frighten and worry us. We want to encourage you to seek help to get and stay sober. We also want you to know that we love to spend time with you, but if you are ever inebriated in our home again we will have to limit your contact with us and with our child. This is the heartbreaking consequence of how out of control your drinking has become."
DEAR AMY: My daughter lived with her boyfriend for almost 10 years before they finally got married last year. She is living in my old house that he bought from us (it's in his name). He owns several cars. He won't put his pay into a joint account. He doesn't want her to know how much he makes. He has been gambling very heavily. She has been paying bills that are in his name -- he reminds her frequently that it is "his house." Gambling and drinking have put a big dent in their marriage. She has to ask him for money to pay bills. He makes five times more than she makes. This is so bad and stressful for her. We have all told her to move on before she brings children into this. She is shutting down and is so unhappy. Should she get out?
DEAR WORRIED: From your description, yes -- she should get out. Some of what you report can be red flags of an abusive situation that seems to be escalating. However, your advocacy and concern for her could very easily be interpreted as an attempt to control her (just as her husband is doing). Pressure from you could keep her in the relationship. Stay close but don't push too hard. She needs to make some tough choices. She should know that you are in her corner when she is ready.
DEAR AMY: Responding to the question about end-of-life directives posed by "Angry in Anaheim," I'd encourage Angry to speak with the doctor who signed the DNR. I'm a paramedic. I'd hope if I were one day in her father's shoes, my family would respect my end-of-life choices.
DEAR COMPASSIONATE: I assume you have seen all shades of this drama play out.