Dear Amy: I have a good friend from college who I’ve kept in touch with for decades.
He lives in another part of the country, and I see him every few years.
He’s had a lot of challenges in life. I’ve always been a good friend to him, and really care about him. We share a lot of laughs.
Unfortunately, he is an alcoholic.
His daughter once told my husband and me not to confront him about his drinking because he will get defensive.
The last time we saw him, he kept his drinking in check and we had a great visit.
The problem is, he regularly “drinks and dials.”
I don’t pick up if he calls in the evening. He sometimes leaves slurring, rambling voicemails for me. I will call him back a few days later during the day when he is sober.
He recently left a particularly drunken voicemail, and I haven’t called him back.
I doubt he even remembers leaving the message. He’s called a few times since and hasn’t left a message.
I’ve never confronted him about his drinking, but I’d like to ask him not to call when he’s been drinking. How do I get this message across when he denies he has a problem?
After this most recent voicemail, I’ve been tempted to call him back and ask if everything is OK because he sounded really out of it.
How do you suggest I conduct this conversation?
— Not Picking Up
Dear Not Picking Up: You don’t actually know if your friend denies he has a problem, because you’ve never attempted to discuss it with him. His daughter’s experience trying to address this might be very different from your own.
You know your friend drinks too much. He knows he drinks too much. He will only address his drinking when he is ready. This is not up to you.
Realistically, confronting him about it is not going to send him into recovery, but because this is an ongoing concern for you, you do have the responsibility to let him know how his drinking affects you.
Yes, you should call and ask if everything is OK because of the garbled voicemail message he left. You should also tell him that he drunk-dials you fairly often, which is why you don’t pick up his calls in the evening. Let him know that you are always happy to talk to him, but it’s easier for you when he is sober.
This might be embarrassing or awkward for you both, but I suggest that you accept his situation for what it is. Do not assume that your honesty will change his drinking or alter the course of his disease, and continue to keep in touch with him.
Dear Amy: My brother stopped talking to my mom and me sometime during the pandemic. We were never told why; he just quit answering all forms of communication.
His wife has had limited contact. It seems he has beef with our mom for things in his childhood and I am guessing that I am collateral damage.
He is 47 and just decided to cut all ties.
His wife does not want to be put in the middle, so it seems we are left trying to make sense of it.
I continued to send gifts and birthday texts but have stopped, due to no response or thank you.
Should I try to contact him anymore? What’s my next move?
Besides my mother, husband and kids, my brother’s family is all of my family and I have not had contact with my niece or nephew since this estrangement started.
I wonder if he has mental health issues.
— Left Questioning
Dear Questioning: Yes, you should keep in touch. Don’t pressure your brother for an explanation. If he is depressed, the pressure won’t help.
I suggest sending occasional lightly-toned texts, letting him know how you’re doing, and also conveying the message, “I would love to be in touch when you’re ready.”
Dear Amy: Your answer to “Curious Mom” was dead wrong. This family hired a caregiver for their disabled teenager, but this person was inserting her big nose into the family’s business. She should be fired immediately!
Dear Upset: So far, this caregiver was providing excellent care to their son. The family had been on a waitlist for a year.
I suggested that the family must establish extremely clear boundaries and communicate all of this to the caregiver, and basically give this a chance to work.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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