Life Advice



Ask Amy: Spouse worries about husband’s drinking

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I have been married for 45 years to a man who has a severe drinking problem.

It wasn't this way in the beginning, but over the years his drinking has progressed into alcoholism.

I have tried to help him in every way I know. He went to rehab last winter but didn't follow through with any of the support that was offered to him.

Now he is drinking again and although it is not as bad as it was, he is headed down that road once more.

I want to leave him if he won't quit drinking, but I am afraid of what he will do if I leave.

To make matters worse, he was recently diagnosed with cancer.

What should I do?

– Worried

Dear Worried: You might need to make a stark choice between the possibility of your husband self-destructing in your absence, or of him self-destructing in your presence.

What I’m trying to express is that you are not the answer to his existential question. You do not possess God-like powers to save him.

Your husband has alcohol use disorder, and – as with other serious medical disorders (his cancer, for instance) – in order for him to get well, he requires treatment and follow-up care.

If you want to continue to help him, it might be wisest for you to focus on his cancer diagnosis and treatment. Make sure his physicians know about his alcoholism. I’m assuming that alcohol could prove extremely toxic along with other drugs he might be prescribed for cancer treatment. His team might prescribe a medication to assist him in staying off of alcohol (several medications have FDA approval for treating alcohol use disorder).

Sometimes ultimatums (“Stop drinking or I’ll leave”) do work, but I believe it might be more powerful and useful for you to make a choice based on your own needs and capacities – and so an alternative would be for you to simply separate with no strings attached while you focus on your own self-care. You can then continue to make choices about the relationship, based on your own judgment and non-negotiables, as well as his needs.

And – as always – when coping with the addiction disorder of a loved one, Al-Anon could be a game-changer for you.

This is how Al-Anon defines detachment: “Separating ourselves from the adverse effects of another person’s alcoholism can be a means of detaching: this does not necessarily require physical separation. Detachment can help us look at our situations realistically and objectively.” Check for more.

Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I play tennis at a local park.

We disagree on how to handle the following: A man used the court's back fence as a practice soccer goal. He lined up his shot and kicked the ball into the fence directly behind where we were playing.


He did this over and over again as if we were not there.

I wanted to talk to him. My boyfriend objected, stating that I should be aware of and sensitive to perception.

The man happened to be Hispanic, while we happen to be white. I would talk to anyone who exhibited this type of intrusive behavior to our playing regardless of race/ethnicity, in a pleasant way.

While my boyfriend won this one, and I said nothing, I would like to know your opinion.

– Tennis Bums

Dear Bums: It seems obvious that at a public park, a person has a right to use the fencing around the tennis court as a backstop, certainly if there are no other options.

Must others around you behave quietly, as if you are in the final rounds at Wimbledon?

All the same, if someone is behaving in a way that bothers you, you have the right to respectfully ask them to stop, regardless of their ethnicity.

If you had done so, the soccer player might have chosen to remind you that soccer is the most popular sport in the world for a reason and that even though your tennis playing might have bothered him, he had chosen to be tolerant.

Dear Amy: In a response to the “Testy Traveler,” the traveler who was bothered by her chatty seatmate on an airplane, my response to talkative seatmates is, "I hope you don't mind pausing our conversation, but I must rest my mind, now.” I then close my eyes and relax.

– Florida Reader

Dear Reader: I like your polite and definite response. I hope my own defenseless seatmate will use it on me the next time I fly.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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