Life Advice



Ask Amy: Brother’s drinking disrupts tight family

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: We are a tight-knit small family. We usually spend five to seven days at my parents’ house together at Christmastime every year.

My brother is a heavy drinker with a huge drinking problem. He is condescending, rude, and berates everyone.

In 2019, after years of this behavior, I had had enough and flung some very honest truths at him before packing my bags, leaving, and spending my holidays alone.

It was also the last time I got to see all of my family before the pandemic hit, so it has been doubly hard.

I'm still very hurt by my family, who have watched him behave like this over the years and still allow it to take place.

My mother told me: “It’s just how he is. He treats everyone like that."

He has never apologized for or acknowledged his behavior.

I have made it clear to my parents that I will not be present at family functions he is invited to.

My boyfriend and I are expecting our first child around Christmas and I want to spend the holidays with my family, but I don't know what to do.

I can't subject myself to his outbursts anymore. I have an at-risk pregnancy.

I know it isn't my place to ask my parents to choose between us. I don't want him to spend his holidays alone, either. He literally has no one other than us, is prone to depression, and his health is failing because of his drinking.

I'm so conflicted, and so are my parents.

I love him but I just can't do it anymore for my own physical and mental health.

It is eating me alive thinking about the stress during what should otherwise be a very happy time.

What should I do?

– Holiday Headaches

Dear Headaches: If your baby is due around Christmas, it might be wisest for you not to bring a newborn into a crowded house for an extended stay. Newborns are extremely portable, but the early days are an ideal time for the parents to hunker down, love on their new child, and adjust to parenthood.

You don’t want to ask your parents to choose between their children, but you have drawn a hard line regarding your brother. This is for your own well-being, and it is vital that you take care of yourself.

Addiction tends to destabilize the entire family structure. This can lead to what feels like a power struggle, as family members sometimes try – and fail – to control the addict’s behavior.

You can expect that the long-standing dynamic in your family will continue. What you can do is keep your distance, while working on releasing your anger and replacing it with compassion.


Plan for a visit with your folks when your baby is around three-months old.

Dear Amy: I have a roommate who is going through one of the biggest betrayals in her life. I don’t know how to help her.

Her brother is dating her ex-friend. She told him not to get involved with the ex-friend because of the animosity between them, but now these two are engaged.

No one told her about the engagement; she found out from her aunt, who asked her if she was going to the wedding.

Her father doesn’t want to get in between her and her brother. He has a hands-off policy.

I don’t know what to say and do for her.

I hear about how her brother and dad treat her to the point I want to scream. I comfort her as much as possible, but I’m starting to feel burned out.

The situation isn’t changing and while I care for her, I find myself wanting to avoid any conversation about her family’s treatment.

What should I do?

– Dejected Roomie

Dear Roomie: One way to wean your roommate from discussing personal matters she is obsessing over is to listen quietly and nod your head, but don’t offer any advice or solutions.

She will become frustrated by your silence. When this happens, you can say, “I know this is tough for you, but maybe it is time to take your own power back and accept this for what it is, because you can’t change it.”

Dear Amy: “Marred in Maine” called out her husband “Steve” for compensating his adult daughter for work she hadn’t done in the family’s business, while Marred basically worked for free.

Wow. Steve seems like the perfect employer. I wonder if he needs another absentee employee!

– Working Hard

Dear Working Hard: The line forms at the door.


(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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