Life Advice



Ask Amy: Sober friend worries about friend’s enabling

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I am a recovering alcoholic, currently celebrating seven years of sobriety.

A dear friend of over 30 years, “Brett,” is in a relationship with an alcoholic woman named “Emily.”

Brett has rescued Emily from drunk-driving accidents before the police arrived. He has picked her up from work for being drunk at lunchtime. The list goes on and on.

Emily lives with her elderly mother. Emily’s mother asked me to speak with her, and I did.

Everyone agrees that Emily needs help, but nobody will take action. Emily cannot make any reasonable decisions for herself.

Between Brett and the mother, they take turns every other weekend watching Emily. They hope for the best during the week.

Brett and the mother are not alcoholic, so they may not understand the negative power of alcohol.

However, it's undeniable that no amount of "saving" is going to help this woman. She needs professional help! Both of these people love Emily, but the ripple effect of her alcoholism has reached a tipping point.

Should I leave him to deal with this?

Should I say to Brett: "Give me a call when she's in detox/rehab?"

I’d appreciate your advice.

– Seven Years Sober

Dear Seven Years: You state that these enablers may not understand the negative power of alcohol. And yet they do understand this power because the job of keeping “Emily” alive is absorbing the full attention of two people. That’s power!

Your question perfectly illustrates a point I often try to make: Addiction will absorb everyone in its path to varying degrees until the addict receives treatment. Case in point: Emily, Emily’s mother, your friend “Brett,” and now your relationship with all of them has been swallowed up by her disease.

I suggest that you put this to them: “Emily has a disease. It’s called addiction use disorder. She needs treatment. If she had cancer or diabetes, wouldn’t you encourage her to get treatment?”

They do not have the power to save Emily. Enabling at this level really is “playing God.” Imagine if Emily had landed in court-mandated rehab as a result of one of her drunken car accidents? She might be celebrating her own sobriety by now.

My favorite phrase describing this dynamic is that people who repeatedly save addicts from the consequences of their disease are actually “loving them to death.”

You are an alcoholic in recovery. You could take your friend to an Al-anon meeting; you could present him with some literature about co-dependency. Beyond that, you should not engage further, certainly if your own sobriety is threatened. Because then you would be one more casualty of this person’s disease.

Dear Amy: I realize I’m about to complain about a first-world problem, but I am a dad and will always want what is best for my boys.


My wife and I have two awesome sons in their early 20s who live with us.

Both have college degrees, are gainfully employed, and their moral compass points in the right direction. We are proud of them, we let them know it, and they know they are loved.

However, their personal hygiene is poor, as is their diet, and they are not physically active, which has caused them to put on weight.

Unless something changes, we are concerned it will only get worse.

Our hope was that by exercising regularly and trying to eat well we were being good role models.

How can we encourage them to make healthier lifestyle choices without overstepping our boundaries or saying anything that could harm their self-esteem or make them feel shamed and insecure?

– Worried Dad

Dear Dad: These young men are living with you, and so your directives should be pointed toward behavior of theirs that affects the household.

I’m talking about hygiene, here. I’m making assumptions, but if your sons are laying around the house in their own filth, playing video games and scarfing pizza (when they’re not at work), then you should lay down some very clear expectations.

If they want to continue to live with you, they need to bathe each day, keep the common rooms clean, help with household chores, etc.

I would not discuss their weight with them. Their weight is their business.

Dear Amy: Thank you for your tough response to “Wondering,” who labeled her ex-husband and son “bad men” and then wondered why her daughter would have any contact with them.

I appreciated that you pointed out that parental alienation runs both ways.

– Child of Divorce

Dear Child: Some people do the very thing they deplore.


(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.)

©2022 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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