DEAR ABBY: I'm the youngest of three children and I'll be graduating from high school in the spring. My parents always seemed happy with each other. They were obviously in love, and they told my brothers and me they would never get divorced. Although they had arguments, they always made up, and it never seemed to be serious.
For the last few months, my dad has been acting weird. He spends a lot of time talking to and texting "a friend" on the phone. The problem is, although the friend has a male name ("George") in his contacts, the person has a female voice. I didn't think anything about it until recently, when I turned on Dad's phone to play a game and it was open to a series of text messages between him and this "friend." What I saw made it clear that something is up. Mom knows nothing about it.
I love my father, but I don't think I can handle this. I can't believe he'd do this to our family, especially since all of us are going through a really hard time lately.
I don't know what to do. I don't want to tell anyone because I don't want our family to fall apart. But I can't stay quiet. What should I do? -- BLINDSIDED IN JERSEY
DEAR BLINDSIDED: I agree that you can't keep quiet about this. What you saw was, of course, shocking -- and the person you should talk to about it is your father. Sometimes when people are going through a really tough time, they do things they wouldn't ordinarily do. Your mother may -- or may not -- have an inkling that something is going on.
Ask your father if the text means he plans to leave the family. Then give him a deadline to come clean with your mother, and let him know that if he doesn't, you will. You have my sympathy.
DEAR ABBY: My husband was sober for 14 years. He started drinking again two years ago. He's on probation and drinking is a clear violation of his probation. His liver enzymes are elevated, and I can't seem to find the right words to get his attention. I have thought about contacting his probation officer, but then he will be incarcerated.
Abby, I am watching the man I love drink himself to death and I'm afraid for him. Should I tell his probation officer or just watch him self-destruct? -- SCARED AND CONFUSED IN MICHIGAN
DEAR SCARED: The reason you can't get your husband's attention is because of the alcohol. He isn't thinking straight. As I am sure you realize, one of the hallmarks of addiction is denial. No one helps an alcoholic by enabling the person to continue drinking, and your husband definitely needs help.
While it may not be easy, talk to the probation officer so your husband can be incarcerated, dry out and become rational again. I know it is a painful choice, but watching him die of liver disease would be worse.
DEAR ABBY: Can you answer something for me? If the abbreviation for "mister" is "Mr.," then why is there an R in "Mrs." when there's no R in the word it's short for? -- INQUISITIVE IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR INQUISITIVE: According to my America Heritage Dictionary (4th Edition), "'Mrs.' is the abbreviation of the word 'mistress'" -- an antiquated term for a married or widowed woman.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)