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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a senior in high school. My mother is married to an alcoholic who periodically gets very drunk and screams unprintable things at me until I'm huddled crying on the floor. He hates me and has threatened to hurt me on at least two occasions. He refuses to get counseling or go to AA. Mom has been present during some of these episodes.

About a year ago, I started dating a guy who is very supportive. Because of the situation at my house, I have started going to his house every day after school and returning as late as possible. Sometimes I tell Mom the truth about where I am; sometimes I tell her I'm working late at school. I am editor in chief of our school paper, so this isn't unusual.

Abby, I know my mother is very hurt by the fact I'm never home. She gets angry and accuses me of avoiding home because I don't want to do chores. How can she say that when she knows how her husband treats me? I am under so much stress my grades are starting to drop. What can I do to make her less upset? How can I spend more time with her before I leave for college? Please help. -– TORN IN NEW ENGLAND

DEAR TORN: Your mother blames your absence on an unwillingness to do household chores because she's in denial about how her husband's drinking and temper have affected you. If she can place blame on you, she won't have to address her failure as a parent to protect you from his abuse.

I see nothing to be gained by lying to her. She bears some of the responsibility for this. Tell her where you're spending your time and why. Explain that your boyfriend's house is a safer place for you because you don't have to fear threats and verbal abuse.

If you want to spend more time with your mother before you leave for college, do it away from the house. An excellent place for both of you to start would be Al-Anon. It is listed in your local phone book. As for your dropping grades, I urge you to find a teacher or counselor at school in whom you can confide. Talking it out will help -– and in one more semester you'll be away from the pressure. I wish you much success.

DEAR ABBY: I enjoyed your annual New Year's piece, "Just for Today," based on the original credo of Al-Anon. Something about the idea of trying each day to be a better person in 2002 prompted me to spontaneously call my long-estranged brother, "Phil." He lives only 30 miles from me, but he's always been millions of miles away emotionally.

Four years my junior, Phil and I never bonded as children. Our father was harsh and rejecting. He was a driven workaholic who never displayed affection, nor did our mother. I married just as Phil graduated from high school. We saw very little of each other after that.

It has come to me in these golden years of my life that inclusiveness is better than exclusiveness, forgiveness is better than resentment, and civil communication is better than silence.

I made the call. We chatted on a somewhat superficial level, but I'm glad I did it. Now if my brother ever wishes to call me, he knows he will get a warm, positive response. Many thanks for the reminder, Abby. –- JOYCE IN SACRAMENTO

DEAR JOYCE: You started the year off right, extending your hand in friendship. Bravo! Whatever will be, will be.

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