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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My mother has a gambling problem. She plays bingo every night. She even took a lower-paying part-time job to devote more time to the game. She's close to retirement and has already gone through her life savings. She now lives off my deceased father's small pension.

I am the oldest of Mom's three sons. She routinely calls each of us to complain that she can't pay her bills. We give her what we can, but it has started causing problems between our spouses and us. We all work hard to support our families. Mother refuses to see how much trouble she's causing everyone.

We have tried talking to her about the gambling. She claims bingo is the only thing in life she enjoys and doesn't think she should have to give it up. What's the solution? -- STRESSED-OUT SON IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR STRESSED-OUT: As with any addiction, your mother cannot be helped unless she admits she has a problem. Under no circumstances should any of you accommodate her requests for money. Encourage her to contact Gamblers Anonymous, P.O. Box 17173, Los Angeles, CA 90017, or call (213) 386-8789. The Web site is

An alternative would be the National Council on Problem Gambling, a nonprofit organization. It refers gamblers to qualified mental health professionals who have been trained to work with gamblers and their families. The hotline number is 1-800-522-4700; the Web site is

The next time your mother asks for money, tell her only if it pays for her therapy.

DEAR ABBY: I have been living with my boyfriend, "Bobby," for almost two years. We moved in together after dating for only one month. Bobby and I love each other, and I think we belong together, but it doesn't take much for one of us to get mad at the other.

When it happens, it turns into a screaming match. On more than one occasion, one of us will pack our bags and threaten to move out. At that point, we usually stop and try to talk things out -- but nothing is ever truly resolved.

I now have an opportunity to move in with a girlfriend who is renting a house nearby. I have to give her an answer ASAP or she'll find another roommate. I think my relationship with Bobby MIGHT survive if we take a break from living together and date others. It would give us a chance to miss each other. Bobby disagrees. He says if I move out, it's over.

The truth is, I believe we will eventually break up whether I move out now or stay a little longer. Either way, I lose. Please help me make the right choice. -- TIRED OF THE TENSION ON THE FLORIDA COAST

DEAR TIRED: Listen to your intuition and move in with your girlfriend. That little voice is telling you your relationship with Bobby is winding down, not moving forward. Trust me, this is the right choice.

DEAR ABBY: For years I've seen news stories about people on vacation who lose their children, or who get injured and need to be rescued. Before venturing into the great outdoors, everyone should buy a small whistle that can be used to alert others if help is needed. It could be worn on a string around the neck or kept in a pocket. Thanks, Abby -- a little whistle could save a life. -- GIVES A TOOT IN POINT ARENA, CALIF.

DEAR GIVES A TOOT: I agree that a whistle can be handy to have in an emergency. However, I do NOT think that one should be placed around the neck of a small child. It's too easy for the cord to become tangled in something and cause a choking accident. Better to attach it to a keychain and attach the keychain to a belt loop.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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