Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Daughter Fearful of Father Who's Fallen Off the Wagon

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 14-year-old girl and an only child. My parents, "Ellie" and "Miles," are divorced. My dad, a recovering alcoholic, relapsed last year.

Abby, I am desperate. When Miles drinks even the slightest amount, he smashes plates and mirrors, pounds his fists into doors and grabs me roughly. I'm deeply afraid that when he is very intoxicated he may one day seriously injure me. Miles is also severely depressed, so I'm constantly on "suicide watch."

Even though I attend a local Alateen chapter and am in therapy, my schoolwork is suffering, my relationships are floundering, and I'm depressed, isolated and overwhelmed. Part of me doesn't want to see my father anymore, but the other part feels extremely guilty and like I should just deal with everything on my own. Which part is right? -- CONFLICTED IN WISCONSIN

DEAR CONFLICTED: The part that's telling you to avoid your father until you're sure he's back on the wagon and no longer intimidating or violent. That little voice you're hearing is your instinct for survival.

Also, you should not be on "suicide watch." At 14, you do not have the tools to save your father from his self-destructive impulses. Under no circumstances should you be alone with him until he's dry again.

After the treatment you have experienced and the stress to which you have been subjected, it is not unusual to feel depressed, isolated and overwhelmed. That's why it is so important that you continue talking frankly with your therapist and Alateen group, where other members have had similar experiences and can relate.

Readers, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Al-Anon/Alateen, which have been mentioned before in my column, this organization offers an informative booklet online that can be downloaded, and also in softcover, free of charge. The title is "Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism 2008." To view it online (in English, Spanish or French), log on to www.Al-AnonFamilyGroups.net. To order a printed copy, e-mail wso@al-anon.org or write: Al-Anon Family Groups Inc., Attn: AFA 2008, 1600 Corporate Landing Parkway, Virginia Beach, VA 23454-5617.