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 firstname.lastname@example.org or write: Al-Anon Family Groups Inc., Attn: AFA 2008, 1600 Corporate Landing Parkway, Virginia Beach, VA 23454-5617.
DEAR ABBY: It has happened again! Every year I make my list of New Year's resolutions, and within two weeks I have broken my vow. My downfall is bingeing on sweets, so this year I resolved to swear off chocolate.
Last night I was feeling tired and depressed, and I "found" a large chocolate bar with almonds I had stashed at the back of one of the kitchen cupboards and ate the whole thing. I'm disgusted with myself.
Every year you print your list of New Year's resolutions. But now many people actually stick to them, and if so, now do they do it? Have you any tips? -- CHOCOHOLIC IN NORFOLK, VA.
DEAR CHOCOHOLIC: Please stop beating up on yourself. You're not the only person who has broken a New Year's resolution. The majority of people do it sooner or later.
I do have some suggestions for establishing healthier habit patterns, and I'm pleased to share them with you:
(1) Decide what you want to achieve, but be realistic in setting your goals.
(2) Get support from friends and family.
(3) If you're trying to eliminate a bad habit, then make a plan and substitute a good habit in its place.
(4) Understand that we can learn more from our mistakes than our successes. If you slip up, don't give up. Forgive yourself and then rededicate yourself.
(5) When you do well, don't take it for granted. Look in a mirror and praise yourself out loud. Affirmations provide strong reinforcement.
And last, but not least, remember that you're not a bad person for backsliding on a New Year's resolution. If people were perfect, there would be no need for a Dear Abby.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600