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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I fell in love with "Wade" the night I met him. We almost got married, but he couldn't get past my fear of driving. As a child, I witnessed an accident. It was horrific and left me emotionally scarred. If I try to drive in traffic I freeze up and get flashbacks. I have tried for years to put this behind me.

After three years, Wade finally issued an ultimatum. Unless I drove, he would not buy me an engagement ring. He said my inability to drive would create too great a hardship for us.

Abby, I wanted desperately to get past my fear, but couldn't -- not even for love. I love Wade dearly, but not enough to endanger other people's lives. I ended the relationship and told him I hoped he'd find a pretty driver. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, and I miss him every day. Did I do the right thing? -- HEARTBROKEN IN WEST VIRGINIA

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: You may have acted hastily. There are mental health professionals who specialize in helping people with post-traumatic-stress problems, and you appear to fall into that category. Please talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to see if your childhood trauma can be overcome. Then, if you're successful, call Wade and invite him out for a "spin" -- preferably to the nearest jeweler. If you make one more attempt to get past this, at least you'll know you left no stone unturned.

DEAR ABBY: I am pregnant with our second child and recently learned that my husband of six years, "Kyle," has gambled away almost our entire savings. Kyle says he did it because he was drunk, and he only gets the urge to gamble when he drinks. He promised he will never do it again.

I wish I could believe him, but this isn't the first time Kyle has gambled and lost large sums of money. I don't know what to do. Should I leave him, or stay and try to help him? I have no idea how to help, but I can't continue to live this way, wondering if and when he's going to do it again. Please help me. -- PREGNANT AND WONDERING

DEAR WONDERING: Your husband may have promised he won't gamble again, but promises are not enough. Because married couples can be held accountable for their spouse's debts, you must take control. It is possible to "help" only those individuals who are willing to help themselves. If your husband must seek help for his gambling you may have to separate your finances from his.

A group that can offer you some much-needed support is Gam-Anon Family Groups. This is a 12-step fellowship for husbands, wives, relatives and friends of compulsive gamblers -- people who have been affected by their loved ones' problem. Contact it at www.gam-anon.org, or by calling (718) 352-1671.

Your husband should also contact Gamblers Anonymous, P.O. Box 17173, Los Angeles, CA 90017, or call (213) 386-8789. Its Web site is www.gamblersanonymous.org.

The American Psychiatric Association identified pathological gambling as a psychiatric disorder in 1980. Some doctors specialize in the illness. The National Council on Problem Gambling, a nonprofit organization, refers gamblers to qualified mental health professionals who are trained to work with gamblers and their families. The toll-free phone number is (800) 522-4700.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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