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

by Abigail Van Buren

No Reason to Go It Alone When Times Are Tough

DEAR ABBY: I am at my wits' end and feel my life is over. I just want to get my life back the way it was 10 years ago. In the past eight years I have lost two jobs. I am currently unemployed and in financial ruin. I see no way out. Every job I apply for wants to do a credit check, so there goes any good job I might have. I have no resources for a counselor since I have no health insurance and nobody for a sounding board. Please help me see the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel virtually alone. -- TROUBLED IN VIRGINIA

DEAR TROUBLED: First of all, you are not alone. At last count, millions of fellow Americans were in the same boat. When people are out of work for an extended period, debts do tend to pile up. But if you are upfront about it during a job interview, I am sure that fact will be taken into consideration.

The job market is beginning to thaw, so please keep trying and do not give up hope. There are support groups for people who are out of work -- and a place to start looking for one would be a bulletin board at the unemployment office in your area. Use your local library as a resource to find support groups on the Web. Network with other people you know who are unemployed. Inquire at churches and synagogues because some of them offer these services. Also, ask at the mayor's office or city hall, and at community centers. Help is everywhere; you need to get out and look for it.

DEAR ABBY: My father has been short-tempered for as long as I can remember. He never beat us, but he spanked us plenty as a means of discipline when we were growing up. Now this anger is random; he makes every family event a nightmare for anyone involved. He insists on planning events at their home, and screams and degrades any of us "kids" (and Mom) if we do something other than his way.

Shortly after my sister's divorce a few years ago, my father met with our priest to discuss his anger issues, but it didn't change anything. We've suggested anger management or counseling, but he tells us we're "overreacting" and blames my sister's drama as an excuse for his behavior.

I am expecting my first child, and my husband and I are afraid of the effect Dad's behavior will have on our little one. My sister's children are all afraid of my father. While they respect him, they constantly worry about when the next blowup will happen. I don't want to cut anyone out of my life, but how can I deal with this? -- EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED IN OHIO

DEAR EXHAUSTED: You and your siblings are no longer children who have to obey your volatile father. If he uses the excuse that you (all) are in his home to imply that his behavior is acceptable, then you and the sibs should host family gatherings in your own homes, where your rules take precedence.

It's sad that your father didn't take his anger issues to a licensed psychotherapist, who could have helped him understand what causes them and given him tools to manage them. But since he didn't, you must accept that your first responsibility will be to your child -- specifically to protect him or her from your father's explosive outbursts.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)