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by Abigail Van Buren

Giving Alcohol as a Gift Can Have Disastrous Consequences

DEAR ABBY: You advised "Susan in Southern Oregon" (Dec. 1), who asked about the appropriateness of giving alcohol as a gift at an office party, that "the only time that alcohol would be an inappropriate gift is when the giver knows the recipient doesn't use it." As a former psychiatric social worker, I would say that the only time alcohol would be an appropriate gift is when the giver knows the recipient would use it, and do so responsibly.

People aren't always forthcoming about their views and experiences regarding alcohol, so it's best to play it safe. Many people abstain from alcohol because they are recovering alcoholics or have seen the devastating results that alcoholism has had on a loved one's life. Others have religious reasons for not imbibing.

Giving alcohol as a gift may not only dismay the recipient, it could also lead to worse results if the giftee is someone who is struggling to stay sober. -- AMY IN DOVER, DEL.

DEAR AMY: You have raised many valid points. Most of my readers disagreed with my answer, and their reasons have made me reconsider my advice to Susan. I was wrong. (Mea culpa.) Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Imagine receiving a bottle of alcohol after growing up in a home with an abusive father who drank. Not only would you not want it, you wouldn't want to give it to anyone else. Imagine receiving a bottle of alcohol after having lost a child in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver. Would you want that reminder, or would you want to regift it to someone who might get drunk with that bottle and cause someone else's death? -- JOE IN BIRMINGHAM, ALA.

DEAR ABBY: Many alcoholics choose not to reveal their disease. It is called Alcoholics Anonymous for a reason. A person may have been in recovery for many years and may not wish to tell anyone except close family and longtime friends.

A gift of alcohol would be a temptation to any recovering alcoholic, one that is hard to resist. The mind can easily rationalize: "It was a gift. I might as well get rid of it. I can share it with others, so it's not so bad." The slope grows steeper from there. -- ANONYMOUS IN SAN ANTONIO

DEAR ABBY: Have you any idea what it is like to get knocked across a room because you asked your daddy to play with you? Have you seen your Christmas tree knocked over because your mother and father were having a fistfight?

My father owned one of the largest businesses in our town. We belonged to the country club. Yet my parents died in poverty because of alcohol. Of the four siblings, I am the only one who doesn't have an alcohol abuse problem.

I am frequently asked to attend functions so I can be the designated driver. I think the slogan "Friends don't let friends drink and drive" should be changed to "Real friends don't try to shift their responsibility." -- A SURVIVOR IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR ABBY: Twenty years ago, I would have agreed with your answer. I am the president of a construction company, and it was standard practice for us to give alcohol at Christmas to a number of our customers.

Then one day, I received a call from a tearful woman who asked if we had given alcohol to her husband. When I answered yes, she said that in the future, she would appreciate it if we wouldn't do that anymore. Her husband, an alcoholic, had consumed the entire bottle, gone home and beaten her up. We discontinued the practice immediately.

I would not advise people to gift alcohol unless they know the recipient very well and know it will not cause harm to him or her, or those around them. -- SAFER IN TENNESSEE

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