DEAR ABBY: "Robert" and I met four years ago and fell head-over-heels in love. At the time, he was two years clean and sober and attending meetings. Due to his hectic work schedule, he stopped attending the meetings.
Robert is intelligent, a hard worker, handsome and my best friend. He prided himself on his sobriety, so imagine my shock when I found an empty liquor bottle buried in the trash and three more under the bed. I never thought I'd see the day when he would relapse, but he has. I am devastated. I didn't know what to say to him or how to react, because I have never been down this road.
I told Robert I knew he was drinking again. I could barely hold back my tears because I knew what a huge personal setback this is for him. He said he didn't want to discuss it, so I didn't push.
What am I supposed to do when the man I love has relapsed? My heart aches for him. I'm trying to be supportive, but I am clueless. Please help. -- HELPLESS
DEAR HELPLESS: The first thing to do is recognize that this is Robert's problem, and only he can fix it. If you plan to stay involved with him, understand that it is not unusual for someone with a substance abuse problem to fall off the wagon from time to time.
The next thing you should do, and this is important, is find your nearest chapter of Al-Anon. It's an organization that was started by the wife of an alcoholic, and its sole purpose is to help the family and friends of alcoholics. The toll-free phone number is 888-425-2666, and it has been mentioned in this column many times.
There will be meetings for you to attend so you can learn to avoid falling into the trap of trying to "save" or enable Robert, because in order for him to get better he must experience the consequences of going back to drinking. This is not easy to do with someone you care about, and you will need all of the support you can get.
By the way, your letter arrived in the same batch as the one below. It may give you some insight:
DEAR ABBY: A few years ago I talked to my mother about her drinking. She's a binge drinker and her excuse is always, "It's my day off." I am focusing on myself and trying to figure out my life, as well, with the help of Al-Anon -- the only thing that has kept me positive.
I knew that once I uttered the word "alcoholic" aloud, my relationship with my mother would forever be affected. I asked her to contact me when she was ready to quit because I can no longer enable her drinking.
I miss the mom who doesn't drink, but I can't be around her when she does. As I grow in my recovery, I may figure out how to do that. But for now, I need to put space between us.
My family is worried something drastic will happen (as her health isn't good) and I will have regrets. But I have expressed my thoughts and accepted that Mom and I may never speak again. Is that wrong? -- STILL A LOVING DAUGHTER IN WISCONSIN
DEAR STILL A LOVING DAUGHTER: No, it's not wrong. Your mother's binge drinking was affecting her health as well as her relationship with you, and while it may have been difficult and wrenching, it was the right thing to do -- for both of you. Let's hope that your strength in doing that will give her the strength to stop her alcohol binges.