DEAR HARRIETTE: As an early Valentine's Day present, my ex-boyfriend left a 6-foot-tall teddy bear at my front door. An oversized card was attached along with the bear. There is no possibility of a reunion between us, and I am stuck with this gigantic stuffed animal. Should I offer it back to him? I was thinking about donating it to a children’s hospital, but this bear must have cost hundreds of dollars. -- Can't Bear It, Milwaukee
DEAR CAN’T BEAR IT: If you feel like having a conversation with your ex, you can offer him back the bear. Thank him for it, but say that you cannot keep it. Know that you will be putting yourself in a situation where you will have to talk and likely explain your reason for not wanting to be together all over again. It could be kind for you to talk to him if you believe that you will be able to talk straight and be heard without having any old wounds open up as a result.
If you are not up for or interested in having that chat, donate it. Your idea of giving it to a children’s hospital is perfect. The bear was offered to you with love, and those children need every ounce of love they can get. You will be honoring his gift even though you will not be keeping it.
FYI: My husband bought a giant bear for my daughter a few years ago, and it wasn’t that expensive. Even the big ones come in different prices. Don’t let your guilty feelings about your ex spending money on you keep you from taking care of yourself.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am sober since a near-death experience with alcohol poisoning. I have learned to cope without a drink or shots at the bar; however, I have learned that people question my sobriety behind my back. I hate these rumors swirling, considering they aren't true. Should I confront the perpetrators of the rumor, or simply take the high road? -- Sober Sally, Dallas
DEAR SOBER SALLY: One of the side effects of stopping drinking (or any other communal habit) and still hanging with people who do it is that people will talk. You cannot control their chatter, nor should you try. What you must do instead is guard your sobriety. Even though you are strong right now, you may want to consider fortifying yourself by going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, at least for a while. You can gain insight into why people do the things they do with excessive drinking, and learn strategies for how to stay sober in the long run. These meetings are confidential, and many people have testified to their immediate and ongoing support in keeping them sober. Go to aa.org to find a meeting in your area.
One of the things that 12-step programs suggest is that you be aware of people, places and things. I mention this because your hanging out at bars with your friends could be dangerous in the long run. You may want to consider choosing more neutral locations to get together with them, as you also consider widening your friend pool. Find some sober friends to be part of your inner circle.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)