Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

21-Year-Old's Family Concerned About Drinking

DEAR HARRIETTE: I turned the big 2-1 recently, and I am so excited to be entering this new phase of life as an adult. I was never allowed to drink before, but now that I am of legal age, I occasionally have a glass of wine. My immediate family is not used to seeing me consume alcohol, so I keep in mind to do it in moderation since I am still living in their home. I found out from my sister that my family has been talking about me behind my back, saying that I drink way too much and they are worried about me developing a habit. I think this is a little dramatic and excessive, and I am unsure how to talk to them about their reservations. -- Not an Alcoholic

DEAR NOT AN ALCOHOLIC: It sounds like your family members do not drink. That’s probably why seeing you drink alcohol at all is disturbing for them. While you are living with them, you may want to curb drinking there entirely. When you go out with friends or at social events, that’s when you can comfortably enjoy a glass of wine. Drinking where no one else is drinking can be awkward.

In terms of what to say to your family, bring up the topic directly. Tell them that you understand they are worried about how much you drink. Tell them that you believe you are responsible but that, if it worries them, you can curb any drinking at all at their house.

Rather than totally brushing off your family’s concerns, pay attention to how much you drink. If you notice that you are drinking daily or heavily, you may want to reduce your alcohol intake.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My sister constantly complains to me about her boyfriend. Whenever they get into an argument, she runs back to me and accuses him of awful actions, which makes me feel negatively about him. Then a few days later, she'll get back with him as if nothing ever happened.

My sister gets confused about why my attitude toward her boyfriend is negative, and I tell her it’s because of the things she tells me. She recently explained that her venting is all about getting someone on her side for the moment while releasing her frustrations. I want to be supportive, but I also want her to stop venting and taking me on her own toxic emotional roller coaster. -- In the Middle

DEAR IN THE MIDDLE: You have to stand up for yourself. Stop your sister the next time she starts complaining about her boyfriend. Tell her that you cannot listen anymore because it is too difficult for you to experience the roller coaster of emotions that she dumps on you. Tell your sister that you love her and want her to be happy, but you are not able to be the dumping ground for her emotional challenges with her boyfriend.

To enforce this new position, you may literally have to end a conversation by saying goodbye and hanging up the phone or walking out of the room. If you stop listening entirely, she will eventually get the message that she cannot use you in this way.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)