DEAR HARRIETTE: I believe that my parents are alcoholics. They drink just about every night, and often they drink excessively. I can always tell when they have had too much because they get loud and obnoxious. I have spoken to my mom about this many times when she is sober. She blows me off.
I hate that this is how they live. It makes me feel really uncomfortable if I’m around them after about 8 p.m. I don’t live with them anymore, but I am close to them and do visit often. I’m beginning to think I should cut back on my visits. I hate being in the middle of their drunkenness. How can I get them to stop? I feel like I am losing my parents. -- Drunk Parents
DEAR DRUNK PARENTS: During a sober moment, ask your parents to sit down and talk to you. Be direct when you express your concern about their excessive drinking. Tell them how much you love them and how difficult it is for you to be around them when they are drunk. Beg them to curb their drinking.
But also put your foot down. Tell them you will not visit them when they are drunk because it is too hard for you to be a part of that. Chances are, they will be highly offended and defensive. Hold your ground. Give examples of their behavior if you need to. Being specific will limit the wiggle room they have to deflect.
Ultimately, though, you need to take care of yourself. You cannot control their behavior. You can choose to visit them earlier in the day. You can stay away for a bit so they can experience life without you in it. You should also go to Al-Anon, a 12-step program for people who have alcoholics in their lives and who are struggling with how to manage. Visit al-anon.org to find a meeting near you.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend is overly protective of me. He wants me to dress modestly and to avert my eyes when boys pay attention to me. He says it is bad manners for a girl to wear dresses above the knee or to talk to other boys when you have a boyfriend. I started off liking this guy, but now it feels weird. This is my first time having a boyfriend, so I’m not sure how it should work, but this doesn’t feel right. We go to the same school, so he is always around. I like the attention he gives me, but I feel uncomfortable about how he wants to control me. I’m a little afraid to speak up, because he is strong-willed. How can I be more assertive without losing him? -- Controlling Boyfriend
DEAR CONTROLLING BOYFRIEND: Your boyfriend is not exhibiting healthy behavior toward you. What you have described are red flags. I recommend that you end the relationship.
I know it’s exciting to have a boyfriend, but this boy does not accept you for who you are. A good boyfriend will celebrate you and make you feel loved, not controlled.
If you are afraid that he may retaliate, speak to your parents and to your guidance counselor at school. It may help to have adults looking out for you as you separate from this young man. You have to be strong to counter his manipulativeness. You can do it. Just keeping telling yourself that you are worthy of being loved for who you are. You do not need to change to meet a boy’s approval.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)