Gam­bling-ad­dic­tion woes

Los Angeles Times - - COMICS - Send ques­tions to Amy Dick­in­son by email to askamy@amy­dick­in­son.com.

Dear Amy: My mother-in­law has a gam­bling ad­dic­tion. She gam­bles away her and her hus­band’s in­comes and takes out pay­day loans. We are con­stantly bar­raged with calls from debt col­lec­tors look­ing for her; she has stolen money from peo­ple (in­clud­ing her own chil­dren); she has gam­bled away land that had been in her fam­ily for more than 100 years; she has taken out a credit card in my hus­band’s name and not paid it, putting a huge black mark on his pre­vi­ously im­pec­ca­ble credit.

She’s been con­fronted, agreed to seek help, has at­tempted to pay back what she’s stolen or bor­rowed, but it al­ways ends with the same things hap­pen­ing all over again.

My hus­band’s sis­ter pays their par­ents’ mort­gage and bills, de­spite my motherand fa­ther-in-law both hav­ing jobs that should more than cover these ex­penses.

Re­cently, my in-laws said they needed to make a big pur­chase, and my sis­ter-in­law in­formed my hus­band and me that we needed to help them make it. My sis­terin-law told us in plain lan­guage that it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to help them when they need it and that she and her hus­band re­sent that we don’t help them fi­nan­cially.

I feel that giv­ing them money is only fuel­ing the gam­bling habit. My hus­band agrees with me but also feels guilty not help­ing his par­ents.

How do we rec­on­cile stand­ing firm against what we be­lieve is wrong with not be­ing heart­less to­ward peo­ple we love? — Con­flicted Daugh­ter-in-Law

Dear Con­flicted: Your fam­ily needs to rede­fine what it means to “help.” It might clar­ify things if you re­al­ize that en­abling only drives your mother-in-law deeper into her ad­dic­tion and de­lays her re­cov­ery.

She com­mit­ted a se­ri­ous crime when she took out a credit card in her son’s name. And what were the con­se­quences for this crime? More “help.”

In­ter­ven­tions work only when all loved ones say — in uni­son — “We love you, but we won’t sup­port your ad­dic­tion.” Your sis­ter-in-law is not help­ing her par­ents by prop­ping them up.

I highly rec­om­mend that all of you read “Code­pen­dent No More: How to Stop Con­trol­ling Oth­ers and Start Car­ing for Your­self” by Melodie Beat­tie (1986, Hazelden).

Dear Amy: One of my close rel­a­tives has a lit­tle dog that I loathe. It has of­ten been brought to fam­ily gath­er­ings, and ev­ery sin­gle time it an­noys me con­sid­er­ably. The dog stays close to our din­ner ta­ble and con­stantly whines for food and at­ten­tion.

The dog’s hor­ri­ble man­ners are ob­vi­ously tol­er­ated (and even en­cour­aged) by the own­ers by feed­ing it from the ta­ble. This has ru­ined my ap­petite.

I will hold a gath­er­ing at our house soon. I don’t know how to ask the own­ers not to bring it with­out of­fend­ing them. — Pet Lover

Dear Pet Lover: You are go­ing to have to be clear when you are is­su­ing the in­vi­ta­tion: “I’d love to see you, but please leave ‘Muf­fin’ at home this time.”

You can ex­pect these rel­a­tives to be of­fended, and they may choose to stay home with their dog, but your own rights as a host should not come sec­ond to their pref­er­ence to bring an un­in­vited ca­nine as a “plus one.”

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