Ask Amy

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Amy Dick­in­son

Dear Amy: My 85-year-old al­co­holic mother lives alone in a big house in a small vil­lage in New Eng­land. I am one of her four chil­dren, all of whom live at least 150 miles from her.

We have all tried, un­suc­cess­fully, to con­vince her to stop driv­ing so that she doesn’t cause an ac­ci­dent that could kill some­one.

One of my sib­lings ac­tu­ally took her car away, but then my mother went out and leased a car so she could drive to the store to buy her booze (she ac­tu­ally tried to hide this from us).

We have also tried, un­suc­cess­fully, to con­vince her to move to an as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­ity. We be­lieve she is ashamed that her al­co­holism will be ex­posed to oth­ers at the as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­ity and/or she will lose her ac­cess to al­co­hol.

By the way, she de­nies she is an al­co­holic, even though she has been to treat­ment cen­ters and makes pe­ri­odic trips to the emer­gency room when she falls down from drink­ing too much. Any sug­ges­tions on what to do about this sit­u­a­tion would be wel­come. — Years of Wine and Roses

Dear Wine and Roses: You and your sib­lings are try­ing to con­trol your mother from a dis­tance, and she is (so far) suc­cess­fully assert­ing her in­de­pen­dence.

You don’t say that your mother drives drunk — only that she drives to the store to pur­chase wine. Many el­derly driv­ers de­velop suc­cess­ful strate­gies to stay safe on the road, even as their ca­pac­i­ties di­min­ish: they only drive dur­ing the day­time, they avoid left-hand turns, and stay off high­ways.

Your mother’s al­co­holism has ob­vi­ously had a big im­pact on you and your sib­lings, but at this point, per­haps you should ac­cept that she likely won’t stop drink­ing.

Your ef­forts should switch from try­ing to con­trol her, to ac­cept­ing that this is her life, and she will con­tinue to live it in a way that con­tains risks, falls, in­juries, emer­gency room vis­its, etc.

You and your sib­lings should do what you can to di­min­ish the risks with­out forc­ing her or tak­ing her rights away.

If you feel she isn’t man­ag­ing at home, you should see if she is will­ing to have some­one come in dur­ing the day to help with cook­ing and per­sonal care.

Dear Amy: We have an in-law who ap­par­ently thinks he is “The World’s Most In­ter­est­ing Man.” Dur­ing his ca­reer he trav­eled and ex­pe­ri­enced parts of the world one could only hope to visit to ful­fill their bucket list.

How­ever, dur­ing any fam­ily gath­er­ing — no mat­ter the topic or the num­ber of mem­bers hav­ing open or even sep­a­rate dis­cus­sions — this guy will in­ter­ject him­self with some bizarre in­ci­dent that only he thinks is amus­ing, redi­rect­ing the con­ver­sa­tion so that it’s all about him.

Af­ter years and years of en­dur­ing this, we are find­ing it more in­tol­er­a­ble to par­tic­i­pate in fam­ily gath­er­ings, yet have few op­tions other than avoid­ance, which still does not work. Any sug­ges­tions?

— Im­pos­si­ble to Es­cape

Dear Im­pos­si­ble: When an in­di­vid­ual in­ter­rupts a group con­ver­sa­tion and de­rails it, some­one in the group should re­spond, po­litely and in the mo­ment, “Wait a minute, Bud. We were in the mid­dle of an­other con­ver­sa­tion.” And then you rinse and re­peat as many times as nec­es­sary.

Along with th­ese po­lite and im­me­di­ate course cor­rec­tions, fam­ily mem­bers should en­gage, lis­ten to, and in­ter­act with him — con­vey­ing the mes­sage that while his own life and ex­pe­ri­ences are very in­ter­est­ing, so are oth­ers’.

Dear Amy: “Hope­less” dis­closed her chal­lenges as she copes with her hus­band’s brain can­cer. She sounds trau­ma­tized, for good rea­son.

When we set a path in life and meet an in­sur­mount­able ob­sta­cle, it’s dif­fi­cult to “re-path.”

When I was faced with trauma, I took long, long walks alone to feel and ac­cept alone­ness and re­spon­si­bil­ity. I let my­self feel the dis­tance be­tween my­self and the sky. I put one foot in front of the other. Chal­lenges can be op­por­tu­ni­ties!

— No Longer Hope­less

Dear No Longer: Soli­tude and time in na­ture are true balms for the soul. Other peo­ple do best when sur­rounded by hu­man sup­port. There is no one path for heal­ing, but choos­ing to “re-path” is pow­er­ful.

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