Ask Amy: Alcoholic ex continues to wound family

September 25, 2013 

Dear Amy: I am in my mid-60s but I am still struggling with an issue with my ex-husband.

He is an alcoholic and due to that, and all that goes with that, I divorced him more than 20 years ago.

Recently he moved to where I live to be closer to our children. My children and I are close and we get together for holidays, birthdays and sometimes just to talk.

My divorce was hurtful and it took years to get child support, so I do not have any good memories of my years with my ex.

He has no family and thus, I have invited him to Thanksgiving and other events at my house.

Lately, he has shown up to several family events with beer.

He has become so drunk that he had to be driven home. It makes all of us uncomfortable; and more than once, he has acted out (yelling in one child's face; threatening, being rude and inappropriate).

Recently I decided not to invite him to a family party. I really want to set a good example for my children and it seems that at my age, I should be able to be around him and not react, but truly, I do not want to be around him. What do I do with this?

— Haunted

Dear Haunted: The most significant thing you could do for yourself at this point would be to attend Al-anon meetings (urge your children to do the same): Sharing stories with other people connected to alcoholics will give you insight about how to continue to cope with this relationship.

You must continue to establish and enforce your own boundaries regarding your ex-husband. You sound generous and also long-suffering. You can continue to be generous but diminish your own suffering by employing natural consequences when it comes to your ex's drinking. If he brings alcohol or becomes belligerent while with you, then he needs to leave. If he drinks or becomes belligerent while you are with others, then you need to leave.

Dear Amy: I think you may have missed the mark with "In a Quandary," who was torn about attending the memorial service of her abusive brother-in-law. You told her to attend because it presents an opportunity to reconnect with people she has been forced to avoid. I think her real opportunity here is to practice forgiveness before and during the service.

— Bob

Dear Bob: Forgiveness is a "practice." And when we practice forgiveness, eventually we get good at it.


You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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