Dear Captain,

My dad was a pretty hands-off parent with me and my sister, until my mom died about a decade ago. I was just out of college, but my sister was entering middle school, so he suddenly became a single parent of a teenage girl. He pulled through, but he was still pretty hands off. Aside from some anger issues and weird body-shaming stuff that she and I have learned to tune out, he’s not a “bad” dad–we love him, we just minimize time with him because of the anger issues and body-shaming.

The specific problem is his girlfriend–also not a “bad” girlfriend! I want him to be happy! I just don’t want to spend time with her. I’m sure my sister and I dislike her to some degree because she’s not our mom, I’ve addressed that in therapy and I’ve talked to my sister about it. But we also dislike her for some very non-grief reasons. She’s a Trump supporter, she behaves like a teenager (she once picked a fight with our dad because he didn’t ‘like’ her Facebook posts fast enough [these are both adults with fully grown children]), she regularly gets black-out drunk, they break up and get back together all the time, and when they’re together they’re constantly fighting. None of these things would really be problems if she weren’t insistent on “being a part of the family.” My dad has told her repeatedly (according to him) that he doesn’t want to get remarried, but she keeps pushing for it. This is the root of most of their breakups.

My sister and I have been very upfront about that fact that we prefer not to spend time with her. We will when absolutely necessary, such as at my wedding, and of course we’ll be polite. When our dad suggests events with her, I decline if at all possible. My dad conflates our not wanting to spend time with her with us “being mean,” and this frequently ends in us being yelled at. Can you help me come up with ways to establish this boundary, preferably without being yelled at? I’m currently leaning towards seeing him even less, but he is my only parent, and my husband and I are thinking of starting a family in the relatively near future, and I think I’d like him to be in my life for that.

Thanks for your help!
Not an Orphan Yet

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Hey Team Awkward,

This is a quick one. 

I’m newly sober and I’ve been attending AA for the last two months. One of my main meetings is a women’s meeting, which is rad, but I’ve tried to open it up a little bit–there’s a co-ed secular meeting and a co-ed meeting that does a physical outdoors excursion monthly. I’m getting a lot from all of them, and want to keep going!

That said, in less than three months, I’ve now had two different instances of what I’m pretty sure is thirteenth stepping (or a lead up to it). I’ve been dodging it, but I’d love some scripts for side-stepping being asked out, etc., without being alienating. I don’t think I’m being paranoid; I’ve been around the block enough time to discern the difference between A Dude Leaning In Too Much and a dude just being friendly. I don’t want to stop going to co-ed meetings, especially the activity ones. And I don’t want it to feel awkward.

So can you give me some scripts for turning down invites to go dancing, etc., or invitations of support that aren’t super alienating but make it a clear boundary? I’m good at “fuck you,” but not really good at enforcing this kind of boundary in a polite, peace-keeping way. 

Thanks in advance,
Awkward Alcoholic 

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My partner (he/him pronouns) and I (she/her) have been together for 7 years and are getting married this summer. Our wedding will be a week away in a different state than we live, and we are so excited to spend the time with our family and friends. My partner’s sister is an alcoholic and drug addict with many coexisting conditions. She is abusive to my partner when she feels he isn’t “there for her,” and he went no-contact a while ago and told her to get sober if she wanted a relationship with him. She tried to kill herself on a camping trip with us one summer, and someone nearly drowned trying to save her. We cannot have her at the wedding. She is a danger to herself and others when alcohol is involved, and we do not trust her not to drink. She has made no efforts towards recovery and just last month got a DUI. She has been hospitalized multiple times in the last year on involuntary mental health holds, and was arrested for attacking a nurse. In our state, she has gotten off relatively easy. The state we plan to marry in is much less forgiving. If anything happened over the week the family is staying, she would be stuck very far from home and possibly imprisoned. She trashed her last apartment and was evicted, but was taken in by their mother. Due to her living with mom, we have seen her on rare occasion. At the last family gathering, she spoke as though she was coming to our wedding, and not wanting to rock the boat at their mother’s engagement dinner, we did not correct her. I feel some degree of manipulation is involved, as she was *not invited to the wedding*. Now we plan to write a letter to her laying out the reasons she can’t come along, but she will be crushed and angry. We intend to word it in the most respectful terms possible — on one hand we are dealing with a textbook addict, but on the other we have a family member with severe mental health issues that we want to be sensitive to. I am also afraid of the fallout. Mom wants to do a family sit-down and give it to her, but that seems cruel to me as there is nothing up for discussion. I would rather she process our decision on her own. How do we break it to her?

Just want to relax during my wedding

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Dear Captain,

I’m a 20-year-old college student and I don’t drink, nor will I likely ever drink in the future. My father is an alcoholic, and every family member on his side has some form of substance abuse problem. I know that having a drink now and again will not necessarily hurt me or lead to a drinking problem of my own, but I’ve decided to just abstain completely anyways.

Most of my peers/classmates, however, like to drink and will often talk at length about it. I’ve been asked multiple times about my beer preference or some other alcohol-related question, to which I simply reply I don’t drink. For some reason, most people can’t seem to accept this and will ask me why not, or even try to convince me how great drinking is if I say it’s because I’m not interested. I don’t have a problem with other people drinking or listening to stories about it, but I don’t know how to explain my “disinterest” to other people.

I really don’t want to be a huge bummer in front of other people and say outright, “I don’t drink because my dad is an alcoholic,” but I don’t know how to get people to stop asking questions. “I don’t drink for personal reasons,” also feels like either a bummer or might lead to people asking what those reasons are.

So, Captain is there any way I can sidestep these questions without having to divulge my personal circumstances or bringing down the mood of the group?

Thanks for any help,

Sober in South Florida (she/her)

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Dear Captain,

I’m in a five-month long-distance relationship. My boyfriend visits monthly. His alcohol and drug use have been red flags since we met. His father is a recovering alcoholic. He has been depressed for several months, although he takes anti-depressants.

I have recently realized his drinking is indeed a problem, and I have become worried sick for his well-being as well as potentially setting myself up for heartbreak. I have no concerns about how he treats me.

Over email/telephone, I voiced concerns about his mood and drinking. He volunteered: they are problems; they have been for some time; he thinks about it everyday; and things must change. I was relieved to hear that he talks to his mom about it.

During his visit this weekend, we conversed. He was reluctant to seek professional attention for his problems, although he identified a doctor he thinks he could see about his prescription (refills/changing the dose/trying a new medication). He saw an alcohol counselor in the past, and did not want to do so again.

I told him that part of me does not want to get attached to someone who abuses alcohol. He started crying. He said something about how I may be a reason to stop drinking. I said I wasn’t good enough. He added his health.

I pressed for a plan:

His short-term goal is not to drink until Friday (today is Sunday). He mentioned visiting next Saturday, but I don’t know if that works for me. He mentioned other, longer timeframes for sobriety, so I’m not sure how fixed it is.

I had asked if he had ever not drank before, and he said he didn’t drink in college (although he drank heavily before that), and he didn’t drink for a month last year.

As far as his mood, he said he wants to see how it changes when he stops drinking. He hopes to run more, which improves his mood.

I am already a stressed-out graduate student who now has concerns about potentially getting serious with someone who may be likely to have an ongoing alcohol problem, depression without staying on top of treatment, and who doesn’t seem to be good at managing money, which may be related to all of the above.

How do I support him long-distancely? Do I ask him if he’s been drinking? Where do I draw the line and call it quits? I realize I haven’t said anything nice about him, but that’s because of the 450 word count.

Worried Girlfriend

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Can I say how much I love this LW’s original email subject line: “A Soap Opera Problem–families torn apart over money, demanding parents, undutiful daughters who are me, sons trying to bear the whole burden.” Yeah!!!!

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’d really appreciate your advice on a family problem. Dad grew up
privileged, then was mostly-disinherited and lost his job when I was a
kid. Instead of retrenching, he incurred debt. Mom demands luxuries,
cheats, and is an alcoholic prone to rages. Now Dad asks me and my
brother A for money constantly, always at crisis moments.

Dad always believes that his financial issues will be over soon.
Unfortunately there’s a company he has a part in being sold, meaning
he might get some money one day—there’s some basis in reality but not
enough. He refuses to sell his house, because he wouldn’t get enough
money, and claims to be always economising because he doesn’t go on
holidays though Mom does and he belongs to an elite gentlemen’s club.

A and I have precarious jobs in which we are paid in irregular lump
sums, so we have the money to give him. We both consider ourselves
lucky. The emotional toll of these emergency requests is huge. We also
cannot afford them. Over 5 years, between us we’ve given Dad over

I wrote to Dad saying his behaviour is disordered and deeply hurting
us. He refused to go to his bank with us, blamed A for not giving him
enough, and hardly seemed to have read my message. He’s past hearing.
Saying he’s a good father otherwise is asking Mrs Lincoln how she
enjoyed the play otherwise.

I tried cutting him off altogether years ago: it ended when my
siblings exerted pressure on me to do a family Christmas. I’m proud of
my siblings (A, B & C, all younger) for getting through our childhood,
but I’m the one who rocks the boat. A gives money to Dad without me
knowing, so as not to risk alienating me. A has a more optimistic view
of the situation. My sister B agrees with me mostly, but B and C are
more sheltered (by me and A). C is college age, still living with my
parents. He’s begun suffering from panic attacks. He plans to get out
of the house next year: I’ll help him.

I’m considering not going home this Christmas, but I know it’ll upset
my siblings and I want to see C as neither of us is great at
long-distance. If I do go I’d like a script for talking to A, and my
other siblings, about this, and to make a plan for us going forward,
in how we’re going to react to my parents and stick together. I’ve
asked A to promise me not to give money to my father without telling
me: so far he hasn’t promised. It would make me happy if I could get A
to agree on no more money given directly to my father.

Thank you so much.

–Saving Only Siblings

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