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Heart to Heart is a column for individuals and families struggling with addictions. It appears on The Buffalo News Health Page the last Tuesday of each month.

Dear Heart: My wife is the kindest, most loving person in the world. Today I realize that her acceptance of our daughter's drug use is not kind and loving. I have watched our daughter get arrested, throw up, smash the car three times and be suspended from school. My wife thinks it's because she can't find a stable relationship and that her boyfriends use her. She thinks this will all change when she meets Mr. wonderful. I see things quite differently.

My daughter is 22 years old and is an irresponsible alcoholic who lives off her mother's blindness. She will never meet anyone who will treat her right because she only goes out with other drunken drug users. She tries to fix them so they can live happily ever after. She says that she can drink and smoke pot socially and live a normal life. When she got her first DWI (she has two so far), her mother insisted that she was not an alcoholic and defended her in court by pleading with the judge. The second time she went against my judgment and hired an expensive lawyer ($2,500) who helped her escape not only the legal consequences but got her out of going for treatment. Her evaluation said she was an alcoholic in need of inpatient care. It was supposed to be mandatory. So much for justice! My wife and I argued about that for six months. Our daughter is ruining our marriage!

Do you think I'm crazy? I'm at the point where I can't take it anymore. This is wrong and something needs to be done. They treat me like I am the enemy. I can't believe this is happening in my home. I love my wife and my daughter but enough is enough. Give me some direction before I do go crazy. Please don't tell me to go to Al-Anon.

-- H.P.
Dear H.P.: I don't think you are crazy but I must tell you your resistance to Al-Anon does not reflect common sense. If your daughter had cancer would you ask me not to mention the American Cancer Society? There is a 12-step group that might be easier for you to attend. Families Anonymous is for parents of alcoholics. There you will meet many others who are in the same boat as you. You will immediately know you are in the right place, because when the other parents share what's going on in their homes, you will think they are living at your house.

There is very little difference between what you are experiencing and what all parents of alcoholic children experience. You will be empowered by standing on common ground with other kind and loving parents.

Take the literature home and make it available to your wife. Invite her to go with you, but no matter what she does, you must keep going back if you want to change.

The best F.A. meetings I have attended are known as step meetings. Each week you learn one of the 12 steps and how you can apply it to your present day situation. It works! They say if you are willing to go to any length to restore yourself to sanity, that anyone can make it. They will also tell you it takes time. The good news is that the other parents are available and supportive all week long.

If you are sincere about sticking to this marriage and family, then I think the only sane choice is to get busy working the right steps -- all 12 of them!

Write to Heart to Heart, P.O. Box 168, Fort Edward, N.Y., 12828, or e-mail
For locations of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in Erie County, call 853-0388; in Niagara County call 285-5319. For information about Al-Anon Family Groups, call 856-2520. Narcotics Anonymous has a 24-hour helpline, 878-2316.

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