Heart to Heart is a column for individuals and families struggling with addictions. It appears on the last Tuesday of each month.
Dear Heart: I asked my 20-year-old daughter to leave my house because she was drinking and using drugs. When she refused, I called the police. They suggested I give her a week's notice. I was furious and told them I've been giving her notice for three years. Within half an hour she was gone with her bags in hand. The police gave her a ride. Why didn't they arrest her for the pot that was in her room? I'll never know. I'll bet she had the nerve to take it in the police car with her.
After 3 1/2 months of phone arguments, my daughter finally got into a treatment center for alcoholics. I thought that my hard work was paying off. Now, she says she wants to come home to live but the counselors say she should spend at least six months living in a halfway house with other girls who are in recovery. I went to the place, and it's every bit as nice as my house. The house mother (I'm guessing that's what they call the supervisor) was very pleasant and also in recovery.
My daughter says that if I make her go there she will just get drunk and forget about living sober. I know I won't be to blame if she does, but do you think I should give her a chance at home? Personally, I am very happy living in a peaceful, quiet house for a change. Am I wrong to think this way? Maybe she's right and I am selfish, but for right now, I just need to know what's best for both of us.
Dear Mom: Congratulations on a job well done! It appears you have a little more work left to do. Do not let your daughter "guilt" you into allowing her to go against the advice of her counselors. That is an unnecessary risk that could send both of you back to square one.
If she drinks tomorrow, the next day or in a year from now, that's her choice and her right. By her choices, she needs to be on her own so she has the opportunity to take full responsibility for herself. Simply put, it's time for her to grow up. I know men and women in their 50s who are still trying to make their mommies and daddies pay their way so they can have all of life's privileges while they avoid the adult responsibilities that come with them. The ones who bully their parents into supporting them never mature.
Keep up the good work and, as with all diseases, follow the advice of an experienced, trustworthy health care professional. Personally, I think it's about time you gave yourself the peace and quiet you deserve. Your daughter is lucky to have a mom like you.
Far and away
Dear Heart: I live in a rural area and don't have access to any Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The nearest meeting is more than 20 miles away, and they only meet on Saturday nights. Do you have any suggestions for a guy like me who would like to quit drinking?
Dear John: The first thing I'd like to see you do is get into a treatment center for evaluation. It's quite possible you might require some inpatient care. That would give you a good foundation for your future recovery. Should that not be the case, then while you're at the Saturday night meeting, get all the AA literature available along with some phone numbers, addresses and e-mail if you have a computer. Daily communication with other alcoholics is a must. Telephone, write, e-mail and keep a daily journal. Get a sponsor; understand the role he will play in your recovery and work the program.
Write to Michael Ristau, c/o Toler Media Services, P.O. Box 168, Fort Edward, N.Y. 12828, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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 support groups and a 24-hour helpline, 878-2316.