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Carolyn Hax: Alcohol has big role in family history

Dear Carolyn: I recently invited my family to our home for an open house. This is not something I do often, maybe once every five years, in part because my family is hard to be around as a group. There are seven sibs, three with alcohol addiction. A couple of their kids also struggle with addiction.

I made the executive decision to not serve alcohol, much to my husband’s chagrin. He complied; however, he felt it was wrong to ask of him (or others). My husband doesn’t have a drinking problem. He does, however, enjoy his wine.

What do you think? Was I being too protective of my brothers (which is what my husband thinks)?

– Trying to Do the Right Thing

An addendum: “You failed to give her perspective. Out of 14 adults who were in attendance, only two are recovering alcoholics. That’s key here as far as I’m concerned. Is it right or reasonable to deny the other 12 for the sake of the two?”

– From My Husband

I’m trying to understand the discrepancy – why you named five people as the basis for your decision when only two came.

– Carolyn

Carolyn: One (alcohol-addicted) sibling died two years ago at 59, and the two others (who were in attendance) have had two DUIs each within the last two years and have been in recovery for a year. One of the offspring (who struggles with addiction) also came.

– Trying again

A: I agree with your husband in general, that it is not reasonable to deny all of your guests alcohol because you have a guest or guests in recovery.

However, I agree with you in this specific case: When five family members are affected, when one of them has died, when two have four arrests between them, when the problem spills down generations, and when you’re talking about a once-a-half-decade event, then it is reasonable for their sister/hostess to reach for club soda.

Not for their sake, though – for hers.

You did this for you, and your husband isn’t seeing that. Alcohol to him is a beverage, but to you it has been a rude, domineering, highly destructive extra family member. Maybe not lately, but still, my advice to your husband is to recognize that agreeing not to have alcohol stalk you for one stinkin’ afternoon is a gift to you, not a capitulation to your brothers.

Likewise, understanding that this is not about Husband’s wine, but instead his frustration with your family – presumably this isn’t the first time these sibs’ needs drove the whole bus? – can be your gift to him.

Why? Because you both sound sick and tired of carrying the weight of your family’s history; your ways of lightening that load happen to be diametrically opposed. Don’t lose sight of the fact that keeping the weight of alcoholism off your marriage is the point here, a shared one. You just need patience.