Dear Abby: I caught my mom sniffing nail polish remover. What should I do?

Jeanne Phillips
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 17-year-old girl and I caught my mom sniffing nail polish remover. She obviously doesn't want me to know because she tries to hide it.

I don't know what to do. I don't know why she would want to do this. It's something people my age would do. I know better than to do that.

Should I talk to her about it? She'll probably make up some excuse like she likes the smell. She sometimes tells me I need to grow up because I can act silly. But honestly, SHE is the one who needs to grow up.

photo Author Jeanne Phillips, the daughter of the original advice columnist Dear Abby, poses for a photo in Los Angeles, Friday, Oct. 5, 2007.

I want to help her because I know what she's doing is not good for her. But how? -- KNOWS HER SECRET IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR KNOWS: Your mother may have an acetone addiction. Because you can't convince her to take your concerns seriously, tell another adult ASAP what's going on -- a relative, your father if he's in the picture, a teacher or counselor at school.

This kind of inhalant addiction is serious because in high concentrations acetone is a nervous system depressant. This means it can slow a person's heartbeat, respiration and metabolism, causing a person to become dizzy, confused and pass out. It can also damage the vital organs -- the heart, liver, kidneys and the bone marrow -- and cause cardiac arrest and death.

A support group for the children of addicts such as Alateen could give you emotional support. To find one, visit

DEAR ABBY: My husband had a heart attack a week ago and is still in the ICU. I visit him every day. Yesterday I found out that he had asked his sister to stay with me to "be there for me."

I am furious. My sister-in-law is a nice woman, but we have never been close. My house is a shambles (my husband and I are both disabled, he with peripheral artery disease and me after having been run over by a car) because housework is painful for me. So now, in addition to the stress of taking cabs to see him, I have the additional stress and pain of trying to make the house presentable.

I know my husband meant well, but I don't want to go through this in front of an audience. I feel angry and also guilty for being angry. Can you help me put all this into perspective? -- STRESSED IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR STRESSED: After spending a week in an ICU, your husband may be having concerns about ever emerging. He may have suggested his sister come because he was worried about how you would handle being alone. That you might be upset because your home isn't ready to be featured in House Beautiful probably didn't enter his mind.

However, now that she's coming, be smart. Ask her to help you with the deferred housework so the place will be shipshape when your husband is discharged. If, as you say, you and your sister-in-law aren't close, her stay with you may be shorter than planned.

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