DEAR ABBY: I got pregnant at 15 and had my oldest daughter at 16. I met my husband at 18, and went on to have four more daughters. I have been with him for more than 30 years (I just turned 49).
My girls are living their own lives now. The thing is, now that I'm alone with my husband, I have come to discover that we have nothing in common. I want to leave him, but I have no money, no car and no job. I have become someone I never thought I would become — alone with no life!
My husband ignores me and drinks a lot. When we visit family, it's a free-for-all drunk fest for him. I just don't have the energy at my age to deal with a drunk. I dealt all my life with an alcoholic father and I don't want to do it anymore. How do I begin to rebuild my life and start over? I really need to do this for myself. — AT A CROSSROADS IN OHIO
DEAR AT A CROSSROADS: I agree that rebuilding your life is something you need to do for yourself. The surest way to accomplish it would be to get a job. This may eventually equip you to survive on your own. If you need transportation, ask your daughters for help, or take public transportation.
If you prefer not to attend family gatherings, have your husband go alone. Your father's alcoholism may have contributed to the fact that you married someone with an alcohol problem, thinking it was normal. If that's the case, consider finding a nearby chapter of Al-Anon (al-anon.org/info) or Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (adultchildren.org) and attend some of the meetings. They are sometimes held online, so you could do it on a computer, if necessary. I wish you luck on your journey.
DEAR ABBY: I am a widow with three serious illnesses, one of which is potentially deadly. I hesitate to confide in some of my friends because the majority of them go into a litany of their illnesses. For the most part, their ailments are common and require just a small change in diet or perhaps losing some weight. What makes it uncomfortable for me is they act like they are in a life-threatening situation, which they aren't.
I find it increasingly difficult to empathize with their common colds, achy joints, etc. How can I explain to these folks how much they upset me? For the most part, they are good people, just very self-centered. — CHALLENGED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR CHALLENGED: It may be unrealistic to expect friends who don't know about your serious medical conditions to empathize with you or stop complaining about their aches and pains. Rather than say their complaints are annoying, tell them the truth about what's going on with you. After that, try to remember that regardless of how minor, every person's health challenges are important to them, even if on the grand scale of things they don't seem that way to you.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)