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Dear Abby: Son is consumed by regret over treatment of his father

9March 2021

DEAR ABBY: I brought my 68-year-old immigrant father to live with me permanently with the intention of caring for him. He was completely dependent. Halfway through the year, I got angry, told him to move back and vowed to myself I would never ever care for him again. It wasn’t that he did anything wrong; I don’t know why I got so angry.

He wound up living alone, being helped by his friends. I visited him, but I became disconnected. I knew he was suffering, but I couldn’t bring myself to bring him back to live with me. I was extraordinarily cruel, and it hurt him deeply. I let his green card lapse. He passed away two years later.

Since then, I have been overwhelmed with guilt. As a son, I should have cared for my father. I am depressed over my actions. I am a horrible son. I have been crying and asking for forgiveness. Please tell me how I can move forward. — GUILT-RIDDEN IN THE WEST

DEAR GUILT-RIDDEN: Performing the role of caregiver is an enormous undertaking. While it can be rewarding, it can also be exhausting, unrelenting and stressful. Caregivers have been known to lose their tempers because of the pressure, but because you had bitten off more than you could chew, your reaction was extreme.

If you are religious, talk about this with your clergyperson. If you aren’t, please consider scheduling some appointments with a licensed mental health professional who can help you more fully understand what happened between you and your father and help you cope with your guilt. And in the future — once you are able — consider atoning by volunteering for a charity that serves the elderly.

 

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to a functioning alcoholic for more than 30 years. He was once funny and nice and a good dad. But over the years he has become unbearable to live with. He doesn’t shower or brush his teeth. He was always mainly a beer drinker, but now he is drinking hard liquor and stays drunk most of the time he is awake.

I told him I thought he was depressed and a severe alcoholic, and he should talk to his doctor, but he refuses. He walks around cursing under his breath, and nobody wants to be around him. I keep him off the road when he has been drinking, but I’m terrified he will hurt someone. I am pretty sure he is drinking on the job, and I’m scared he will hurt himself. I am ready to leave him, but afraid that if I do, he will be completely lost. Please guide me. — LOST IN THE SOUTH

DEAR LOST: You don’t need me to tell you that your husband is in bad shape. I don’t know what his job involves, but if he’s interacting with others, I am surprised he can get away with having such poor hygiene and being stoned on alcohol.

Because he refuses to talk to his doctor about this, you should. I hope you are beginning to realize that, on the path he is on, you cannot “save” him. I have mentioned Al-Anon many times in my column. The organization is an offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous and was started to help families and friends of individuals who are unable to control their drinking. You will gain insight about what to do next if you attend some of their meetings. Find one by going to al-anon.org/info.

 

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.

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