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June 2012
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Teetotalers should learn to serve tact instead of drinks

Staff report

Dear Annie: My spouse and I choose to abstain from alcohol. We don't do this because we think we are better than others. It is a personal decision based on how alcohol has inflicted hurt on people we love. We have seen families abuse each other when drinking and have had friends and family killed in drunken driving accidents.

But it pains us to see how some family members react to our convictions. Over the years, they have distanced themselves by not including us in family gatherings or vacations. Maybe they think we'll put a damper on their fun by remaining sober, or perhaps our presence makes them feel guilty for continuing to imbibe.

My husband and I enjoy the company of our loved ones when they are sober. It is only uncomfortable when various family members become inebriated and start getting loud, profane and insulting. We have tried hard to communicate that we love them and have no problem with reasonable social drinking, only when it gets out of control. Excluding us sends the clear message that they love the bottle more than us.

Annie, if only people realized that the only thing that really ends up mattering in life is people, family and the relationships you build. The world would be a better, stronger place. Is there anything we can do? - Sober but Sad

Dear Sober: We agree that alcohol can be very destructive. However, by broadcasting your sobriety as well as your disapproval, you come across as scolds, and the drinking members of your family choose not to be criticized, even tacitly. People are sensitive about their failings and respond poorly to condemnation. If you want more inclusive family gatherings, you will have to say nothing about liquor consumption, yours or anyone else's. Start by inviting them to a gathering in your home. You don't need to serve alcohol, but you also don't have to make an issue of it.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Uncomfortable," who didn't want to call her mother-in-law "Mom."

It reminded me a bit of one of my granddaughters. She called her other grandfather "Oxygen Grandpa" because he needed the aid of an oxygen tank. Since I liked my late-day martini, I was called the Olive Grandpa. - Homosassa, Fla.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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