Dear Annie: I live in a small town. My mother died a couple of years ago, and around that same time, a friend of mine had just lost his home and was looking for someplace to live. So, I told him he could move in with me and help pay the bills. It’s been a good arrangement for us both. But I recently learned that people have been spreading rumors that I’m gay — which I’m not. I date women, although I’m currently single. (I had my heart broken last year, and I’ve been hesitant to date again.) What should I do about this gossip? — Mischaracterized
Dear Mischaracterized: These folks must be pretty bored to sit at home making up stories about you. It brings to mind a saying commonly attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” My advice to you is to keep living your life; let the small minds waste theirs. Focus on mending that broken heart.
Dear Annie: I think your advice to “Helpless Husband” — and to anyone who lives or has lived with someone in active addiction — was spot on. I would like to add that it is incredibly helpful to find a group that has a “beginners meeting” in addition to the regular Al-Anon Family Group meeting.
I tried several different meetings, but I never seemed to understand what was going on. Everyone was friendly and familiar with one another, and even though they were very welcoming, I felt a bit out of place, and I stopped going. It wasn’t until I was referred to an Al-Anon Family Group that had a beginners meeting alongside their regular meeting that I finally felt comfortable. Being with other “beginners” was super helpful because we were all learning about the program, and when we finally joined the larger group, we could follow along and actively participate. My group recommends six beginner meetings. (During our lockdown-era weekly Zoom meetings, because we couldn’t really leave and go into another room for a beginner meeting, several members would stay on at the end to have a smaller beginners meeting for any newcomers who wished to stay on the call.)
I would also like to add that each meeting has its own personality, and it may take going to a few different groups before you find your tribe; please don’t give up! I have been with my group for two years now, and I can honestly say working with the Al-Anon program has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined. I thank my lucky stars for these people and this program every day. — Grateful Member
Dear Grateful: I will gladly take any chance I can to recommend Al-Anon. It truly is a wonderful program, and I hope your firsthand testimonial encourages others to give it a try. Meeting details, including for telephone and virtual meetings, are available at https://www.al-anon.org.
Dear Annie: It seems some people write to you who get frustrated with loved ones who vent about the same situations over and over, without taking constructive steps. I have three grown children, and my youngest likes to vent about work situations in that way. She definitely does not want advice — yet as a parent, I always want to fix her problem. My solution was to put the shush emoji next to her name in my cellphone. It reminds me not to give unsolicited advice. — Parent Who Knows
Dear PWK: This is a clever tip. When we remember that friends are usually just looking for an ear, we save ourselves a lot of trouble. People seldom take solicited advice, let alone unsolicited advice.