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I'm Wondering What People Think About This

Carolyn Hax is my favorite advice columnist, and I don't necessarily disagree with her advice here. But the comments on the Washington Post page (which I'm not linking to, since it's behind a paywall once you've looked at more than 10 articles in a month) have showed my that my opinion is very unpopular. Here's the question and response:

Dear Carolyn:

I recently invited my family to our home for an afternoon open house. This is not something I do often, maybe once every five years, in part because my family is hard to be around as a group. There are seven sibs, three with alcohol addiction. A couple of their kids also struggle with addiction.

I made the executive decision to not serve alcohol, much to my husband's chagrin. He complied; however, he felt it was wrong to ask of him (or others). My husband doesn't have a drinking problem. He does however, enjoy his wine, especially when my family members are around.

As it turned out, an adult nephew brought a six-pack. I didn't have a problem with him supplying his own beverage. I just didn't want to encourage or serve it.

What do you think? Was I being too protective of my brothers (which is what my husband thinks)?

— Trying to Do the Right Thing

An addendum:

"You failed to give her perspective. Out of 14 adults who were in attendance, only two are recovering alcoholics. That's key here as far as I'm concerned. Is it right or reasonable to deny the other 12 for the sake of the two?"

— From My Husband

I'm trying to understand the discrepancy — why you named five people as the basis for your decision when only two came.


One [alcohol-addicted] sibling died two years ago at 59, and the two others (who were in attendance) have had two DUI's each within the last two years and have been in recovery for a year. One of the offspring [who struggles with addiction] also came. I hope this helps.

— Trying again

You both helped, thank you, which is why I included the back-and-forth.

I agree with your husband in general, that it is not reasonable to deny all of your guests alcohol because you have a guest or guests in recovery.

However, I agree with you in this specific case: When five family members are affected, when one of them has died, when two have four arrests between them, when the problem spills down generations, and when you're talking about a once-a-half-decade event, then it is reasonable for their sister/hostess to reach for club soda.

Not for their sake, though — for her own.

You did this for you, and your husband isn't seeing that. Alcohol to him is a beverage, but to you it has been a rude, domineering, highly destructive extra family member. Maybe not lately, but still, my advice to your husband is to recognize that agreeing not to have alcohol stalk you for one stinkin' afternoon is a gift to you, not a capitulation to your brothers.

Likewise, understanding that this is not about Husband's wine, but instead his frustration with your family — presumably this isn't the first time these sibs' needs drove the whole bus? — can be your gift to him.

Why? Because you both sound sick and tired of carrying the weight of your family's history; your ways of lightening that load happen to be diametrically opposed. Don't lose sight of the fact that keeping the weight of alcoholism off your marriage is the point here, a shared one. You just need patience with each other as you find the best way there.


Now, my dirty lens here is that I don't drink. At all, ever, for any reason. It's a personal (non-religious) reason, and I'm not a recovering alcoholic. I've never tasted alcohol. And I just can. not. understand what the husband's deal is. Drink to your heart's content in the vast majority of neutral situations. I truly, genuinely care very little. But when your wife says "my family is rife with addiction issues. People have died and/or gotten arrested because of these issues. Please don't drink for the one afternoon every five years when we get all these people together in a room, for their sake and mine" I cannot fathom being bitter or upset about that request. And I think there's just some empathy chip for drinking that I'm missing, because I try to be an empathetic person as much as possible, but I just can't wrap my head around how this is a divisive subject.

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