Annie's Mailbox: How can I help dad with gambling problem?

Dear Annie: I'm 13 years old and have a younger brother. My dad is addicted to gambling. To make matters worse, he doesn't work much, either. Not that it matters. Even when he worked hard, he lost all of the money gambling.

My parents recently got a divorce. Dad is practically broke, so he still lives in our tiny apartment with us. He's not the best father in the world. He never comes to any of our school events and missed my brother's grade-school graduation. He asks his own children for gas money. He blames all his problems on my mother. Because of him, we are struggling financially. Dad ruined Mom's excellent credit and took a lot of her money.

Dad always promises to do better, but never does. He used to pretend to go to work when he really went to gamble at a casino. Now he mostly stays home, watching TV, being lazy. My mom is going to kick him out because she thinks he is hopeless. I love my dad a lot, but I'm starting to agree with her. Is there anything that can help?

- Worried Daughter

Dear Worried: This must be a difficult time for everyone in your household, including your father. He has a serious addiction, and it is hard to overcome. However your parents decide to handle it, you are not responsible for what happens, and you shouldn't feel stuck in the middle. Please talk to your school guidance counselor about this and suggest your mother contact Gam-Anon (gam-anon.org), an organization for those who are affected by a compulsive gambler. The address is P.O. Box 157, Whitestone, NY 11357.

Dear Annie: My wife and I recently bought our first home and can't wait to have people over. My wife's family is great, and I have no problem with anyone in particular, but they have this thing about just dropping by at any given moment without notice. The other day, they invited themselves to use my new barbecue grill while I was at work.

We haven't had an official housewarming yet, so I mentioned to my wife that I would have liked to have been there for the first "party" so we could have entertained together. I felt like my space was invaded when they asked my wife (while I was working) whether my grill had fuel, and if so, they'd come while I was gone.

Am I being too territorial, or are they rude? My wife says it's just the way her family is. Mine is nothing like that. They understand we are busy trying to settle into our new place and always give a heads up before planning a visit.

I don't like other people having functions at my house when I'm not there, even if my wife is home. Am I wrong?

- Home Invasion in California

Dear Home: Your in-laws are getting permission from your wife to invade your house, either because she tells them it's OK or she allows it to happen. Since it is also her house, she assumes she can let her family use it. We understand your position, but we'd be careful about making this an issue. If the in-laws are throwing a party without you, they should stop and your wife should tell them so. If they are visiting their daughter and using your grill to make dinner, leave it alone.

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