Annie's Mailbox: Recovering alcoholic uncomfortable at bars

Dear Annie: I am a recovering alcoholic with six months' sobriety. Recently, I was hired at a new company. The job is everything I dreamed of, and my bosses and co-workers are great. The problem is, every Friday after work, they go to a bar to socialize.

I am always invited to join them, but since bars were where I did most of my drinking, it is essential to my recovery that I stay out of them. So far, I have politely excused myself from attending these gatherings, saying I have a previous commitment or an errand to run, but it is beginning to get awkward. I am aware that socializing outside of work can be an important part of an employee's success. I don't want to come across as standoffish or not a team player. But I also don't want to jeopardize my sobriety.

Some people have suggested I sit in the bar and sip a soft drink. I tried it once and was so uncomfortable (and tempted to drink) that I had to leave. My AA sponsor thinks I should tell my co-workers the truth, but I'm afraid if I do, they might think poorly of me. Or worse, I might get fired. Any suggestions?

- Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Dear Between: It is no one's business that you are a recovering alcoholic. If you think your lack of socialization is a problem, consider telling your co-workers that you are a non-drinker and would love it if they could mix it up and go to a cafe or restaurant instead of the bar once in a while. You might also bring up this topic at your next AA meeting. Many of your fellow non-drinkers have lived through similar situations and may have some good suggestions.

Dear Annie: My 58-year-old sister, "Doreen," gets into debt over and over. She will hammer at my mother until Mom gives her the money to bail her out. My father passed away years ago, and I am sure he would be horrified at how Doreen is taking advantage of Mom.

My parents worked hard for every penny they made. We always had what we needed, but were never what you'd call "well off." Doreen has taken at least $50,000 from Mom within the last two years, and now I find she has convinced Mom to give her thousands more. She preys on Mom's fears and sympathies until Mom feels she has no choice but to help her out.

Doreen has a low-paying job, and even though she owns a home, she is so much in debt that I don't see any way she could ever repay the money. At this rate, she will leave Mom penniless. How can she believe this is right? What can my brother and I do?

- Worried Daughter

in Canada

Dear Canada: If your mother is mentally capable and chooses to give Doreen this money, there isn't much you can do to stop her. However, you might discuss with Mom the possibility of putting control of her money with someone else - perhaps an attorney or trusted friend who won't be manipulated by Doreen. (We don't recommend you or your brother, since it could cause an estrangement.) A nonpartisan third party can put the money in a trust, pay Mom's bills and give her a monthly allowance, but anything else will require approval. Suggest it.

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