Carolyn Hax: Advice

Uncovering a sibling’s secret DUI

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: I’m hoping you can help sort out a family issue. My mother has been implying that something is going on in my brother’s life, but won’t say what. She’s obviously very stressed about it, but stress and emotional instability are her norm, so that isn’t always an indicator.

I Googled him and found out he was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. I assume he hasn’t had his court date yet. He is a single dad with a school-age son (the mom died two years ago).

I don’t know what to do with this information. Obviously he doesn’t want me to know; he’s lied to keep it from me. But it’s not fair to my emotionally unstable mom to be the only one to bear this.

I feel like I should just text him and let him know I know, ask if he needs my help. We don’t talk much. My family’s communication skills are so dysfunctional I can’t even see what normal people would do.

I’m so mad at him right now, but do realize that coming across as judgmental or accusatory will shut him down.

Tough Conversation

I think you’re past the point of worrying about anyone’s preference on who knows what. Tell both mother and brother you found out about the arrest — make sure you blame Google — then ask whether either of them needs anything you’re able to provide.

My main concern is the child, because what happens if your brother does get incarcerated? Please figure out how involved you’re willing to get, and then take thoughtful steps in that direction. Consider, too, seeking support through a local program for the family members of addicts. Try Nar-Anon (www.nar-anon.org), or inquire at the court handling his case about referrals to area resources.

Re: Tough Conversation: I always struggle with how to start. It is kind of awkward to say, “I hear you got arrested.” It may help you to email him the news story and say: “I saw this. I am concerned for you and kid. I am here to help you in whatever way you need.” That way he knows what you know. It’s still awkward, but way less awkward than bringing it up over a holiday dinner.

Anonymous

Good stuff, thank you.

Dear Carolyn: As in years previous, my in-laws emailed me asking what I would like for a gift. I emailed them a link to a DVD. They emailed back that I should buy it for myself and they would reimburse me.

I find that a very awkward arrangement. Should I just not order the gift?

Rock and Hard Place

Seriously?

One of the gifts this column keeps giving is an endless supply of new ways to mangle the gift-giving process. If you can even call it that in this case.

Feh.

Either buy the DVD and refuse the money or don’t buy it and say oh garsh you never did get around to buying it … oh well! Whichever amuses you more at this point.

And next year respond to the in-laws’ gift query with, “Anything or nothing, really — I’m easy to please. Look forward to seeing you!”

Makes one miss those buy-me-this-in-purple-size-M-type wish lists for their subtlety.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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