DEAR ABBY: I have been dating the greatest man I've ever met in my life for three years. "Jared" has wonderful kids and a successful career. He's handsome and is kind to me, my kids and my family. We enjoy each other immensely, and we are now engaged.
We are social drinkers, but about once a year Jared gets incredibly intoxicated and changes into the most horrible person I have ever seen. It's all verbal yelling -- nothing physical -- but it's still inexcusable. After an "episode" he is guilt-ridden and apologetic for weeks. I believe he's sincere, but it has made me rethink our engagement. He had an episode a week ago -- the third during the time we've been together.
Our kids are close and care about each other. I love Jared, but if I have to endure another instance of this I don't think I can go through with the marriage. I'm still angry about the last bout, and he's still guilt-ridden. How do I approach this? -- CONFLICTED IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR CONFLICTED: The first thing to do is make it your business to attend some Al-Anon meetings. When you do, you'll soon realize that the behavior Jared is exhibiting can escalate.
While Jared may be able to handle his liquor 364 days a year (now), what happens on that 365th is a deal-breaker. Unless you want to spend your life worrying every time Jared picks up a glass who he will be when he puts the glass down, draw the line now. Tell him the person he becomes during these "episodes" is a stranger you have no desire to have anything to do with -- ever -- and if he can't guarantee that you will never see that person again, the marriage is off. Of course, this will mean the end of his social drinking and probably yours. If what you have together is as special as you say, it is only a small sacrifice.
Be prepared, because he will probably deny he has a problem. Unless you want to become a miserable nervous wreck, you must not relent. The explosion, the guilt, the "honeymoon" period afterward are similar to the cycle of domestic violence, so be aware of that.
DEAR ABBY: My beautiful son died five years ago. He chose his death by hanging -- suicide. He had suffered for years, and all our love couldn't help him. He once told me, "Mom, I don't want to live like this anymore. I want to be with Jesus."
We know we will see him again. Still, I find it hard to tell people how he died. I know I don't have to, but it still haunts me sometimes. I'd like to know how others who have been through the same thing feel about this. Thank you for your support. -- MOM IN CONNECTICUT
DEAR MOM: I'm sorry about the death of your son, who suffered from severe chronic depression. When there is a suicide, the family can experience a range of emotions -- including anger, sadness and guilt. When a child commits suicide there can also be feelings of self-recrimination. If that's the case with you, please seek counseling.
I'm sure that when your letter is published, I'll hear from readers who will share their experiences. If you will visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, www.afsp.org, you can search for a suicide survivor support group in your area, because talking with others who have experienced this can be helpful.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.