Dear Abby: Former drug user looks for a way out of toxic relationship

A woman's hands in front of her face.

A woman's hands in front of her face.

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DEAR ABBY: I'm a 39-year-old woman in a toxic relationship with my boyfriend of almost seven years. We had a child together but lost custody due to drug use during my pregnancy. Even though we don't have our son, and he treats me badly, I feel I have to stay with him because we have gone through so much together.

A couple of years ago, I got dentures because I ruined my teeth when I was using, and now I'm afraid no one will want to be with me because of them. So I'm stuck in a relationship that isn't good for me. It's embarrassing to have dentures at such a young age, and I don't know how I will be able to meet someone who can see past them and my drug history so I can be in a healthy relationship that I deserve. I feel like my only choices are to stay stuck in this toxic relationship forever or end up alone. How do I move past my insecurities so I can be happy for once? -- EMBARRASSED IN ARIZONA

DEAR EMBARRASSED: You have successfully battled drug addiction, so you are clearly not unused to "challenges." I applaud you for what you have accomplished, and others should respect you for it, too.

Please do not allow your fear of being alone to prevent you from taking another important step in reclaiming your life. You and I both know your abuser is not healthy for you. You have already invested too much time in him. If you rely on him for financial support, find a job. Make arrangements with friends or family so you can eventually save enough to live independently.

After you have left him, being alone does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. In your case it could be therapeutic. And once you are financially stable, consult a dentist or a school of dentistry about what options you might have besides dentures. The only thing holding you back at this point is yourself.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 37-year-old mother of three, ages 13, 5 and 3. I'm married and own my home. I am a new stay-at-home mom after having worked for 16 years at my last job. My kids are happy and healthy.

Any time I go to my parents' house or they drop in on me for a quick visit, they have to "point out" that it is a mess or that my oldest is wearing jeans with holes in them. There's always a negative comment, never a positive one. My oldest has started to notice. It makes it hard to spend time with my parents since the visit is never a happy one without nitpicking. I'm wondering if I can say anything, and what to say.

I can't even cut or color my hair without ridicule. My oldest got her nails done and there was a negative comment about that as well. A few years ago, there was a blowout between my mom and me over my son's haircut. I'm at the point where I no longer want to go to their house, but I don't want to keep my kids from them. -- ANNOYED IN IDAHO

DEAR ANNOYED: Say something like this to your parents: "I have noticed, and the children have started noticing, that when you visit you usually have something negative to say about me, my home and even them. It is hurtful and I want it stopped, because if it persists you won't be invited." And if it does continue, please remember it is your right as your children's mother to buffer them from comments from their grandparents that make them self-conscious about their appearance.

Childhood memories lead to conflict

DEAR ABBY: My sister, who had epilepsy as a small child in the 1970s, now uses her disease as a weapon against the rest of the family. I am at my wits' end about what to do about the way she mistreats our 83-year-old mother. She no longer is treated for epilepsy, and her childhood memories about the way she was treated are wrong. If anything, she was spoiled and babied far too long because of her sickness. She claims she has PTSD, uses pot to self-medicate and refuses to go to a doctor for help. Instead she blames everyone else for her "terrible childhood."

My other two siblings and I do not agree with her that she grew up in a "broken home." She continually rehashes misremembered things from 50 years ago and uses them for fuel to rationalize why she is so messed up. Her mental illness is getting worse, and it's affecting everyone around her. I love her, but I can't stand to be around her anymore. Should I encourage Mom not to have any more contact with her? Please help. -- INTOLERABLE IN TENNESSEE

DEAR INTOLERABLE: Your sister appears to have more wrong with her than her history of epilepsy. You should share this fact with your mother if she is being emotionally abused. If you feel the abuse extends further than that, a place to safely report it would be the Eldercare Locator helpline (800-677-1116). It will then be up to your mother to decide how much exposure to this troubled daughter she is willing to tolerate.

DEAR ABBY: As a first-time mom, I am a late bloomer. My daughter turns 1 in a few weeks. We are thankful to be able to have a first birthday party celebration for her. Quite a few people are coming. After not being able to have a baby shower because of the pandemic, this will be the first gathering having anything to do with my only child.

My question is, do we open gifts at the party? My concern is, it's already a lot for a 1-year-old, and forcing her to open presents with people staring at her seems daunting. Will people get bored watching that?

The party is in a park with a nice playground, and we will be providing food, games, desserts and other activities. I am an avid thank-you card writer and have thought about taking pictures of her opening her gifts, and sending the gifters the photo with the card the next day. What do you think? -- UNSURE IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR UNSURE: Because you are late to motherhood, discuss this with friends or relatives who are more experienced. Your idea is sweet, but your 1-year-old is too young to open any of her presents. (You might have her try to open one or two, but don't count on it.) She'll likely be far more interested in the birthday cake. If you put it in front of her, don't be surprised if she face-plants into it. Her attention span will be short and she may need a nap to head off a meltdown, so be prepared. Your idea of including a picture of her opening her gifts is a good one, but save it until she is older.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.