DEAR AMY: I am a 26-year-old hardworking man with a full-time job.
Over the past few years I have struggled with minor prescription drug abuse.
Most of my friends are in jail, and the ones who aren't are full-blown addicts.
My best friend (whom I consider my brother) has an amazing heart and will do anything for me. Yet I find that when we hang out (after being clean for weeks), I will relapse when I'm with him.
We started off having fun, but once it got bad, I realized I needed to change.
Nobody outside of our circle has any idea either one of us is struggling to maintain sobriety. My family doesn't know.
I have a feeling you'll say to sever ties with my friend if he's causing me to relapse, but he's done so much for me — emotionally, financially and in so many other ways.
No matter what, he drops everything the moment I need help with anything (drugs aside).
Is there a way I can still associate with my best friend and not relapse?
I lost my brother a few years ago, and this friend took his place in my life.
I do well alone but feel terrible cutting him off, as I'm his only friend too.
I need to get my future in order.
— Concerned Young Adult
DEAR CONCERNED: You know what you need to do to get and stay sober (not associate with anyone who is using).
You need to realize that your drug use calls the shots, even when you're not using. Your addiction influences your judgment and whom you hang out with. And — although you may not be aware of it — your drug use is a factor in why you don't have more (sober) friends.
If you haven't attended 12-step or support meetings, you should now.
You will need to communicate with and get to know a new group of people. A sponsor could be your lifeline when things get shaky.
The only way to safely maintain this important friendship is to ask your friend to join you in sobriety.
However — and this is important — your friend's sobriety is not your responsibility. If he relapses, it puts you at risk.
You sound like a thoughtful person. You've sorted out a lot of issues on your own, but please don't try to do this alone.
DEAR AMY: I am a 34-year-old man who has been in a seven-year relationship with a woman who means the world to me.
We lived together for five years. Last year, she asked me to move out.
This felt like a huge step backward.
I had planned on asking her to marry me. We continued our relationship from separate places.
I decided to try to woo her back, culminating in a romantic proposal at the very place I first professed my love to her.
She later told me she had cheated on me. I forgave her. We talked of our future plans.
Recently she invited her affair partner back to her home. He was drunk and beat her.
I have ceased communication with her because of this but miss her terribly.
Am I a fool? Is it time for me to move on? I am a terrible romantic and feel this woman is my soul mate.
What is the healthy thing to do?
DEAR LONELY: The healthy thing to do is to realize that your soul mate has spiraled away from you.
It sounds as if she is engaging in risky behavior.
It is time for you to move on romantically, but I urge you to act out of friendship and contact someone else in her life (parents, sibling or friend) to convey your extreme concerns about her.
DEAR AMY: "Conflicted Father" was concerned about how he and his wife should assign surnames to their children because neither wanted to "give up" their own surname and their hyphenated name was very long.
The answer is obvious. Girls born to the couple should receive their mother's surname and boys, the father's.
— Strategic Reader
DEAR READER: You assume this couple will have both boys and girls, and in equal number. Their unwillingness to compromise demands equal naming rights.
Send questions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.