Dear Annie: Our 80-year-old mother has become addicted to gambling. My father would be rolling in his grave if he knew she'd gone through all his hard-earned retirement savings.

Mom has a great monthly pension plan, but the money is being used up and she cannot account for where it is going. She has no outstanding bills, although we know she has borrowed from family members because she is often in need of cash. And although she says she will pay them back, she never does.

I am afraid Mom has taken out a second mortgage on her home and is deeply in debt. I've asked her about it and she denies she has a problem. I believe we siblings should be united and insist she get help. Others in the family say to leave her alone, that it is her money and not our business how she spends it in her old age.

It's not about an inheritance, which I don't expect. I am saddened and embarrassed by this situation. I see it no differently than an alcoholic who needs to be confronted to get help. When we close our eyes to the situation, we are enabling her. It also bothers me that if she gets sick and needs nursing help, there will be no money left to arrange for her care. Please advise. — Worried Child

Dear Worried: Like alcohol, gambling can become an addiction, and if others ignore the problem, it enables the behavior. Both can also be used to mask other problems, such as depression, and that may be what is going on with your mother. You cannot force her to get help. She has to admit there's a problem and be willing to work on it. Please contact Gam-Anon (gam-anon.org), P.O. Box 157, Whitestone, NY 11357, for information and resources.

Dear Annie: Is it possible to be disliked because a person is too nice? According to a friend, some girls in my school do not like me because I'm too nice. Does this make sense? Could they really want a rude, obnoxious person as a friend?

I always try to go out of my way to help someone, but I guess that is not approved of. I don't particularly care to make friends with this group, but am I wrong to try to be nice to everyone? — Confused Nice Person

Dear Confused: It's possible to be disliked if your "niceness" is shoved in everyone's face. If you are too proud of your good deeds, it can drive people away. It's also possible that this particular crowd prefers to cultivate a slight "bad girl" vibe, in which case, you are better off steering clear of them. Please continue to be nice. It may not endear you to these particular girls, but everyone else will appreciate you.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Needing a Father in the Midwest," who asked about inviting her abusive dad to her wedding. I, too, grew up with an abusive father. My brothers and I tolerated the behavior, hoping things would improve, until we grew up and the abuse was directed at our children. We then had no choice but to cut him out of our lives.

I always held out hope that my father would somehow wake up and understand the damage he had done. It is not easy to acknowledge that your father is not a good person and it is unhealthy to be around him. Fathers are supposed to take care of, cherish and love their children. Mine didn't. I was the one who needed to wake up.

I am happy to say that today, after overcoming clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, I am happily married with two healthy kids. My only regret is that I didn't cut him out of my life sooner. Because I delayed the inevitable, I put my children in danger. — Wiser Now

Dear Wiser:Cutting out a family member can be a tough and painful decision, but when that person is abusive, it is sometimes the only option.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.