DEAR ABBY: I am 19, and I have been smoking and drinking — a lot — ever since I was 14. I also sneak out and go to parties and hang out with a gang I'm in.
We get into a lot of fights. I know I have hurt quite a few people, and I want to set myself straight. I'm worried because I'm dealing with major anger issues and I don't want to hurt anyone else. Please help me. — ANGER IN THE SOUTH
DEAR ANGER: The gang life can be difficult and dangerous to escape. If you have relatives in a different city, a step in the right direction might be to ask if you can live with them for a while.
I'm sorry you didn't mention whether you managed to get your high school diploma. If the answer is no, your next step should be to see if you can take adult education classes and earn your GED. At the same time, inquire if there is counseling available through the school to help you with your anger issues.
Stay safe, remain focused and you will be surprised at what you can achieve.
DEAR ABBY: My ex-husband and I are still living in the same house for financial reasons. We speak to each other only regarding our kids and the house. Otherwise, we keep our lives as separate as possible. I haven't spoken to anyone from his family since our separation more than a year ago.
What would be expected of me if someone in his family falls ill or passes away? We were married 30-plus years. I don't think I'd feel comfortable inserting myself into their private time, yet I feel like maybe I should, considering our kids and the amount of time I've known them all. Thoughts or rules? — DON'T KNOW MY PLACE IN THIS
DEAR DON'T KNOW: If your presence would provide comfort to the grieving family members, you should go to the viewing or funeral. If you feel it would prove stressful, then send a card or flowers expressing condolences.
DEAR ABBY: I donate to a number of good causes. But my mailbox and email are full of even more requests for donations. Now store clerks are asking for donations at the checkout counter, and if you don't donate, you are treated like a cheapskate.
I'm really tired of being strong-armed in stores. If they want store profits to go to these causes, fine, but customers don't shop there to have someone else choose their donations for them. I wish stores would stop doing this. We can't support every good cause. There are just too many. — TOO MANY CAUSES
DEAR TOO MANY CAUSES: The adage "We can't change the behavior of others; we can only change the way we react" applies to your situation. If you feel you are being shamed or discriminated against because you are unwilling to donate to the cause du jour, shop elsewhere.
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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.