Daughter needs help to cope with mom

Dear Abby: I'm desperate for guidance. I have no mentors to consult nor anyone with more life experience because I have no family left I can talk to anymore.

Five years ago, when I was 22, my father committed suicide. My mother and I were witnesses. His family blamed me for not trying to wrestle a loaded gun from him. (I know I did the right thing.) Dad's family cut Mother and me off completely.

Mom always had a problem with drinking, but it became worse after Dad killed himself. The last five years have been spent putting my life on hold to pick up the pieces. Mom loses jobs for being drunk, is all but blacklisted in the city she lives in and is often short of rent money. If I give her money to pay her rent, she blows it on alcohol. She'll sleep with strangers for money when she's facing eviction.

It kills me knowing the mother who loved me is going to eventually end up on the street, but I can't be her mother anymore. I didn't have a childhood because I was always dealing with her alcoholism, and Dad's, too. I can't bear the thought of her homeless and hungry, but I know picking her up only enables her drinking. Please help me. I don't know what to do. —DESPERATE FOR GUIDANCE IN CALIFORNIA

Dear Desperate: You are a caring and dutiful daughter, but the burden you have assumed will crush you if you don't put it down. No one can save someone who doesn't want to be saved or isn't ready to be. Until your mother realizes she needs help for her addiction, she'll continue on the path her drinking is leading her.

It is extremely important for your emotional well-being to let go of your guilt for being unable to "mother your mother." An excellent place to begin would be to attend some Al-Anon meetings. There you will find support from friends and relatives of alcoholics who help each other through the same trials you are experiencing. The meetings are free and confidential. To find one in your area, call (888) 4AL-ANON ((888) 425-2666). Someone will always answer during business hours Eastern time. Or, visit the website at Al-