11/03/2009 09:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Gay & Lesbian Manners: To Drink or Not to Drink with Your Alcoholic, Lesbian Sister?

Q: My lesbian sister is an alcoholic and has been in AA for six months now. While I'm happy for her, she's asked me not to serve alcohol to others when she is present nor for me to have a drink when she's visiting. But I'm not an alcoholic. Is she right to ask for this? --No Teetotaler Here

A: Aren't sisters always right, even if they're not? This one is tricky, as you've noticed already. I can tell that part of you wants to support her decision to stop drinking, which is a good thing, while another part of you doesn't want her decision to affect how you live. Fair enough. A lot of us have friends who irritate us with their "food allergies," which is oft code for "I don't like this or that." This is not the case with alcoholics who are, we hope, recovering from a disease. Only in the past two decades have we seen a decided shift in our understanding of alcoholism, from a social stigma to a complex disease.

Since your sister is only recently sober, she no doubt feels especially vulnerable to relapse. In this light, you may want to abide by her request until more time has passed or until she feels more secure in her sobriety. On the other hand, her decision is hers, as is her disease. How she handles her ultimate battle with alcohol is up to her - and not you or anyone else.

If you have a question for a future column, please send your question to Steven Petrow at You can visit him online at

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