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Originally published Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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Alcohol-free, feeling great, but worried about judging family members

Carolyn Hax applauds a reader’s decision to give up alcohol for Lent and maybe forever.

Syndicated columnist

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Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a 2012 online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: I gave up alcohol for Lent for a lot of reasons (save money and calories, etc.), but deep down the reason is that I was afraid I was becoming dependent and wanted to test myself a bit. So far (yes, a few whole days), it is good. I actually feel better not having the wine at night.

Assuming this goes well, I may just cut alcohol completely — having a somewhat addictive personality and a family history of alcoholism and cancer.

But my question is more how to handle the social issues associated with this. It’s easy to say to my friends, “I gave up alcohol for Lent,” and most aren’t giving me a hard time, but what if it’s permanent? Is it enough to say, “I realized when I gave it up that I feel better without it”? And my family is pretty big on drinking (even the non-alcoholics), so I will stand out, and they already feel like I push them away/try to distance myself. Suggestions?

— No Alcohol

DEAR NO ALCOHOL: (1) Good for you. No, awesome for you.

(2) You don’t need me one bit. “Gave it up for Lent, didn’t miss it” is all you need; even years down the road, “Gave it up for Lent one year, didn’t miss it” works great. Said brightly, in a clipped kind of way, it’s a subject-closer. When pressed, shrug and say, “What can I say?” and change the subject.

If it becomes a sore subject with your family, assure them once: “This is about what I need, not about judging anyone else.”

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m pregnant with my second child, and while it wasn’t planned, it theoretically isn’t unwelcome. I wanted my kids to be about two years apart, and I’m going to get almost exactly that.

However, I just want to push everything forward into the future by about six months. I feel miserable (I’m actually home sick today because of morning sickness and a headache) and am just not happy about this pregnancy, which makes me feel even worse. With my first child, even morning sickness made me think “Wheeee! Baby!” but this time I just think it stinks.

I really need to find a way to get excited for this child, because it’s not fair to the baby. It’s possible there’s some depression going on, but I seem to be doing OK in other aspects of my life. I WANT to be happy and thrilled about this child, but I’m just not.

— How to Get Happy?

DEAR HOW TO GET HAPPY?: While it’s normal and OK, truly, not to feel overjoyed when you’re nauseated, you should still explore the depression angle. Do it just to be responsible, of course, but also because if your physical sickness isn’t the only reason you aren’t overjoyed, then unburdening in a talk-therapy session or three will likely help. Feeling anything but overjoyed about a child can lead to guilt feelings, which you think you can’t say out loud, which can lead to a shame spiral, when in fact mixed feelings about a coming baby are quite common, and also surmountable.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living.

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