Life

Ask Fiona: How do I stop my grandson from drinking and driving

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman whose grandson is getting behind the wheel of his car after drinking and another who is being bullied at work

Any anxiety you feel about reporting him to the police would feel like nothing compared to the way you'd feel if you'd done nothing to prevent this
Fiona Caine

MY 20-year-old grandson lives with me and he drinks and drives. His parents and I have told him many times not to, but he just won't listen. I'm frightened that any day now he will either kill himself or some innocent bystander. I threatened to report him to the police, but in fact, I'm hesitant to do this because I don't know how that will affect his life. What should I do?

KM

FIONA SAYS: I'm so sorry your grandson's put you in this awful position, but how do you think you would feel if he was involved in a road accident? And how much worse if, because of his drink-driving, he or someone else was killed or injured?

Any anxiety you feel about reporting him to the police would feel like nothing compared to the way you'd feel if you'd done nothing to prevent this. Telling the police may seem a hard thing to do – and it is – but not telling them could be worse.

You will need to give them his registration number and an idea (if you know it) of where he goes to drink. The police will take this information seriously and I'm sure they'll be sympathetic, recognising just how hard it is for you.

If he finds out that you've told them, he may be very angry and upset with you – he may not talk to you and might even move out. However, if you love someone, sometimes have to do hard things and hopefully, one day, he will realise this and recognise you're doing this because you care about him.

I'M BEING BULLIED AT WORK

Since starting a new job eight months ago, I have been bullied and tormented continually by a couple of people in my department. It's often only quick comments about small things, the clothes I am wearing, my make-up, something I say or do in the office – but they are always negative. Sometimes it's about being left out. For example, if they organise a lunch or after-work get-together, I am never invited. I am relatively new to the company and this isn't helping me to get to know colleagues better. Also, I am often the last to get emails about departmental meetings, which means I am either late or unprepared.

You'll probably think this is trivial, but it is really getting me down. I fell stressed all the time and constantly look for ways to be out of the office as much as possible. I'm also sure I have already taken too much sick leave.

After leaving university it took me a long time to land this job, it's a good one and it's important to me. What should I do?

DA

FIONA SAYS: If this is causing you stress and affecting your performance at work, it is NOT trivial. Bullying, unlike harassment, is not illegal, but it is a huge workplace problem. Sadly, many people are reluctant to deal with it because they are worried about losing their job if they appear to be a trouble-maker. Others simply put up with it hoping it will eventually stop.

In my experience, however, bullies rarely stop because they lose interest, they stop because their behaviour is challenged. Which leads to my somewhat obvious question, have you asked them to stop? Bullies do what they do because they think their victims are weak. You're not weak, you've studied hard for a degree and worked probably harder still to get this job. A calm show of strength may be all that's needed to stop the bullying, but if it doesn't, you should consider talking with your boss or line manager.

The good news is, companies have a duty of care when it comes to the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Most will have a grievance procedure in place to deal with issues like bullying.

Make a start by getting a copy of the grievance procedure and then keeping a detailed record of what is said and done, by whom and when. You'll need this to support your case and make it difficult for the bullies to deny. Then quietly talk with some of your colleagues and see if they have witnessed the bullying or, have experienced it themselves at the hands of these two. It will make a much stronger case if they are able to provide corroborating evidence.

As a bonus, getting to know them better will make you less of an isolated target for the bullies. When you feel that your incident log is detailed enough, meet with your boss and explain what has been happening.

Don't forget to mention how it is affecting you and your performance at work. If you get a bit emotional throughout this, so be it, but try not to get angry. Hopefully, this should be enough to resolve things but, if not, you'll need to escalate the complaint further yet, following the company's formal grievance procedure. Typically, this would involve the HR department and perhaps a union representative as well. You may also find it helpful to contact ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (acas.org.uk) for free and impartial information and advice.

This whole process will likely not be easy, but it could hardly be worse than your current torment.

SHOULD WE COMPLAIN ABOUT MY HUSBAND'S GP?

My husband has a history of back pain and after yet another bout recently, he saw his GP again. However, rather than prescribing the usual painkillers or yet another x-ray, he told my husband to learn some relaxation techniques and consider seeing a stress counsellor.

My husband took this really badly and accused his GP of saying the pain is all in his head. He stormed out apparently and is now threatening to complain or find another doctor.

I know his pain is real, he's had too many days off work and nights sleeping on his back on the floor for it to be imagined. Should he complain though? We've known our doctor for several years and I don't want us to get black-listed at the surgery.

LE

FIONA SAYS: I don't doubt your husband's pain is real and, if he's still experiencing it, his anger may be understandable. However, I think it is misguided. When he's calmer, try to get him to think about why his doctor has suggested this course of action rather than the usual painkillers. Yes, painkillers mask pain, but they don't necessarily deal with an underlying problem.

And if this has re-occurred over several years and x-rays have failed to find a problem, perhaps it is time for a different approach. What his doctor has suggested is logical. A body that is tight with anxiety and/or stress can cause muscular-skeletal pain, and even if they are not the root cause, learning to relax should help alleviate the symptoms.

So wouldn't your husband rather explore something that might bring relief, than endure this cycle of pain and sleepless nights on the floor?

In the meantime, if the pain does get too much, he still has the option of using painkillers if he wishes. In today's fast-paced world, very few people manage to live stress-free, the rest of us must learn ways to deal with it.

I'M NOT SURE I WANT TO GET MARRIED

I have been engaged for six years and each time we've started to plan a wedding, I've found a reason to pull out.

Last year I used my father's failing health as an excuse. He passed away last month sadly, and I'm embarrassed to admit that if he was still with us, I'd be using him to again deflect my fiance's pressure.

Don't get me wrong, I think I love him, and I value the security that being with him brings, but part of me is terrified at the thought of settling down and losing my independence. Why do I feel this way?

HEB

FIONA SAYS: There's very little in your letter that gives me a clue as to why you can't or won't commit to marriage.

However, if after six years you still don't feel ready, you must know that there is something fundamentally wrong with this engagement, even if you can't define what that is.

Given this, I think it is unfair and hurtful to keep the pair of you in this state of limbo. Be honest and tell your fiance exactly how you feel. He's likely to feel hurt, but you may also be able to find a way for this relationship to survive without marriage. If not, or you still have doubts, perhaps it would kinder for you to go your separate ways now, before you both come to regret it.

:: If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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