DEAR ABBY: I am 30 years old, married seven years, the mother of three children, and I’m at the end of my rope. My husband has quit or been fired from numerous jobs because of his “poor attitude.” He calls the women he works with “fat b—-es” and blames everyone else for his problems. He’s addicted to weed and alcohol, and gets extremely upset if I don’t partake of these things with him.

When he does work, he calls me an average of 15 times a day, or he instant-messages me constantly – and he’s only gone six or seven hours. If I don’t answer the phone or respond to his e-mail immediately, he’ll drop everything and race home to accuse me of cheating or betraying him in some way. On three different occasions he has slapped me in the face, then immediately denied doing it. He has also grabbed me around the throat a few times. He says very hurtful things to me, and then denies saying them. He is verbally abusive to my eldest son from a previous relationship.

I have no friends or family I can turn to. I am extremely depressed and at the point of either running away or killing myself. I’m scared all the time. I’d leave, but he tells me he will hurt me or take my kids away and never let me see them if I do. Can you help me? – NANCY IN NEW MEXICO

DEAR NANCY: If ever I heard of a woman who needed to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it is you, dear lady. The toll-free number (which won’t show up on your phone bill) is (800) 799-7233 (SAFE). The people on the hotline can help you to formulate a safe escape plan from the drug-addicted bully you married. (If this seems harsh, he qualifies.) Please make the call TODAY, not only for your own sake but also for your children’s.

DEAR ABBY: The “Smiths” and our family live on either side of “Betty,” an 84-year-old widow. Betty is a wonderful, caring neighbor most of the time. However, she is beginning to deteriorate mentally and physically. She has a cleaning service that comes in, a teenager to mow her lawn and a MedicAlert necklace, but she has problems grasping and remembering the major things that need to be done outside her home as well as setting up her medication regimen.

Betty’s son lives 250 miles away, but he visits only a couple of times a year. He arrives late one day, stays the next two nights, and leaves early the third morning. Her other children live in other states and rarely visit.

Betty is beginning to rely more and more on us neighbors to get things done for her. While we don’t mind helping out in emergencies, we feel someone else should take over her everyday needs. She is adamant about not going to a nursing home – which I agree with – but there are less-confining possibilities that I think would be better for her and would relieve us of the responsibility and liability of tending to her.

Should we contact her son, or just start to let things go until things become serious? – WORRIED ABOUT BETTY, GRAND JUNCTION, COLO.

DEAR WORRIED: You should absolutely contact your neighbor’s son and tell him exactly what you have told me. His mother may need the help of a visiting nurse, or even a caseworker to make sure she has what she needs and her property is well-kept. You appear to be caring neighbors, but this should not be your responsibility. If Betty’s son doesn’t know where to look for help, please tell him to contact a local senior center or the Colorado state agency on aging, which should be listed in the phone book.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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