Dear Carolyn:

There is a group of women with whom I've taken weekend trips once or twice a year over the last six years. Back in May, we tossed around possible trip ideas for the summer. Nothing was decided. I saw two of these friends (the third lives in another state) a couple times in June and July and none of us brought up a discussion of a trip.

Fast forward to when I opened my Instagram feed to see the three of them on vacation together. I was floored and devastated. None of them had invited me or even told me about it.

I worked through the hurt and anger I was feeling in therapy, in my 12-step program (Adult Children of Alcoholics) and through journaling. I came to realize these friendships were based in superficiality and heavy drinking, and weren't healthy for me.

I did not reach out to any of them to express my revelation or my hurt feelings. I have heard them "talk smack" about women they used to be friends with and I didn't want to give them any ammo to use against me. I don't trust them.

I've had no contact with any of them until two nights ago when one of them texted me suggesting we get together.

I feel I have to say something. Any advice on how to respond? Do I owe her an explanation if I decline?

 Feeling Stuck

Congratulations  you are free.

I'm sorry it hurt you to get there. We've all had that sudden heat and nausea, I'm sure, when our own eyes tell us we're not wanted by the very people we count on to want us. Who can't summon that feeling like it was yesterday?

But the work you did to recover didn't just patch you back up. It spurred you to get better, and you did.

So let that truth dictate how you respond to your (possibly former) friend's text. Tell yourself, "I am free."

Then treat your next steps not as confronting them about your hurt feelings, but instead as the next step in managing the transition from an unhealthy place to a healthy one.

Specifically, focus on your epiphany versus the exclusion that triggered it. You don't know its full story, after all  maybe they've done some separate trips (more discreetly) all along, maybe only one of them vetoed you and the other two feel awkward, etc.  but you know your story, and you're done with this group.

I agree that ignoring a friendly overture is the low road to that.

It takes courage to say (or tap) out loud that you felt vulnerable, and I see why you chose not to initially, but remember  you've since summoned your strength. Don't rule out honesty: "I was hurt when I saw you all on Instagram." Then, your epiphany: " ... but I surprised myself  I'm happier out of the group."

Statements, yes. Defensive explanations, no.

Then, decline her invitation  or accept it if you decide this particular friendship is worth a try, on your terms. Distrust would rule that out, of course, but a shallow group can mask deeper individuals; you were in it, too, remember.

Is there a chance she or all of them will rip you for your honesty? Sure. Will you care?

You're not required to. You control your own philosophy. You can focus where you are present, and mentally release what goes on in your absence. As in: Expect the tree to fall, and don't loiter in the forest to hear it. Or, pithily said and oft paraphrased: "What others think of me is none of my business."

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Dear Carolyn:

My daughter-in-law does not "believe" in vaccinations. Thus my 2-year-old grandson has had no immunizations. I am going to express my (unasked-for) opinion.

How do I do this without generating resentment? I want to be effective, not intrusive, about what I consider a serious health decision. I also do NOT want to be judgmental and shut down our conversation.

My son, the toddler's father, knows my opinion but has not (as far as I know) decided to vaccinate. They live abroad and travel extensively.

 American Grandmom

You already have expressed your "(unasked for) opinion."

And you expressed it to exactly the right person. Your son.

All the rest  that this is serious, that you want to be effective versus intrusive, that being judgmental would shut down the conversation and it's important not to do that, that you're worried sick (yes?)  is all excellent and right and completely academic.

Their kid, their choices, wise ones and blinkered alike, except where law dictates otherwise.

One quibble. You refer to your opinion twice in your letter, but this is a topic already with far more belief and opinion than is good for it. So please: If your opinion is that responsible decisions on vaccination take root in facts from multiple, accredited sources  and only if  then, OK, re-express it. To your son.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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