Dear Dr. Wallace:

I’m in my fourth year at the University of Wisconsin and will earn my degree in elementary education in late spring.

A year ago, I had no thoughts of getting married. My only goal was to graduate and find employment teaching elementary school students.

In the past year, I’ve fallen for a guy who owns a small company in Madison. As long as marriage would not interfere with my goal of becoming a teacher, I am seriously considering marrying him. My only concern is that this fellow is a recovering alcoholic. He has been through therapy and hasn’t consumed alcohol in 15 months. He says that he has his life in order and will never touch another drop of alcohol for the rest of his life.

What are the odds this fellow can remain alcohol-free? I’m aware that there is no cure for alcoholism.

— Anonymous,

Madison, Wisconsin

Dear Anonymous: If a recovering alcoholic does not consume alcohol in any form or amount, he or she can enjoy a normal life. But as you know, one alcoholic drink can overpower the alcoholic and is likely to trigger regular use again.

The good news is the longer he remains alcohol-free, the better his chances are of staying that way. Every case is different, so I suggest that you remain supportive of his abstinence from alcohol and look at his behavior in other areas of his life to judge his overall character. If what you see is positive, I feel he will have a very decent chance to stay alcohol-free.

Dear Dr. Wallace: You have said in the past that teens should set goals and work diligently to reach them. Did you set goals before you attended college? And if so, did you reach them? Also, if you were not a columnist for teens, what would you have liked to be doing to earn a living these days?

— Cindy,

Hobart, Indiana

Dear Cindy: My prime goal when entering college was to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in four years. I reached that goal. My next goal was to become a high school teacher and a varsity basketball coach. Earning a master’s degree in education at a university helped me reach goal No. 2. My educational experience gave me the background to reach goal No. 3: to write a syndicated column for teens and their parents.

I thoroughly enjoyed my years as a teacher and coach, and I feel privileged to be able to write a syndicated column for teens. I don’t want to change careers, but since you asked, there are some options that would be fun to explore.

For instance, I would consider giving up this column to become a manager of the Chicago Cubs or, perhaps, a conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. And I wouldn’t mind starring in a movie alongside a famous actor and actress. Becoming the president of a fine university doesn’t sound too bad, and I would enjoy becoming a publisher of a widely read newspaper.

As you can see, there is a difference between a goal and a pipe dream. Set goals that can be attained, not fantasies far beyond the limits of your present situation. If you truly want to strive for a very lofty goal, be willing to put in the time and effort to build up your skills in the area of your desire. Be aware this will take a lot of time and maximum effort.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.