Dear Dr. Darcy:
I just got my 3rd DUI [driving under the influence] and this time I lost my license for an entire year. As though that wasn’t enough, my boyfriend decided it was time to ask me if I think I’m maybe an alcoholic. I don’t know what defines an alcoholic. I don’t drink every day, though when I drink I usually get drunk, but then again, I’m 21 and that’s what everyone my age does. How do I decide if I have a drinking problem?
Boyfriend, you have a deciding problem, that’s for sure. You consume alcohol and then you try to make a rational decision regarding whether or not to drive a car. Hey, listen up: The time to make that decision is before you’ve had anything to drink ~ not after. Hence, you have a deciding problem.
You’re getting tripped up in whether or not you have a drinking problem, and even sober, it’s blurring your vision. A better question is why the fuck you continue to get into a car after you’ve been drinking.
It’s very basic: You must decide immediately that you will never get behind the wheel of a car if you’ve even had a sip. The boundary needs to be that bold, otherwise, DUI, you’ll begin bargaining with yourself: ‘I’ll only have half a beer. OK…I’ll only have one beer,’ and so it goes until you find yourself once again making a decision under the influence. Think of it as an experiment and the minute you find yourself failing, i.e. drinking when you’ve made a commitment not to, consider that your red flag to get your ass into an AA meeting. It’s really that simple.
I’ll end on a personal note by sharing a story with you. In 2002, when my oldest sister was running an errand with her then 2 year-old-daughter in the car, she was hit by a drunk driver who was driving the wrong way on a one-way street. The impact shattered my sister’s skeleton and caused such severe brain trauma that the doctors were fairly certain she wouldn’t make it. She survived, mostly because she was in the best physical shape of her life (she was a professional dancer). Today, her neurological functioning is about the level of a high-functioning autistic person’s. She requires prompts to complete most daily activities and to take care of her daughter, who, for all intents and purposes, lost the mother she had at age 2 (her daughter suffered a broken femur). Her husband, bless his soul, has been and remains my sister's caregiver though he lost the vivacious, brilliant and active woman he married.
So you see, DUI, you’ve been lucky so far because your thoughtless decisions haven’t affected anyone else. The only person more affected by my sister’s accident is the guy who was driving that car. In 2017 he’ll be out of jail. But he’ll have to live the rest of his life knowing that he destroyed my sister’s life, and that, DUI, is quite a buzz kill.
Writer’s Stats: Male, gay.