How to talk to my drunk driving boyfriend
July 5, 2009 10:48 AM   Subscribe

I just found out that my boyfriend drove drunk last night... What do I say to him?

Background: We are both 25 and have been dating for a year and a half. We are doing the long-distance thing for 3 months (just started a couple weeks ago) and he has been home for a week visiting his family in L.A. I'm pretty sure both his mom and younger brother have problems with alcohol, and his dad used to be an alcoholic. My boyfriend rarely drinks with me, but has said a couple things about how much fun he has when he does drink. In general though, he is very responsible and when he does drink, he has never done anything abnormally irresponsible.

However, last night, my boyfriend ended up going out clubbing with his mom (a little weird, but whatever). I realized he was drunk after getting misspelled text messages and reports on his drinking. About an hour after the last incoherent message, I texted him to see how things were going. He said he was almost home and that he was driving because his mom wasn't sober enough to drive. I was upset, but didn't want to text him anymore because as bad as drinking and driving is, text drunk driving is even worse. I talked to him later, which confirmed that he was still drunk, but he didn't seem repentant at all... he said he got home safe, so it didn't really matter!

Obviously I plan on talking to my boyfriend more about this, but I am worried that he doesn't seem concerned about his drunk driving. I'm really upset about this, and although I'm not a fan of ultimatums, this could be a deal breaker for me. I can forgive if I know this is a one time thing, but I feel like if he doesn't see anything wrong with it now, he won't later either. I'm sure I'm not the first one to have someone close to me drive drunk, so I was wondering how other people have dealt with this.

Any suggestions for talking to him and explaining my dismay in a constructive way? I'm worried about him and his safety, as well as the possible repercussions of drunk driving.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ask him how he'd feel today if he'd had an accident and killed or seriously injured his mum. A friend of mine tore up his license the day after he drove his mum and sister home when he was drunk. He knew he was going to keep drinking, but he never wanted to be in a position ever again where he put people he loved into danger. Of course, we live in a city where public transit and cabs are there when you need them, and that was a bit over the top, so this may not work for your BF.
posted by x46 at 10:57 AM on July 5, 2009

"You're a complete idiot who could have killed someone, what the hell is wrong with you? Next time take a cab or walk. Do it again and this relationship is over."

Well, that's what I'd say anyway. I have absolutely zero patience for people who aren't in a state to properly operate thousands of pounds of lethal metal.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:17 AM on July 5, 2009 [30 favorites]

Start small. If you go in guns blazing, you're probably not going to like the outcome. At this point, treat it as a single, isolated lapse of judgement rather than a certain, future pattern. More "hey next time you guys go out drinking, leave the cars at home m'kay" kind of stuff than "OMG, you're turning into your father".

You're right, he may never see this as a problem - I have a friend who still drives drunk after serving several prison terms for doing so. Ultimately, you're not responsible for any one else's behaviour except your own and you don't have the right to control other people's. If it's a deal-breaker for you, then it's a deal-breaker for you and you should make that clear but never issue an ultimatum unless you're willing to live with either outcome.

Once we're adults, no-body else gets to choose who we should be or who we are - we alone choose our behaviour and its consequences. In general, we get to decide which risks are acceptable to us. Be careful about playing the "worried about your safety" card - it can come across as really parental and condescending. Mention it, but don't elevate that particular issue to the level of emotional blackmail - doing so never ends well. If you're on the same page, he'll acknowledge your concern without your discussion turning into an argument about whose "rights" should prevail.

I'm not much of a Dr Phil fan, but something he once said really resonated with me. It was about raising an issue and trusting your partner to act it good faith to address it. It's a good piece of advice. When you try to micro-manage your partner's behaviour, you aren't trusting them to act in good faith and the question arises of why you would be with a partner you don't trust (and why they would remain with someone who doesn't trust them. This seems like one of those issues where that advice is especially relevant.
posted by Lolie at 11:20 AM on July 5, 2009 [12 favorites]

If I understand correctly, he didn't see it as a problem when he was still drunk last night. When he's sober, have a one-on-one conversation to assess his feelings after the fact. If he's still not concerned, not sure what to say to that. Could be feeling defensive, or just totally, stupidly in denial about the risks. There are several ways to appeal to him, including the danger to others and the costs to him if he gets caught by the cops. Very, very expensive lesson, though better than hurting someone.

If he is repentant, help him to understand he has to have transportation plans sorted before he starts drinking. Leave the car at home and cab it, use a designated driver, or park where it's okay to leave the car overnight (this is risky if he is a drinker who can easily convince himself he's not too drunk to drive).

Basically, I wouldn't consider it a deal-breaker unless he doesn't care and will continue to drive drunk. But you won't know until you talk to him.
posted by JenMarie at 11:30 AM on July 5, 2009

I would anticipate that he will be defensive about this, because he probably knows that what he did is wrong (despite trying to play it off as no big deal).

So I think you should maybe emphasize your concern for him, and that you are able to forgive if this is a one-time indiscretion that will never happen again, to try to minimize his inclination to react defensively. But also be clear that this is something that has really upset you (for all of the very valid reasons you brought up in your post) and might be a deal-breaker.

If brushes you off or refuses to admit he did anything wrong that could be a red flag. The clubbing with mom and the family history of alcohol abuse make me wonder if there aren't some deep-seated issues at play here that may be bigger than a relationship can handle (ie. "she rejects my drinking = she rejects my family = she rejects my identity"). But I could also be way off base there, so, you know.
posted by AV at 11:31 AM on July 5, 2009

I would say, "I was under the impression that you were drunk driving last night because of X, Y and Z. Is that true?" If so, then talk about the damn elephant in the room. If he's all deny deny deny, look for plausible explanations, e.g. he really can't spell, was texting while driving (still dumb, but you get the idea).
posted by ShadePlant at 11:32 AM on July 5, 2009

You should decide how long you want to date an alcoholic and what your limits are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:37 AM on July 5, 2009 [9 favorites]

If it helps to know this, you're in the right on this one. It would concern me that his convenience matters more than the risk to innocent people on the roadways.

Some ethical sensations are hard to teach; they're either there or not there, it seems. His inability to imagine the nightmarish outcomes of driving drunk reflects poorly on his likely ability to imagine, say, how having an affair might hurt you.

In other words, this is not one of those ridiculous dealbreakers like someone not liking an album or a movie. It's basic.

As for what you say: "You drove drunk, and that bothers me." Any equivocations from him, you reply: "It still bothers me." That's factual and straightforward. Don't tell him what to do or feel, but don't slip away from the basic point. Because, indeed, it bothers you. Where you two go from there is up to the two of you.
posted by argybarg at 11:42 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, the mid-twenties are a time when many people discard externally imposed values and discover their own. What you learn about yourself from this will be every bit as important as what you learn about your boyfriend.
posted by Lolie at 11:58 AM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Brandon's comment is a little bit dismissive, but I think he has the right idea. A few of the things in your post suggest he's at high risk for becoming an alcoholic. Keep an eye on that. Everyone I know who's ever driven drunk continued to have problems with alcohol. Repeat offenses for drunken drivers in the US remain high, and the police only catch a fraction of them anyway. On the other hand, people do make mistakes. Doesn't sound like this is going to be an isolated incident, but for now it might be best to give the benefit of the doubt. You have to say something, but I don't think ranting and raving is a good idea. Firmly denounce drunken driving and entreat him never to do it again.

I also second the idea of discussing alternative transportation, both in general and specifically. Part of the reason drunk driving remains such a problem in the USA is the inconvenience of public transportation, the expense of cabs, and the inconvenience of leaving one's car somewhere (all consequences of the car-reliant culture). A thorough mapping-out of good ways to get home when too drunk to drive may be helpful in forestalling another occurrence.
posted by Maximian at 12:03 PM on July 5, 2009

You should decide how long you want to date an alcoholic and what your limits are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:37 PM

I'm not sure I would agree with this conclusion, based on what little we know about him.
posted by orme at 12:04 PM on July 5, 2009 [8 favorites]

You're basing it on some misspelled texts? A phone conversation? Do you also have a breathalyzer? Unless you know he was drunk I'd approach it as "Driving Buzzed". A little less accusatory, and equally educational.
posted by Gungho at 12:08 PM on July 5, 2009

A thorough mapping-out of good ways to get home when too drunk to drive may be helpful in forestalling another occurrence.

Or maybe even not coming home that night. If it comes down to someone crashing at a friend's or a hotel rather than driving drunk, I can live with them calling me to say they're not going to be home that night - drunk people on public transport are a bit of a trouble magnet here.
posted by Lolie at 12:11 PM on July 5, 2009

A partnership is just that -- teamwork to improve the partners' lives, and part of this teamwork requires not doing stupid things that have the potential to harm oneself and, indirectly, their partner.

If you can explore how & why even "Driving Buzzed" is a stupid thing to do then perhaps this will not be a problem in the future.
posted by @troy at 12:12 PM on July 5, 2009

I think you should speak to him about his drunk/buzzed driving and let him know that you are not okay with it, at all. As most people are not okay with drunk/buzzed driving, and it is generally a very stupid thing to be doing I would feel obligated to say something. However, you already realize that when people are drunk they tend to do stupid things and if they had all of their senses about them they probably would have made a different choice. Easy solution is to simply talk to him and lay out your ground rules for this topic.

Speaking to the other comments though, folks are inferring he is an alcoholic based on very limited information. You said yourself that you "think" his mother and brother "might" be alcoholics. You need to know these things if you are going to decide the ultimate course of your relationship with him based on your perception of his family and/or his perceived risk to alcoholism. Has he said that he has fun when he's drunk or did he simply relay a story that was a fun time for him, and he happened to be drinking at the time. Sobriety/Alcoholism is a funny thing for many people and can mean many different things.

I struggled with alcoholism for many years and now I stay away from alcohol. Others I know have a drink daily but are not alcoholics. For me, I can't have one drink and be satisfied with that. Others can have 1 beer and be perfectly content.

The turning point for me was when my wife laid out her ground rules that would allow our relationship to continue. Good Luck.
posted by Gravitus at 12:19 PM on July 5, 2009

I'm with dnab. An ex came home drunk one night, and the next morning I explained to him that while he may have felt at the time he was ok to drive, I bet he wouldn't have passed a breathalyzer. As we had a friend get a DUI for being buzzed, we both knew how inconvenient your life gets when you're not allowed to drive. I thought that was the end of it until it happened again. That time I made it very clear that this was a breakupable offense, and if he drove drunk again it would be the last he saw of me. That one worked.
We broke up anyway (for unrealted reasons), so YMMV.
posted by dogmom at 12:23 PM on July 5, 2009

You can also bring up the consequences of a drunk driving conviction. Even for the first offense, he could get jail time AND a suspended license AND a shitload of fines. That'll put a cramp in his clubbing schedule. (Not meaning to be harsh to the OP, but I also have no patience with people who drive impaired.)
posted by shiny blue object at 12:34 PM on July 5, 2009

The turning point for me was when my wife laid out her ground rules that would allow our relationship to continue.

I think ground rules are incredibly important in relationships. I also think that people often issue ultimatums assuming that their partner will change their behaviour rather than lose the relationship and that if they really aren't willing to live with either outcome they find themselves back-peddling - in essence, they find that their espoused values aren't their real values and so they keep on forgiving something "just this once", until they've done so hundreds of times. In other words, they don't have the courage of their convictions and become enablers.

What many people say are their deal-breakers are not when tested in reality. As far as possible, it's important to be honest with yourself about whether you really will walk over a certain issue before laying ground-rules or issuing ultimatums - there's a non-trivial risk that the other person will call your bluff. As I look back on the last thirty years, there's a vast difference between the things I thought were deal-breakers for me and those which actually are - I wish we could all discover the difference much earlier in life than we usually do.
posted by Lolie at 12:35 PM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

I can't tell you what to do, of course, but I can say that it would be a huge deal to me. Maybe breakup-worthy, definitely ultimatum-worthy.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:40 PM on July 5, 2009

You might want to consider making the conversation about driving while impaired in any way. While alcohol gets the majority of the media attention, prescription drugs and fatigue are also significant contributors to accidents involving heavy machinery of all kinds (and a car is heavy machinery).
posted by Lolie at 12:49 PM on July 5, 2009

A lot of these responses sound really confrontational and are just likely to make him defensive. I absolutely agree with dnab, but saying it that way, you're basically lecturing him as if he's a child. He's an adult, and he knows the consequences of his actions. Reminding him of those consequences merely serves to make him defensive.

Instead, use what I call "I-statements" where you express to him how his behavior effects you. He can't become defensive if it's about you. You might say for example, "When I realized last night that were driving drunk, I was really worried about your safety, and the repercussions of driving drunk." Then you could say "I don't think I can allow myself to be in that situation again." In both cases, you're talking about how what he does affects you. You're basically acknowledging, without saying so, that you respect him as an adult, and recognize his ability to make adult decision, however stupid.

I would make a last suggestion that you not make this about his alcoholic family. He is not his mother or his father.

You should decide how long you want to date an alcoholic and what your limits are.

If you think it takes acloholic-levels of drunkenness to be over the limit, you probably have driven drunk. If you are at all buzzed, there is a good chance you are DUI (legally speaking).
posted by !Jim at 12:58 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure I would agree with this conclusion, based on what little we know about him.

1. He comes from a family with a drinking problem.

2. He drinks and comments about how fun he has while drinking.

3. Irresponsible things have happened before due to his drinking, just nothing abnormal.

4. He drove drunk while texting.

5. He didn't see a problem with #4, since nothing happened.

Bonus: Going clubbing with mom (That hints strongly of majorly screwed up family dynamics) and her getting too drunk to drive and that not being an issue for him.

Is it possible he's not an alcoholic? Sure, but the signs point to have having a problem. Having seen alcohol destroy people close to me, the best thing the original poster could do is assume the worst and decide how she feels about that and decide how much she will tolerant.

It would be great if he isn't an alcoholic, but based on the list above, she needs to protect herself before being dragged into drama.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:01 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

3. Irresponsible things have happened before due to his drinking, just nothing abnormal.

I noticed this too and would be interested in more details. Could just be "lost wallet while drunk" or "forgot to call me and let me know what was going on" type irresponsibility, though.

posted by Lolie at 1:10 PM on July 5, 2009

I was married to a guy that used to drive drunk. Nothing I said ever changed what he did. What did change his behavior was hitting a bunch of cars in a parking lot, getting arrested, spending the night in jail, losing his job because he lost his commercial drivers license, and the three years worth of time and money he had to spend on the DUI. We talked about how much worse it could have been and how bad it was and he decided to not drink except at home.

Notice I said I WAS married to this guy. This type of behavior was a deal breaker for me. Words just don't get through to some people.
posted by shmurley at 1:59 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

What do I say to him?

I guess this depends on what the real issue is for you. If it's about driving in a way which endangers himself and others, then whether he drives while fatigued and whether he speeds are just as relevant as alcohol. If it's his family history and his personal relationship with alcohol that you're concerned about, then you owe it to both yourself and him to be honest about that.

I love a drink as much as the next Aussie, but I find the comment about how much fun he has when he does drink a bit odd. Sometimes I have fun when I drink, sometimes I don't - alcohol usually just amplifies my original mood, the being buzzed or drunk on it's own isn't what makes the situation fun or not fun. Take alcohol away from those situations for your boyfriend, and would they still be fun for him? Is he drinking to get drunk in those situations or does it "just happen"?

It's OK to be concerned about his family history, but be honest about it is that is your concern. I come from a family with serious alcohol issues and went through a binge drinking stage in my younger days - as did many of my peers whose families had no alcohol issues - and am now old enough to see how my own relationship with alcohol was influenced by, but is very different from, that of my family members whose lives were controlled by it. One thing I have noticed which might be useful to you if that who people drink with is interesting - by and large, people choose drinking partners who validate their own drinking style whether that's sharing the occasional bottle of wine or getting "vomit and pass out drunk" every weekend.
posted by Lolie at 2:10 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

although I'm not a fan of ultimatums, this could be a deal breaker for me.

Stick with your feelings about ultimatums. They're a poor way to engage with other humans.

Personal standards, however, are perfectly reasonable. It's an important distinction, both in how you discuss things with other people and how you live with yourself. This matter in particular is important and does a good job of illustrating the distinction.

Someone who gets behind the wheel drunk isn't doing something repugnant, they're demonstrating a number of things about their personality: their concern for others, their concern for their own well-being, their attitude about risk taking, their ability to assess their own competence.... His reaction when you broach this subject will also tell you a lot about how he reacts to criticism and his after-the-fact judgment.

This - both in action and post-facto - is far more important as an indicator of a hundred other things important to your relationship than it is as an action in and of itself.
posted by phearlez at 3:18 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd, well, I'd break up with him. I think you should break up with him.
posted by Neofelis at 3:48 PM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would just say something like, "I don't like seeing you do this. To me it's a big deal."

From there, see if he seems to be taking you seriously. Give him a chance to respond maturely before you start laying down ultimatums and judgments and so on. If he's just laughing it off and saying it was nothing, etc., then you can decide whether you're really going to leave over this and so on.

It seems like the long-distance factor could complicate this, as well; e.g., it could turn into you just not hearing about what he's been out doing. So that's something else to consider.
posted by dixie flatline at 3:48 PM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

At DUI school, they try a number of ways to influence you to never drink and drive again. Everyone has different pressure points and I think the key to preventing someone from D&D is to identify those points that will work for them. When you're drunk it's easy to dismiss one reason or another but if he has a number of things to think about, it will be more effective to preventing him from getting behind the wheel.

The ones that work for me:

1. The I-could-never-live-with-myself guilt if I hurt or killed a friend or family member in my car
2. The I-could-never-live-with-myself guilt if I hurt or killed a friend or family member riding in another car that I happened to hit
3. The I-could-never-live-with-myself guilt if I hurt or killed a friend or family member who was crossing the street and I didn't see them
4. A DUI stays on your record forever. Anyone, a potential employer, landlord, or business partner, who runs a basic record check will see it. Read again: it never, ever comes off the public record. You can draw easy conclusions about potential lost job opportunities, embarrassment, humiliation, etc.
5. A DUI is extremely expensive. In chronological order, there's the towing fees, attorney fees, court fees, fines, driver license reinstatement fee, DUI school payments, payments to the police for doing their community service (ie. paying the sheriff's office to "manage" you while you pick up freeway traffic), taxi ride costs, and of course the 7-10 years worth of auto insurance premiums sent through the roof. Depending on your car, the overall costs are in the low to mid thousands of dollars and closing on $10,000 if you drive a lot or have a job that requires a high amount of auto coverage. I ran the numbers and assuming I took $7 cab rides everywhere, I could have taken a taxi ride everywhere I needed to go for the next decade just to break even with the total DUI costs. I'm fairly frugal when it comes to personal expenses so this one really resonates with me.
6. A DUI results in an automatic 4-month driver license suspension for the first offense and 12 months for the second offense. So that's 4 months without a car and you'll need to trouble and be dependent on someone for all non-work transportation. Also extrapolate to lost job if driving is required and other costs or "lost" opportunities.
7. Community service requirements vary by county but in SF, I had to give up months of Saturdays to pick up disgusting trash along the freeway and major roads in bright vests. SF has a huge homeless population that lives along and under freeways so we're talking cans, old bottles, old bottles filled with urine, needles, old smelly clothes, paper bags filled with stuff (incl poop), and who knows what else. A few times, I was assigned with a crew very close to where my roommate or friends lived and the thought that one of them would recognize me was rather worrying and potentially humiliating.
8. DUI school sucks for work/life schedule. The class started exactly after my job's posted hours so not only did I have to rush over right after work but many times I had to make up an excuse about why I couldn't stay extra to get something done. And the class lasts for hours.
9. While the BAC limit for the first DUI is 0.08, the BAC limit for the second DUI is 0.00. That's right, for the following 10 years, if there's even a whiff of alcohol on his breath it's an automatic second DUI. And police officers get the right to give you a breathalyzer at any time for any reason. So if after the first DUI, say he gets pulled over for a busted tail light and the cop runs his driver license and sees the DUI, the cop can request a breathalyzer test. If there's even just 0.01 BAC (1 beer barely less than an hour ago), all the second offense penalties are immediately invoked.
10. Living in SF, I can call a cab anytime. Door-to-door service, why not?
11. I have good friends who I know I could call anytime and get a ride, no matter the hour or place. You may want to give him the same option of being able to call you anytime and get a ride home, no question asked. Hell, make it an incentive for him the first few times if you know what I mean. #10 and #11 are important because they provide better alternatives to driving himself if he does drink. Options change the question from "Am I too drunk to drive?" into "Can I get a ride from someone sober or call a taxi/my gf/my family?" which is much, much better.

So purely from a practical standpoint, a DUI (and drunk driving) sucks. It's costly, inconvenient, and potentially embarrassing. The alcoholism issue can be very touchy and I would save that for a separate conversation another time. Tearing into someone for driving drunk and labeling them an alcoholic in the same speech is extremely confrontational. I think it's better and more effective to appeal to a person's better senses for drunk driving and deal with touchy addiction and family issues separately.
posted by junesix at 4:11 PM on July 5, 2009 [8 favorites]

What do I say to him?

"You are a thoughtless, uncaring, and incredibly stupid individual. I'm sure I can do better."
posted by Sys Rq at 4:21 PM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you go in guns blazing, you're probably not going to like the outcome.

If the outcome is dumping this guy, she might like it very much.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 5:03 PM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Actually, driving "Intexticated" might be the bigger problem:

So, start by having a talk about this fascinating blog's take on that article, and then go on to talk about this post and article:

And then go on about how adding alcohol to the mix could have caused a scenario that is just unbearable to think about, and now that YOU know better, you never want to have to worry about him that way again.

(sorry for the links that way - I don't have much time and am using the "bad" browser for this)
posted by peagood at 5:14 PM on July 5, 2009

Many of the responses I'm reading in here strike me as overly self-righteous and counter-productive. What's with all the After-School-Special melodrama? I think you'll get more mileage with something a little more down to earth, like: "I'm glad you had a good time last night, but you need to be safe. Next time, call me when you're ready to come home and I will come and pick you up. Or call a cab and I'll take you back to get your car the next day."
posted by spilon at 5:41 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

If the outcome is dumping this guy, she might like it very much.

Thus my point about getting real about whether this is really a deal-breaker for the OP and being willing to walk the walk. It's easy to take the moral high ground - backing it up with action is a pretty good indication of whether or not someone is being sincere or self-righteous.
posted by Lolie at 6:37 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

What's with all the After-School-Special melodrama?
Because he needs to see that it's really important to her, and that she genuinely fears for his life if he keeps doing this stupid thing. It's drink driving we're talking about, not the toilet seat.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:43 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

A kid I grew up with and liked a lot drank, drove and plowed head-on into a car driven by the father of two little girls. The two little girls grew up without their father. The kid's family was destroyed: they got hate mail for years. He wasn't an alcoholic - he was just a drunk driver. Even though he was handsome and popular, that kid is only remembered as a drunk and a killer - in fact, that is exactly how I remember him. My last memory of him was of him in his casket with his family sobbing around his body. The conversation ran something like, "He looks pretty good, considering."

There is no excuse for driving drunk. Ever. Driving drunk doesn't make you an alcoholic, but it does mean you have a problem.

You know him better than we do - would he care about the cost and inconvenience and the lifetime DUI record as junesix pretty graphically described it? Would he care that not only he, but his whole family would be hated forever if he hurt or killed someone else while driving drunk? Those are the best reasons I know of not to drink and drive.
posted by clarkstonian at 9:30 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please also consider the ramifications for YOU. A close family member was caught multiple times driving drunk* and she lost her license for a year. Guess who was stuck driving her around? Running errands? Her parents. Picking up a 25-year-old woman from work.

I wouldn't ask him, I would tell him, you were drunk, you were driving, it is not OK with me and if you do it again I will dump you.

Be prepared for him to hide this behavior and lie to you in the future to keep from paying the consequences. You will probably be suspicious of him for a long time.
posted by kathrineg at 9:44 PM on July 5, 2009

Also think about the weird enabling behavior towards his mom. Speaks to a lack of boundaries that might be a problem in the future if you and mom start to disagree about his drinking.
posted by kathrineg at 9:46 PM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

follow-up from the OP
Thank you for all of the thoughtful responses! I took the suggestions with a grain of salt (no he is not an alcoholic and no I am not going to break up with him over an isolated incident and no I do not think he is going to suddenly start compulsively lying to me) and talked to my boyfriend earlier today. I took argybarg's advice to continue reiterating my concern at his behavior, as well as Lolie's to not go in guns blazing, but rather giving him the benefit of the doubt.

He was kind of surprised that I was bothered so much, since I hadn't said much originally after I talked to him. He also said that he was buzzed if anything and not drunk, which I reiterated was still not ok. After I said that, he realized how serious this was to me, and sincerely apologized. He on his own said that he would make sure that he would get a hotel next time he was even questionable to drive and that he didn't want me worrying about him. We discussed my concern about his family history, and he said that is why he doesn't drink very often and made a good point when he asked me if he had ever given me any reason to suspect him of being an alcoholic, either in word or action (to which my honest answer was no, not before last night... see the next paragraph). The post talking about how he is not his father or mother also helped in my discussion of that topic. I really emphasized that I couldn't tolerate this happening again and that this was a big deal to me, so he knows where we stand and what I expect.

As far as the suggestions that he is an alcoholic, I can assure you he is not. While I can see how some people might jump to conclusions with his family history and my limited background description, the "nothing abnormally irresponsible" that I described was meant to entail things that almost anyone does while drunk- i.e. lose small items, forget to call, etc. I did not mean that as a phrase to cover accidentally running over small children or abusing old ladies. And he does have fun when he drinks, but to be honest, so do I, as we usually have a celebratory drink or drink at an occasional party.

Once again, thanks for the suggestions! If I could mark best answers, there would be a lot of them!
posted by jessamyn at 5:46 AM on July 6, 2009

As bitter as this would make me feel, this is one of the few situations where I would focus totally on him, and not bother with the effect on anyone else.
You can lose your license, You can get a huge fine, You can go to jail, You can get seriously hurt, You can die.
You know, just in case he's one of those people who don't really care about anyone else and would do something irresponsible like drive drunk?
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 5:55 AM on July 6, 2009

Hey, just a note about the lying--I don't mean it as a personality defect as much as a natural consequence of an ultimatum. People will go to great lengths to keep the people they love and it tends to make people hide their mistakes instead of trying to work on them long-term. I still feel like an ultimatum is appropriate but maybe you should make the promise to yourself instead of him.

I'm sure he's a great guy and I'm sorry if my comment sounded overly doomsday.
posted by kathrineg at 6:45 AM on July 6, 2009

Email him this video of Jim Leyritz who was in an accident with another woman who was driving drunk while he was under the influence. He doesn't seem very drunk in the video and I'm sure under normal circumstances Leyritz would have made it home just fine but the thing that most drunk drivers don't allow for is the situation when they will be forced to react and that .14 BAC is going to make you just a second slower - in this case it meant that Leyritz could not avoid a collision with another drunk driver. Now you could say it was just bad luck but back luck tends to find you when you risk fate over and over like he did. The woman died now he's facing manslaughter charges.
posted by any major dude at 7:23 AM on July 6, 2009

I'd say "Wow, it's really easy to get busted, and losing your license would really, really suck"
"of course you know that it's really not safe. I love you and want you in 1 piece."
posted by theora55 at 9:19 AM on July 6, 2009

Forward him junesix's list
posted by lalochezia at 5:10 PM on July 6, 2009

I saw where Jessamyn had posted your follow-up, but already had this typed out:

I had a dear friend drive drunk and wrap his vehicle around a tree. He's lucky to be alive.

The first time he was at my home afterwards, I hugged him and said, "Glad you aren't dead." and then I punched him hard in the arm and said, "That tree could have been my kids, you stupid fuck."

He wasn't even driving home from my house at the time, but now he totally understands that he's gonna be on the very comfy couch here if he's been drinking. Period.

It was pride that caused my friend to feel like he could drive home after getting way too damned drunk. It was pride that almost killed him. A taxi (or hotel, if that works for them) is a lot less expensive in the long run.

Going out and having a few with his Mom is one thing, driving after is another.
posted by lilywing13 at 11:43 PM on July 6, 2009

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