The question: I have a friend who is a functional alcoholic. Every day after work he stops by a bar, and within two hours consumes two pitchers of beer. Needless to say he drives home. He’s not sloppy drunk, nor does he exhibit signs of being drunk, but I’m sure his reaction time is impaired. Two years ago he was arrested for drunk driving. After hiring a lawyer who used to work as a police officer, he got the charges dropped to reckless driving. The lawyer advised him that next time he is pulled over not to submit to any tests, but to request a lawyer. He was pulled over again last week and did as he’d been advised. He spent the night in jail, allowing the alcohol level in his blood to drop, making it pointless to test him. I don’t want to see him get away with this anymore. I don’t know what to do. I fear that confronting him will do nothing. I feel if I make an ultimatum in regard to our friendship, he will choose alcohol, which won’t stop his drinking and driving. Part of me wonders if I should anonymously inform the police of information that would help prove their case against my friend, but I feel this would be a huge betrayal. I just want to stop this behavior and help him avoid harming an innocent bystander.
—Afraid for a Friend
Read Prudie’s answer here, but basically she says lie in wait for him at a bar and then call in the police to track him and arrest him. I suggest a different approach…
1. He shouldn’t be your friend in the first place.
2. Turning him in to the police will make him your ex-friend. That is in some ways a good start, but I suggest you have only weak duties to help your "soon to be ex-friends."
3. If you wish to help innocent bystanders, forget about your friend and stand outside a popular bar with a cell phone. Or work overtime and invest the money in third world micro-finance. There is no good consequentialist reason to target your friend’s drinking and driving. (Did I just call him your "friend"?) It is unlikely that is the area of your greatest effectiveness, especially since the guy doesn’t care much about you.
4. What is she trying to get out of her system? Has he neglected her in favor of the alcohol? Often you can infer the real motivations by taking the opposite of the "pen name," in this case "Afraid for a Friend."
Let us do one more:
Question: I have a fiance who has an anxiety problem for which he takes medication. He wants to bring his guitar with him on our honeymoon because he said since he can’t bring his piano (he’s a classically trained pianist), he needs some instrument to play. He said that he needs the guitar or else he will feel anxious, because he would not have any instrument to practice. It irks me to no end that if he doesn’t have an instrument and he’s sharing company with me, that’s what he’s focusing on even though we’re watching TV or at dinner, etc. When we have gone away for a weekend and he has not brought his guitar, he drinks instead. He does not get drunk, but he does drink enough over time that the alcohol keeps him from "performing." Is it selfish to want to have my honeymoon with just my husband and not have him leaving to go to another room to practice for a couple hours? I want undivided attention! Yet, I don’t want to have him drinking and not able to perform, nor yearning to play an instrument while he is with me. Shouldn’t I be enough, at least for our honeymoon?
—Feeling Not Important Enough
Prudie says you are a pain in the neck and you should split with a man you obviously do not love or even like. I’ve been known to offer this advice myself, but let’s give it another spin. There is a reason why "Feeling Not Important Enough" made a bad choice in the first place. If she splits with him, she will be "drawing from the urn without replacement," as they say. And what a very special urn it is. Should she think that simply making another choice will yield something much better? At least this first pick a) plays at least two musical instruments, and b) is taking medication, which is more than you can say for the median impotent, nervous, obsessive-compulsive, alcoholic musician.