"The trouble is, he's not lying in the gutter on 4th Street in Santa Ana, so he doesn't think he's an alcoholic. But deep down he knows it, and he knows that he can't stop."
Larson challenges Jack to a face-to-face meeting. "He says he's a moderate to heavy drinker. I'd like to give him an assessment and tell him exactly what level he's on."
And he suggests that Jack's friends confront him as well. After reading Jack's description of a friend's reaction when he walked in the door holding a bottle of beer after driving down Laguna Canyon Road, Larson says "she was appalled. But the trouble is, she didn't say: 'Jack, you'd better do something about your drinking problem.' "
Although attitudes and laws have begun to change, Larson says that we as a society are also afraid to confront drunk driving head-on. "It's still socially acceptable to drink and drive. Still. It is becoming socially unacceptable to drive drunk, or under the influence, but for each individual, where is that fine line? For some people, it's two beers. For others, it's five. We have to decide that you can't drink and drive, period. And we haven't done that yet.
"The booze industry is painting such a beautiful picture of drinking. They spend billions of dollars advertising. Every message on TV says it's OK to drink a lot, and you're weird if you don't. This guy is a living example of a beer ad."
Cater agrees. Jack "is getting a lot of mixed messages."
"We've gotten more serious about drunk driving, but we're not that serious yet," she says. "We haven't said we're going to really hold a person accountable. As a community, we're just not ready to do that yet."
Off the Wagon but in the Car
Are you now or have you ever been a Jack? If he were your friend, would you be willing to take away his car keys if necessary to keep him off the road? Do you know people like him?
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