In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of how and why a person facing an OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charge may want to – or be required to – evaluate his or her drinking. In this second part, we’ll continue that analysis. If a DUI client is wondering about his or her relationship to alcohol, and whether or not it’s troubled, then we need to explore that. One of the more important aspects of this to me, at least in my role as a DUI lawyer, is that I want to keep this private, meaning out of the court’s purview, to the extent possible. This is especially true in 1st offense DUI cases, but not so much in 2nd and 3rd offense cases where the law essentially presumes a person has a drinking problem, anyway. In the confines of my conference room, I can and do help my clients explore their drinking. Although I have completed that post-graduate program of addictions studies, I certainly don’t “play” therapist. I’m not a substance abuse clinician, but I do have a very unique skill set and an unusually good ability to communicate with people, and that allows me to speak with them and help them evaluate things in a way that can be helpful.
By unfortunate contrast, most lawyers seem pre-programmed to reflexively argue against the notion of a client having any kind of drinking problem. After all, as a DUI lawyer, I measure success in terms of what DOES NOT happen to my client. When a DUI just “happens” and the client doesn’t have ay underlying issue with alcohol, then it’s my job to make sure we demonstrate that so that he or she doesn’t wind up getting socked with all kinds of classes and counseling. In that situation, no one is better equipped to protect the client from the overreach of the court system than me. However, if my client does have some issue with drinking, I also need to protect him or her, because the courts typically overreach there, as well, often ordering too much, and often the “wrong” kind of counseling, treatment, and things like AA and alcohol and drug testing.
None of this, as you can see, is about convincing a person that he or she has a drinking problem. People will either learn that on their own, or not. However, there are things that can be shared that can help a person put his or her drinking into perspective. A client once explained to me how he had “managed” his drinking for a few years by following what almost sounded like a “drink by the numbers” plan. Later, when he made the decision to quit, he realized that when you even have to think about controlling or limiting your drinking, you already have a problem, because normal drinkers never have to think that way. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said that normal drinkers are normal drinkers because they can drink normally; a normal drinker can go out with friends to have a drink or two, and have just a drink or two. Maybe someone they haven’t seen in a while shows up, so they stick around for a third. Or, maybe the person has one drink, looks at the time, and says, “you know what, I’ve got a lot of stuff to do, so I’m going to take off.” Whatever else, a normal drinker doesn’t have to keep count so that a drink or two doesn’t become eight or ten or even more.