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I met an amazing guy. We have yet to go out, but weíve been e-mailing and calling each other. Early this week, I went out with friends, had a wild, drunken night, and called him at 3 a.m. I donít recall what I said, and Iím mortified. The next morning, I e-mailed him to apologize, but never heard back. He always e-mails or calls back, and right away! I need to know how to doctor this situation, because heís so wonderful, I donít want to lose him.

--Drunk Dialer

Itís great if the guy you like is fantasizing about you -- providing he isnít picturing you face down in the gutter, or doing Jell-O shots and stripping your top off for the boys in the bar. You blew it. What the guy is telling you, ďIf The Phone Donít Ring Itís MeĒ-style, is that he saw the future staggering toward him, and he decided to duck out of the way.

ďFriends donít let friends drive drunk.Ē They shouldnít let friends dial drunk either, but what are they supposed to do -- take away your fingers? If only you could hook your phone up to a Breathalyzer, so youíd have to blow sober to get a dial tone. Unfortunately, you canít count on friends, bartenders, or nifty technology to pick up where personal responsibility falls off the bar stool. In lieu of reliable surrogates, the role of round-the-clock blood-alcohol nanny will have to be filled by you.

Since you havenít mentioned being in the habit of giving your Fruity Pebbles a bath in warm beer, or proclaiming Clinique toner ďrefreshing on a cotton ball or on the rocks!Ē it probably isnít time to have yourself bundled into a car trunk and driven to Betty Ford. That said, spending even one night getting so soaked that you wash away the guy you want is a sign -- if not of a serious drinking problem -- that you have a serious problem drinking.

There are people and programs around every corner to tell you how to stick to Sprite with a Sprite chaser for the rest of your life -- perfect for someone with only two choices: pulling up a chair at the AA meeting or being pulled out of a steel drawer at the morgue. Occasional lushes like you might benefit more from the personal responsibility approach advocated in the books, “Alternatives To Abstinence,” by Heather Ogilvie, and “The Truth About Addiction And Recovery,” by Stanton Peele, Ph.D., and Archie Brodsky. Instead of having you sit in a circle of chain-smokers, clutching a sobriety token until your fingers bleed, they advise that you:

--Figure out why you get tanked.
--Ask yourself whether getting tanked is solving your problems, or just giving them lots of company.
--Consider why it makes more sense to acknowledge your problems than to try to hold them down until they lose consciousness in a vat of cheap gin.

That approach does require a lot of work. Itís much easier to go with the notion that love is ďthe answer.Ē To everything. From hairy backs and high interest rates to ear mites, visible panty lines, and a spastic colon. Supposedly, no matter whatís wrong in your life, love (not back wax, credit counseling, or proctology) ďis all you need.Ē Great in concept. In practice, itís kind of like trying to close up an open-heart surgery incision with a single Bugs Bunny Band-Aid.

Ultimately, you’ll need to figure out where your personal fill-line is, and come up with a plan to stop yourself from ordering a double when you hit it. Once you turn up the jets on your willpower and consciousness, you might get to the point where you can go out drinking without drowning your troubles -- just let them do a few laps of the backstroke, then dry them off and take them home. Ironically, there’s no better motto for moderation than the words of excess expert Mick Jagger: “It’s okay letting yourself go as long as you can let yourself back.”


Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.