My Grandfather Regularly Drives Drunk. What Do I Do?

8 posts in this topic

TLDR: I recently discovered that my grandfather regularly drives drunk. My family and I will immediately report him to the police for drunk driving if we ever have the opportunity. The problem is that no one knows when he's driving drunk until he's parked at his home. Currently, I have cut off all contact with him and will only allow our relationship to continue if he gets a breathalyzer installed in his car. This worked for two months. But then he got the breathalyzer removed and now he's back to drunk driving.

I am in my early 20s and have been following for several years. I made this separate account to remain anonymous. 

My grandfather has struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. While I have been aware of his struggles for some time, I recently found out that he regularly drives drunk. I discovered this by accident when I found him parked in his car outside my house. When I went up to the car to talk to him, it immediately became clear that he was quite drunk. I had him step out of his car and took his keys away. One of my family members was furious, went out to buy a breathalyzer, came back and had him blow into it. I forget the exact reading but it was over 0.2%.

There's no doubt that he had done this before. Likely dozens or even hundreds of times over the course of his life. This was just the first time someone caught him doing it.

As one can imagine, I struggled with a whirlwind of emotions after this incident. It's worth noting that I grew up very close with my grandfather. He played an important role in raising me, and was a very positive, supportive and loving influence. This was the first time I ever witnessed him intoxicated.

After several days of collecting my thoughts I asked my grandfather to go on a walk with me. I explained to him that the reason that I was so upset that he drove drunk was (1) he was risking his life, and more importantly (2) he was risking the lives of innocent people in our community. Moreover, if he gets into an accident, that would not only have serious repercussions for the people involved in the accident, but also for my grandmother, our family and our community. I went on to say that I won't judge him for struggling with alcoholism, but I absolutely will judge him when he involves other people and risks their safety. It was clear that he was not able to control himself enough to avoid driving drunk. Therefore, I said, if he didn't install a breathalyzer in his car, I would lose a great deal of respect for him. He acknowledge me and thanked me for talking to him.

Two weeks later he drove drunk again.

A week after learning about this second incident, and after contemplating the situation deeply, I went to his house and repeated what I said in our last conversation. Then I expressed how much I love him and care about him, and how grateful I am for all of the time, energy and love he gave me growing up. Since he's a veteran, I talked about his sacrifices to protect our country's freedom. Given that, I have no control over what he does. But I do have control over what I do. And I said that if he did not have a breathalyzer installed in his car in exactly one week, I would completely cut off contact with him, essentially disown him. At this point everyone at the table was crying. He said he couldn't bear that consequence and agreed on the spot.

Two days later he had the breathalyzer installed in his car.

After that I continued to talk with him and enjoy spending time together, like normal. My thinking was that as long as he wasn't driving drunk, he could figure out how to address his alcoholism on his own. However, my grandmother told me that he often complained about how much of a hassle the car breathalyzer was.

As the weeks went on, my grandmother kept telling me that he was secretly getting more and more frustrated both with the breathalyzer and with me for being "stubborn" and giving him this ultimatum.

Two months later I was visiting my grandmother. As I was leaving their house I saw my grandfather walking back from his car. I could immediately tell he was drunk. I was super confused and angrily asked if he still had the breathalyzer installed. With slurred speech he defiantly said "Nope". He had it removed the week before and didn't tell me. I have not spoken to him since.

This happened two days before Thanksgiving, which I'm sure you could guess was awkward. I didn't draw any attention to it, but my family was aware that I was staying true to my word and didn't speak to him at all. He left early. My grandmother said he left because he felt uncomfortable.

Now we're at the present day. My feelings have shifted towards being frustrated and fed up.

My thoughts: if I ever find out he's driving drunk again, I will immediately call the police without hesitation. In doing so, I want his license to be suspended. Oh well. The issue is that no one in our family knows when he's driving drunk, so we can't report it to the police in time.

While having his license revoked is the best solution, a breathalyzer is the most practical and actionable one. Threatening to disown him worked as leverage, until it didn't. If he gets the breathalyzer reinstalled, our relationship can resume. It has only been a week since I stopped talking to him, but I'm not sure whether the pain of cutting him off will be enough to motivate him to get the breathalyzer again.

I'm struggling with deciding what to do, and whether completely cutting him off is the right move. I often catastrophize and wonder how much guilt I would feel if he died tomorrow (he's in his 80s). I still love him a great deal and if our relationship ended in this state, that would be heartbreaking. On the other hand, I would certainly feel more guilt if he killed himself and/or someone else in a drunk driving accident and I did nothing.

Another concern with my ultimatum approach is that by introducing more pain, stress and social isolation into his life, I'm running the risk that this kicks off a downward spiral where he drinks more and drives drunk more. Fuck.

Other alternatives are inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab. Instead of making my "ultimatum" or condition of us having a relationship be the breathalyzer, it could instead be that he enrolls into one of these treatments.

While my grandmother and the rest of our family completely agree with my reasoning and actions, I am still extremely confused and struggling with feelings of guilt and doubt. Even though I'm the grandson, my family has made me the unofficial leader in handling this problem given the amount of personal development work I've done, my ability to stay true to my word and my close relationship with my grandfather. My current approach feels toxic, manipulative and unsustainable but I don't see any better alternatives. My top priority is keeping people safe. What is the most conscious, healthy and loving way I can approach this?

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It is a very serious matter since any day you could have a fatal accident, with innocent victims. 80-year-old guy driving drunk is Russian roulette. I would make him see the seriousness of the matter with a meeting with the whole family in which he is forced (always with affection, acceptance and in a reasoned way) to install the breathalyzer, and supervising that it continues to be installed every week, and if he does not accept, the alternative is to file a complaint to have the license withdrawn, or directly destroy the car with a mallet. It is not a joking matter and he has to understand it.  not a breathalyzer or I am not talking to you. Or is: breathalyzer or you don't drive once more starting right now. With all your love and respect, i hope someone would do for me if I'm in that circumstance

Edited by Breakingthewall

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What Do I Do?

Sadly there's nothing we can do when our relatives are self destructing.

We can point them out the things that they already know. But it is up to them.

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The police are patient bastards. They are just doing their job and they are working under strict laws, so just give them a call every time when he takes the car.  Just say "I suspect he might be driving drunk" and you are safe.

Just a idea.

PS. Life sucks, so whatever, who cares. It's just more shit, no big deal.

Edited by Blackhawk

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Why can't he just walk home drunk like a real grandpa? 

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I suppose A), you could threaten to call the cops (knowing when he's going out to drink etc.), B) live and let live.

But, for me, I know I'd be more concerned for the safety of other drivers and himself.  So, it's sort of a more safety oriented thing rather than a values thing.  In that case, I think informing local law enforcement wouldn't be a bad idea. 

I once worked for an employer who would drive drunk.  I threatened to call the cops on him is he didn't stop.  I got fired, but I suppose it's better to make some sort of effort to protect people from harm.  In your case, at least he's not an employer.  


"Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"   --   Marry Poppins

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it's a good idea to start trying to fix your relatives or family members but only a handful of times!
remember that every individual is born with specific karma and whatever you do, they are destined to their genetics and neurology. 

Edited by hamedsf

"If you kick me when I'm down, you better pray I don't get up"

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