DEAR AMY: I know that "friends don't let friends drive drunk," but the last few times I've been in a situation in which I've offered to drive or call a cab for friends who'd been drinking, they've insisted they were "OK to drive."
One friend was so obviously impaired that I refused to get into her car and ended up walking.
She was angry with me, and we didn't speak for some time after the incident. Recently, a different acquaintance had been giggling about how "tipsy" she was but refused my offer to drive her home, and when I texted the next day to see if she'd made it home safely, she was irritated and said she never would have driven if she didn't think she was OK.
Amy, these are professional women in their 40s. I don't think I'm coming across as judgmental when I offer; I'm actually pretty nonconfrontational. In fact, I think I should be more assertive and just take their keys, but I don't know how.
Can you suggest any sort of tried and true script I could follow that would be effective in convincing people that even if they feel "OK" it's not worth taking the chance?
— Sober Friend
DEAR SOBER: First off, you are not responsible for your friends' atrocious and dangerous behavior. You attempted to intervene and drive a drunken friend home; when she declined, you were very wise to walk.
I shared your query with Dorene Ocamb, spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (madd.org), and we agree that a more assertive way to approach this would be to agree before the drinking starts that you will be the designated driver. The friend would relinquish her keys at the beginning of the evening, thus sparing you the impossible task of trying to lasso an inebriated friend.
Drunk or impaired people often report that they are "fine," but they are impaired and are in no condition to judge their own sobriety.
Ocamb adds, "The other alternative — and we only suggest this with hesitation — is that you have the option of calling the police. You have to figure out what's right for you and for your relationship."
DEAR AMY: I am a freshman in high school. Last summer my best friend was diagnosed with skin cancer. It wasn't very serious, but it took a definite toll on her.
I have been supportive and encouraging, and I've stood by her when times are tough. Recently she found out the scar she has from it won't ever go away. She seems to be becoming more and more sad. She has started looking at all the negatives in life, and sometimes it brings me down too. What I'm wondering is: How can I cheer her up?
I want her to be happy again. What do you say to someone with cancer, and how can I help change her outlook on life?
— Best Friend
DEAR FRIEND: Your best role is to prop up and encourage your friend when she seems down, and to be supportive and kind to her. You're doing a great job with that, and your friend is lucky to have you in her life.
But some things are beyond your abilities, and that is when the adults in her life should step in and become more involved.
Her sadness and negativity may not be directly related to her brush with serious illness. She sounds depressed, and she should see a doctor for an evaluation. Reach out to a trusted adult to share your concerns; disclose exactly what you are observing, and say you are worried about her and that you believe she needs help.
DEAR AMY: "Upset Girlfriend" was wrapped up in an online relationship with a controlling man who was in the military, stationed overseas. While I thought your advice was good, I'd like to point out that she wasn't actually in a real relationship. They hadn't even met!
— Upset Reader
DEAR READER: Well, it felt "real" to this woman, and the long-distance control he was exerting was all too real.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.