Alcohol is a hell of a drug. At a young age D.A.R.E. exposed us to propaganda against the use of drugs and the abuse of tobacco and alcohol. For a while, I chose to believe what I was told and swore to never drink or do drugs. Little did I know that binge drinking would become a regular thing for me the first couple of years of college. I spent many weekends waking up with no recollection of the night before. At the time, this was how I had “fun”.
The U.S. culture is all about consumption. Excess alcohol consumption is a glorified activity in almost all media platforms and is considered an integral part of the college experience. For a large segment of the student population, including myself, it is. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18-22 drank alcohol in the past month and 2 out of 3 students in that survey were binge drinking.
Once I started college, everything D.A.R.E. told me to avoid was fair game. The combination of peer pressure and the excitement of going out made me another statistic. So why am I sharing bad habits from the past?
A few weeks ago, I saw a setup on the Green with an obstacle course that could only be attempted while blindfolded. It was symbolic to the life scenario of being blackout drunk. If the blindfolded person stumbles on the obstacle course, they lose, and there is a sign nearby that states a real life consequence like: “you decided to drive home drunk and you rolled your car.”
The obstacle course is a way to present the message of “drink responsibly” or “don’t drink at all.” But those messages are just as effective as the D.A.R.E. programs were to the 60 percent of college students currently binge drinking. Alcohol abuse is a lesson in life that is primarily learned through experience.
It’s about growing up. My alcohol abuse went through several stages: drinking to be accepted by others, drinking to have fun, drinking for the sake of being drunk, drinking to numb the pain, and drinking because I hated myself. Obviously my intentions deteriorated over time. Regardless of the abuse, I never really considered myself to be addicted to alcohol in a physical or psychological way. It was the inability to handle stressors more effectively and an attempt to compensate for my insecurities.
However, there were two ends of the spectrum; binge drinking and complete sobriety. I found no answers in either approach. Over time, the important thing to me was to find balance in moderation. Life can be dull in complete sobriety, but the life I want will not be built while drunk at a party or in a bar.
Scott Severance, an RMC associate business professor, once told me that “alcohol abuse is not a habit that can be kicked by someone else. No amount of therapy or hours of group meetings will make someone change. That individual has to decide for themselves what is best and at what point they should stop. Alcohol abuse is only treated and cured by the person with the problem.” So enlighten yourself through the social peaks and valleys college has to offer. But do so responsibly.
The people we become are represented by our achievements, but are constructed by our mistakes and failures. It is not about being uptight about alcohol use. It is about using substances for the right reasons and in moderation. There is an appropriate time and place for everything. Cheers.