Addiction and College Drinking: Learning the Consequences

A bottle of red wine; a naggin or maybe two; Sambuca shots; pints of Bulmers and Sex on the Beach cocktails; all held high on my list of choice in alcoholic beverages whenever I decide to hit the town on a typical Thursday night.

Whether it is good or bad, it must be accepted that alcohol is very much a central part of the college student experience. I can’t speak for the entire student body, but it has come to my attention that many students feel that they need to consume a certain quantity of alcohol to enjoy themselves on a night out. The thought for many students of entering a nightclub sober, seems to be horrifying and near impossible. As one friend informed me, it would be her “idea of hell.”

As we were all once young and naïve first years, I think it’s safe to say that upon leaving home for the first time many of us snatch up the  opportunities that go with that freedom. The freedom to do as we please, live on our own terms and go a little mad in the process. We are no longer under the thumb of our parents or teachers; no one is watching to see if we attend lectures or tell us that we can’t go out four nights in a row. Speaking for myself, and having personally got caught up in this contagious college stereotype, I went wild in first year and well into my second year of college.

However, with much partying experience behind me, I have come to the conclusion, following one too many hangovers, coupled with regret and embarrassment at my drunken antics, that going out to get ‘twisted’ isn’t something that appeals to me the way it once did before. Don’t get me wrong, I like a crazy party and a few drinks as much as the next person, if not more, but I have learned from testing my limits that it’s important that I have them. It’s after nights like these and one too many close calls that have led me to question my relationship with alcohol, to consider that maybe alcohol isn’t something that suits me personally or is not exactly the friend I thought it to be. I’m sure I’m not alone in my pensive attitude. I think the majority of college students, whether they will admit it or not, at some point, come to question their relationship with alcohol, especially after a bad experience.

I feel I must state that the aim of this article is not to promote nor condemn college drinking. You can’t tell people what is the right or wrong thing to do when it comes to their consumption of alcohol. If you fall unconscious, vomit your guts out, have to get your stomach pumped, left with blanks the next day or do something you regret and would never do if you were sober, then you know yourself that you have gone too far. But drinking and partying are above all a positive social aspect of college and it’s not fair to paint all actively drinking students with the same brush, simply because some behave irresponsibly.

It is for this reason that I don’t feel that anyone can say with clarity that there is a set right and wrong when it comes to college drinking. You need experience to learn. People have the freedom to drink as they wish, so let them. Students seem to  understand the immediate effect of alcohol and the physical impacts on their bodies, yet I don’t think the majority realise the true damage of their drinking.

There comes a point that if you’re drinking above what you can handle on a regular basis, that it can become simple to lose yourself to the world in the process; I have and so have others. You’re not exactly living in the real world, it’s the college world, and it will eventually come to an end and I fear that many people, like myself, won’t know how to deal with that when the time comes.

Alcohol might hold the ability to bring you out of your shell , help you to enjoy yourself more and make it easier for you to feel you fit in, but what people fail to remember is that alcohol is still  a drug and it’s not hard to fall dependent to it. I grew up with an alcoholic father and I didn’t start drinking until I started college. There is always a pressure of sorts to drink when you’re in college, but that’s not why I started drinking. Having just one drink turned into a few, then naggins and then bottles. Before I knew it, I was drinking most nights and if you knew me you would know that was absolutely crazy for me. A person who once thought they would never drink. Ever.

It remains fascinating to me how easily you can get caught up in something. I think growing up with an alcoholic will change anyone’s perspective on drinking. Nobody can truly understand the absolute horrors of it, until they endure it at home first hand, day and night on a daily basis. The more I allow myself to think back on those parts of my childhood, that I’ve tried so hard to blank out, the more every sip I take feels harder and more and more pointless for me to swallow.

I’m obviously not saying that everyone who drinks heavily when in college will end up an alcoholic, but it’s important to remember that no one goes out with the intention to become addicted. It just happens; it grips people when they least expect it. It can evolve to become a problem over time and its aftermath is indescribably painful and horrible and often serves to leave permanent marks on people. It has the power to destroy so many family memories and happy homes.

Alcohol is there to be enjoyed, and so it should be, but it’s important to keep an eye on your own intake if you feel like your alcohol consumption is becoming a problem for you. By all means enjoy your alcohol, but remember its long term consequences are no laughing matter. Be aware and be cautious; don’t allow yourself to wake up one day to find your pleasure has now become your demon.