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Surviving the Beating Heart of College Culture
Early on a Saturday morning walking through campus, I pass by street after street of student housing — red cups strewn over lawns, beer pong tables in driveways and familiar faces stumbling out of houses, reeling from the night before. The local diner is packed with students piecing together their Friday nights over egg and cheese sandwiches, nodding in agreement about the severity of their hangovers.
Despite the fact that alcohol is the leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 24, these weekly drinking rituals are echoed on college campuses from coast to coast.
Casual or Causal Drinking
Whether you write off four years of binge drinking as a “tradition” or take your education seriously, the correlation between college drinking and destruction is undeniable.
Heavy alcohol consumption has long been associated with a multitude of related issues and negative health outcomes. According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
- Nearly 100,000 students between 18 and 24 years old are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
- 600,000 students each year are injured, unintentionally, while under the influence of alcohol.
- One in four students reports having academic issues as a result of their drinking.
Drinking Way Too Much
“When you know you’re going into an awkward social situation, you almost always end up drinking more than you should,” a student from Butler University once told me. And that statement continues to ring true.
I’m part of a generation that constantly questions everything. We ask “why?” every time the opportunity arises, yet we’ve failed to ask why we continue to drink so much. Drinking in college is so fully embedded in our culture that we rarely pause to wonder why we’re pounding shots every weekend or why we want to see who can chug a beer the fastest.
Alcohol is a form of social lubrication on campus. It gives us liquid courage, a term used to describe the rush of confidence that comes from downing a few drinks. It makes it easy to forge new friendships, to talk to the cute guy from English Lit class and suddenly makes it socially acceptable to dance like no one’s watching. Liquid courage gives the illusion of being fearless and outgoing – it creates a false sense of safety because, when we’re drunk, we no longer have to be genuinely vulnerable.
Life After Binge Drinking
We joke about being “functional alcoholics” and laugh with our friends when we wake up and have to ask, “How did I get home last night?”
We establish these behaviors in a short, roughly four-year stint with the understanding that, when we throw our caps in the air, that lifestyle will magically fade with graduation.
Unfortunately, that reality is nothing more than a fantasy for many post-grads.
“For me, it’s been difficult because drinking like an idiot for four years has been acceptable, even encouraged; now that I’m out, it’s not,” said Christopher Griffin, a recent graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
“After graduation that kind of behavior is no longer acceptable. It’s a harsh reality.”
Finding Balance in the Transition
Finding balance in the transition from binge-driven college culture to the real world can be hard. Oftentimes, what felt like normal social drinking now looks a lot more like substance abuse or full-blown alcoholism.
I don’t want to waste the college experience by setting myself up to spend a lifetime shackled to what will undoubtedly be an ever-increasing need for alcohol.
With that in mind, I’m making the following promise and invite you to join me:
I am a college student with hopes and dreams for the future. With a clear and focused mind, I am now taking the time to examine my relationship with alcohol and how it impacts my lifestyle as a whole.
Learn more about alcohol abuse and available treatment options.
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