The drinking dilemma: Making informed choices
When I got to college, the prospect of alcohol mystified, intrigued, and scared me just a bit. For much of my first year of college, I avoided situations with alcohol and consumed it a grand total of two unremarkable times. Over time, however, my perspective ebbed and flowed depending on the context and who I was with, plus studying abroad and seeing how alcohol is treated when it’s not as taboo as it is in the U.S. made me more comfortable. So I’m not going to lecture college-bound students on avoiding parties and bars that don’t card until you turn 21—let’s be realistic. This is a touchy topic for good reason—far too many alcohol-related injuries and deaths occur each year for it not to be—and the more we share about our experiences, the better off we’ll be. When it comes to alcohol, I’ve learned that…
…some people choose to, others don’t, you have to make the choice that’s right for you.
Okay, so I’m recycling the classic S-O-Y method that crops up in just about any orientation, RA, or mentor training ever. But it’s a classic for reason. Alcohol consumption is one of those things that people assume goes with college territory—thanks a lot, “Animal House,”— but it has to be an individual decision.
…the only person who knew my cup was 100% Diet Coke was me.
If I didn’t feel like drinking but still wanted to hang out, I made my own drink exactly as I wanted it: sans rum, vodka, or whatever. And guess what? Nobody cared and everybody had fun.
…never consume alcohol on an empty stomach.
This is a recipe for disaster, so at least have a snack of sorts before you drink anything—and while we’re on a topic, it’s a myth that eating a lot after several drinks will sober someone up or prevent a hangover. Once the alcohol is consumed, it’s consumed. So that’s why drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea.
…when in doubt, call for help.
If you think that you or someone you’re with has had too much to drink and is in danger of getting alcohol poisoning or can’t be left alone, do not hesitate to get help. The possibility of getting in trouble for underage drinking is nowhere nearly as dangerous as letting someone get hurt. Program the RA’s number into your phone along with the number for campus safety or college police so that you’re prepared in case of emergency. This is definitely a “better safe than sorry” situation!
…knowledge is your most powerful tool.
Orientation and RAs almost always have alcohol awareness events and programming, but we can always use good resources to peruse on our own time. Facts on Tap is a great source for students as well as parents and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also provides a great deal of information. The point of using these resources is not to make alcohol more taboo or scare you away—it’s to take away the mystery so that everyone can make their own choices.