I’m sophomore living in a small college town. Who isn’t drinking at my age?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a weird look when I say, “I don’t drink.” The pressure is absolutely there, and when you’re in an environment where that’s what everyone is involved in, it’s hard to say no. The empty bottles and cans, crumpled up red Solo cups, and glass bottles littered over the premises are just a testament to the culture that colleges across the country embrace: binge drinking.
It’s essentially defined as having four or more drinks per hour for women, or five for men.
Whether it’s just a couple of beers at a friend’s apartment or downing dozens of mixed drinks at the nightclub, alcohol has long established itself as a staple of the college experience. Entire organizations and friend groups bond over excessive drinking regularly — it seems that if you’re not intoxicated for at least a substantial portion of college, then there might be something wrong with you.
I find the fact that the common nomenclature for substances reads “drugs and alcohol”. Because it sets alcohol apart from every other drug like cocaine and LSD, we assume it has a lesser impact on our lives. We don’t even separate tobacco or nicotine from those other two groups — “smoking is bad for you” is common knowledge at this point. Yet, the CDC reported that 15.1% of all adults in the United States still smoke.
What about the phrase “alcohol is bad for you”?
In fact, alcohol is worse solely because it is so widely accepted throughout society. Even this overconsumption, to the point of blacking out or passing out, is encouraged. However, the most detrimental aspect of our attitude towards alcohol directly impacts those with depression or other mental illnesses.
It is especially dangerous for those suffering from a mental illness to consume alcohol because of the negative effects it has on mood and the brain. Studies have proved the long-term negative effects that alcohol can have on emotion and cognitive functioning.
For most people, alcohol is a minor divet in an otherwise stable life. But, for those who are susceptible to periods of extreme lows, it’s bad news; if you’re already in a low place, it will only make things worse. If you’re suffering from depression, when and after you drink, you will be worse off than where you started.
When you first start drinking, you might not feel that bad — alcohol can have a stimulant effect at certain doses. How many times have you heard the phrase “drinking away your sorrows”? Drinking when you’re sad is a terrible coping mechanism — a band-aid approach with self-medicating undertones that often results in a worse state of mind.
Just as you wouldn’t give someone suffering from anxiety large amounts of caffeine, why would you give someone dealing with low moods a depressant?
I’m no saint, I used to drink a lot, embracing the stereotypical college culture with open arms. I thought I was cool, posting photos of alcohol on my Snapchat story. Parties were the normal thing to go to on Fridays and Saturdays, and I felt accepted whenever I was shotgunning beers with friends in the backyard.
It was not just a coincidence when my mood was suppressed at an extreme low. After a night out, I would often stumble back into my room, feeling absolutely miserable: wanting to cry, hurt myself, having the thought of ending it all. Just an hour ago, I’d be killing it on a dance floor with fraternity brothers and having a great time singing along to the music.
Alcohol is involved in one out of every four suicides in the United States.
At the beginning of this year, following a life-changing event, I decided to give up alcohol for good. After relapsing a couple of times, I wrote a promise card to my girlfriend saying that I would never drink again.
For the majority of people, this won’t be an issue. You can have your drinks and be fine on Monday morning when you show up to class and over that hangover Sunday was all about. But, I implore for the rest of us struggling to try and give up drinking for a while and seeing how you feel about life.
Do you feel more stable? Are you associating yourself with different people?
I’ve been sober for the past four months and I can say wholeheartedly that I have felt absolutely amazing without substances throwing a wrench in my mood.
Without the reliance on drugs to help me cope with life, I’ve instead shifted my attitude to lifestyle changes. I can get out of bed on most days, and when I’m in a bad place, it’s not nearly as bad as if I had gotten wasted over the weekend.
Thanks for reading,