I'll be the first one to admit there's nothing I love more than a fun Saturday night with friends at the bars. I love to grab myself a fruity drink and dance and have fun with some of my favorite people in the world. Some of my best college memories have been paired with one too many vodka cranberries. I also am a huge wine fan—sometimes, all I need after a long day slaving away at the lib is a glass of wine and my favorite Netflix show.
I drink, and I have nothing against drinking, but I think the college mindset around drinking is far from OK.
First, we have to address just how much college glorifies underage drinking. It's part of the "college experience" to get blackout drunk on a Friday night at a frat house surrounded by people you don't know. Tailgate season is everyone's favorite season because with tailgates comes downing Natty Lights and Strawberitas or vodka in a water bottle that you snuck out of your dorm at noon on a Saturday. There's SO much hype around drinking in college, especially during your freshman year, that sometimes I think we truly forget that drinking underage is ILLEGAL. Buying alcohol for your eighteen-year-old friend is ILLEGAL. Once again, I know I can't be one to talk, but it still sincerely bothers me just how much the college experience hypes up illegal activity.
Then, once you turn 21, everything is hyped up again. Society tells you that you need to have a wild party and get crazy drunk at midnight on your birthday in order to truly get the most out of turning 21. If you don't go to Tuesday night Mug Clubs or Thirsty Thursdays or spend your Saturday night out surrounded by strangers, this time in a bar instead of a frat, something is wrong with you. When I started taking weekends off from going out, people started asking me if I was ok. The bar is the peak social scene for twenty-somethings and if you're not a part of your local bar culture, you're treated like an outsider.
I drink. I drink a decent amount. I know how to hold my liquor and I've spent plenty of weekend nights (and admittedly weeknights, too) more than buzzed off of my favorite fruity concoction. But as someone who thinks about others before myself, the college mindset surrounding drinking and alcoholism is very problematic to me. Young men and women are creating dependencies and literal addictions but because it's alcohol instead of cocaine, heroin, or something else deemed unacceptable by society, suddenly it's excusable and just part of being in college. They'll grow out of it, everyone says as if addiction is something easy to "grow out of".
As I write this, I'm currently nearly half-way through my month without alcohol. For someone who used to drink at least once a week, this says a lot. I was able to see my own toxic behavior. I watched a friendship get destroyed because of my behaviors when I was drunk. I will whole-heartedly admit that I was nearing alcoholism, at least in my mind. I had to drink to have fun. When I drank, it couldn't be one or two drinks and then I'm good for the night. It was a blackout on a Tuesday. Before I'd go on dates, I'd take shots to calm my nerves. Drinking was part of my identity.
In order to challenge myself, and to prevent myself from becoming a full-fledged alcoholic, I took this month off to put things into perspective. I don't have to drink to calm my anxiety or to have fun. There's more to college than drinking every Tuesday just because it's cheaper and everyone flashes around a plastic mug as a social symbol. I'm nearly halfway through my month without alcohol and I already feel so much better. Do I plan on cutting alcohol out of my system completely? Not at all, but a break was necessary. I think drinks can taste good and drinking with friends can be fun, it just shouldn't be a defining part of who someone is.
There's more to college than alcohol. You don't have to drink underage, or at all, to truly get the most out of your college experience. Drinking until you puke every weekend isn't healthy. Hangover suck. It's time we start this conversation and are honest with the toxic mindset around drinking in college before we have an entire generation of parents with addictions. If we don't start having these conversations, that's where we're headed.