If students started to realize they have to please themselves in order to be happy then their lives would be so much more fulfilling. We take into account too much of other people’s views and beliefs. We live by them instead of living by our own values and it’s really rather sad.
Jim K., University of Vermont sophomore
I’ve started taking road trips on the weekends for the sole reason of getting away from the party scene. It’s just become so boring and monotonous. I’m sick of coming home drunk every Friday and Saturday night and waking up the next morning hung over. There’s so much more to life.
Lee J., Manhattan College senior
I know that my friends on many occasions say they have to stop drinking. This is usually Sunday afternoon after drinking for three days. So they don’t drink until Thursday again. When Thursday comes around they think they have done something good. They reward themselves by going out and drinking. I think this is ridiculous because three out of seven days they spend lying around the house wanting to do nothing except watch television and sleep.
Chapter 15. Success... it's up to you
Colleges and universities across the country are implementing a variety of alcohol and other drug education and abuse prevention programs. Some have been extremely beneficial, while others have met with limited success. Regardless of what your institution is doing, you can make the kinds of decisions that will minimize or eradicate the impact of high-risk alcohol consumption in your life.
What I’ve tried to do in this book is educate you about the effects alcohol can have on your college career. You now know what alcohol is, how much alcohol is in a drink, how alcohol has affected many students’ lives or the lives of their families, what the parties are sometimes like, and so on. But what about you? How will you use this information? Hopefully you now realize that the decision to drink alcohol or not while in college is a serious one. When facing this decision, consider the following:
What are your priorities in life?
What are your family, religious and personal values?
Do you have a history of alcoholism in your family?
What is the school policy regarding alcohol consumption?
Are you of legal drinking age? If not, do you understand the consequences you face if you are caught drinking?
If you have chosen to drink, continually monitor your consumption:
How are your grades doing? Is your alcohol consumption affecting your academic performance?
Is your tolerance increasing?
Is your consumption affecting your relationships?
For a complete assessment, review the “Identifying Problems” questionnaire in the Addiction chapter of this book.
Let me once again recommend the Prime for Life program, one of the most effective and informative alcohol-education programs available to college students. Developed by the Prevention Research Institute in Lexington, Kentucky, Prime for Life has been enthusiastically received by many college students across the country. If this course is not available on your campus, speak to your administrators. Let them know you are concerned about the presence of alcohol problems on your campus. Let them know you would like to have this program made available to all students, faculty and staff.
One of the guys came over and asked me why I wasn’t drinking. I told him I didn’t feel like it. His response was, “That’s cool,” and he walked away.
Jesse C., Georgia State University junior
In chapter one, Party Time, students reported their experiences while attending a campus party and not drinking. Below are some of the specific comments by students regarding peer pressure, both positive and negative. As you will see, much of the pressures felt by students encourage high-risk consumption. But we are also seeing a subtle shift of support toward abstinence as well. While reading these observations, consider how you would respond if you were in a similar situation. Also, consider how you react to someone at a party who is not drinking.
I also think that people respect me more when I go out to parties and don’t drink at all. I think you are a pretty weak person if you give in to peer pressure.
When we got back to our room, we discussed the party a bit further. We all agreed that it was a little ridiculous how much people pressured us to drink. But it also made us feel good to be able to stand our ground and say no.
When I found someone else who wasn’t drinking I felt a lot more comfortable around her.
There was one real weird comment. This guy said I didn’t look stoned. He assumed that if I wasn’t drinking then I must have been smoking.
People in general are more supportive if you choose not to drink.
The peer pressure was unbelievable. People are used to me drinking, so when they saw me without a cup they tried to drag me to the keg. When I responded no they just kept hounding me. I eventually grabbed a cup and held onto it so people thought I was drinking.
I told people I wasn’t drinking because I was too loaded the night before. It was a lie. It made me realize I was not secure enough in myself to tell people the main reason I didn’t want to drink was because I didn’t feel like it. I guess I felt I needed a better excuse than I just didn’t feel like it.
I never felt like there was any pressure to drink. That’s high school stuff. I think people in college respect people’s decisions about alcohol.
The pressure to drink was not there like in high school. There is such a difference in the maturity levels between high school and college.
I was not in the mood to have a beer and they understood and did not pressure me to drink. They respected me for my choice. I had a really great time and didn’t have a drop of alcohol. Sometimes people do not know when to quit drinking and make real fools of themselves.
I was constantly questioned as to why I was not drinking on that night. It was as if I was supposed to drink. However, it was not just my friends asking me. I received constant encouragement from almost everyone around me to drink. It was like harassment. Somehow I had thought that it would be acceptable for me not to drink, but the opposite was true.
In our fraternity nobody is ever really criticized for not drinking. It’s been a month since I did the project. I have had a few drinks at parties but I haven’t gotten drunk. I drink to avoid the stupid questions about not drinking which can make you feel uncomfortable. Since I made this change I’ve been consuming fewer calories, saving money, no hangovers, and my grades have improved.
I noticed a lot of my friends trying to get me to drink. When I think of it, when I’m drinking I do the same thing. It’s almost like you think something is wrong that the person isn’t drinking. You think you are doing them a favor by filling their cup. It became annoying. I almost felt compelled to give some phony excuse. Not drinking because I didn’t feel like it just wasn’t enough.
The pressure to drink lasted all night. I could not go up to someone and say a simple hello. I would always hear, “Where the hell is your beer?”, “Aren’t you drinking?”, “What’s wrong with you?” I find it amusing to think that I was considered the one with the problem. Others were unaware that I was not drinking because they were too drunk to notice.
Do any of these remarks sound familiar? Remember, the choice to consume alcohol or not is yours! Often though, it is difficult for students to stick to a decision to abstain or consume in a low-risk fashion. Below are some strategies for dealing with peer pressure.
At least now I know that if I don’t feel like drinking I shouldn’t go to one of these parties because all they end
up being is annoying.
Melissa D., University of Vermont sophomore
Sadly enough, I do not think someone can have as good of a time at a party without drinking.
Melanie M., University of Miami first-year student
Not once in my three years at school have I seen soda or food served at fraternity parties. I live off-campus and whenever I have gatherings of my own I always have snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.
Vincent A., Keene State College junior
Sure, all we did was play board games and eat ice cream and snacks. But it was fun. One of the good things was that we all remembered who we were with the night before, plus we weren’t hung over.
Bill M., University of Connecticut junior
That is why we always have two designated sober people when we go out. They are responsible for driving and making sure we stay together. I wish we had started this practice two years ago before my friend was at a party, passed out, and was raped.
Socialization is an important and exciting part of campus life. Parties can provide one way to meet new people. I encourage students to attend parties. But once you have decided to attend a party, you’re then faced with a number of other decisions. If you choose to drink alcohol, then you need to decide:
What will you drink?
How much will you drink?
How fast will you drink?
Will you eat?
If you are underage, what are the consequences if you get caught?
Will you participate in drinking games?
Once you have reached your limit, how will you refuse offers to drink more?
If you get impaired, how will you protect yourself?
How will you get home?
What about “hooking up”? Why should you? Who might it be? If you do, how will you feel about it in the morning?
To reduce your risk for impairment, try arriving at the party a little late and leaving a little early. Alternating an alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink will also reduce your alcohol intake. Remember, you will probably get more impaired more quickly if you:
are tired or getting over a recent illness
have been taking medication
have not eaten much during the day
are feeling depressed
If you choose not to drink alcohol, then you need to decide:
What will you drink?
What will you do with your hands?
How will you refuse offers to drink alcohol?
What will you do later when many people may be drunk?
I think everyone can use a break from parties and spend quality time with friends.
Monica A., Pennsylvania State University junior
T.S. Eliot was obsessed with the idea of death within life – doing the same things over and over again and never experiencing new things. I am not the type of person who needs to drink four nights out of the week. I often try to find other things to do. But there are a lot of other people who don’t try to look beyond the party scene. I must say I feel sorry for someone who goes out looking for campus parties all the time and never seeks any new adventures.
Why can’t we think of things to do without alcohol or other drugs? It simply seems like when someone mentions the weekend, it means to stop being sober.
I hope students don’t go through what I did. I just wish they’d realize there are more ways to solve a problem or have fun than drinking and doing drugs.
At the video store we saw many other students. It was good to know that not everyone was out getting hammered.
John S., Plymouth State College junior
When discussing the reasons why many students drink in excess, one of the most popular refrains is, “There’s nuthin’ else to do!” I try to get my students to modify this statement by saying, “There seems to be very little else to do that gives us the immediate satisfaction, relief and pleasure that drinking alcohol does, especially if I’m with a hundred or so others who are doing the same thing.” Yes, it may seem that on your campus there aren’t many diversions available that can give you the immediate satisfaction alcohol provides. But understand that there are many serious risks associated with this choice.
Is there really nuthin’ else to do? Of course not! There are numerous things to do other than drink. Once my students admit that drinking is an easy and relatively cheap high, I have them sit down and list from A to Z some of the other ways they enjoy themselves and meet new people. Here are just some of the places and activities suggested:
Aerobics, Art, Acting, Assisting a Youth Group, Big Brother/Sister, Baseball, Basketball, Bicycling, Beach, Bungee Jumping, Board Games, Camping, Church, Crochet, Canoeing, Community Cleanups, Coaching Little League, Cooking, Diving, Dancing, Driving the elderly to shopping, Easter Baskets for needy children, Feeding the hungry in a soup kitchen, Frisbee Golf, Flying, Figure Skating, Foosball, Fishing, Golf, Gardening, Hang Gliding, Horseback Riding, Hiking, Helping the Homeless, Hockey, Ice Climbing, Internships, Jogging, Juggling, Kite Flying, Knitting, Learning a new skill, Library, Laundromat, Meditation, Movies, Museums, Malls, Nintendo, Needlepoint, Newspaper Staff, Opera, Prayer, Painting, Playing Music, Politics, Pool, Ping Pong, Quarry Diving, Rock Climbing, Reading, Rafting, Running, Roller Blading, Shopping, Studying, Surfing, Skiing, Snow Boarding, Sculpting, Student Government, Sailing, Scavenger Hunts, Sewing, Triathlons, Talking with friends, Tennis, Tubing, Theater, Ultimate Frisbee, Visiting the elderly, Video Games, Volunteering, Walking, Weight Lifting, Whale Watching, Work Study, Writing, Wind Surfing, Wrestling, Xerox Art, Xylophone Practice, Yoga, Yearbook Staff, Yard Sales, Zoos (OK – the X’s are a stretch!)
These are just some of the ways to enjoy yourself or perhaps meet and socialize with your peers and the neighboring community. So there are plenty of alternatives to drinking. They may not provide the same immediate satisfaction, but I guarantee you’ll feel better in the morning after participating in some of these activities. A few students have commented to me that many of the activities on the list take place during the day and are not alternatives to drinking. True, but for many of these activities a good night’s sleep is essential for optimal performance. If I am going rock climbing or skiing, I want a clear head in the morning. If I am going to be interacting with children, the elderly or a homeless person, a hangover will certainly rob me of the essence of that interaction.
Often students claim the reason they do not participate in some of the activities listed above is a lack of money. But consider this: It is estimated that in one year, U.S. college students will spend $5.5 billion on alcohol – more than they spend on soft drinks, tea, milk, coffee and books combined. On a typical campus, annual per capita student spending for alcohol – $446 per student – far exceeds the per capita budget of the college library.84 Don’t fall into the “there’s nuthin’ else to do” trap. Get out and enjoy life. Sure, go to the parties. Meet new people and make new friends. But take advantage of the world beyond the campus walls! And do it with your new friends from the college and the community.
College can provide you with wonderful opportunities to expand your horizons as a human being. You are the only person, however, who can make this happen. And it can happen if you GET REAL:
Goals: Developing specific long-term and short-term goals will give you focus and direction. Consider what you would like to be doing in ten years. Five years. During the next year. Consider what you need to do to accomplish your long-range goals. When faced with important day-to-day decisions, ask yourself how your alternatives fit into the attainment of your goals. By listing and committing to your goals, choices about alcohol consumption will be much easier to make.
Education: Your primary reason for being in college is to become better educated – don’t lose sight of that. Academics are your number-one priority. When making decisions about courses, examine how they fit into your goals. And a large portion of your education will take place beyond the classroom walls and the library stacks. Be sure you place yourself in an environment where your experiences will contribute to the accomplishment of your goals.
Tradition: Most colleges have a rich history of tradition and school spirit. Become a part of it. Intercollegiate athletics provide one way to get involved with your school. However, if your school specializes in research, learn about its important contributions to science. Learn about famous graduates. Attend cultural events including plays, concerts, debates and other presentations. It may sound trite, but developing a sense of school spirit and knowing the fine traditions of your school will help you feel more connected not only to your school, but also your peers.
Responsibility: It is time for you to take responsibility for your own life. You can no longer blame your parents, your teachers, your friends or anyone else for your difficulties. Take charge of your life and pursue your goals.
Enthusiasm: Whatever you choose to do in college, do it enthusiastically. Study hard, work hard and play hard. College will mean more to you if you make a commitment to all your endeavors. Associate with successful students, faculty and staff. Remember that success breeds success.
Activities: Seek out new, exciting and enriching activities and people. Don’t get caught in a rut filled with the same old parties and the same old drinking. There’s plenty to do on campus and in the surrounding community. Reaching out to others through community-service-oriented activities will provide you with memories and inspiration that will last a lifetime.
Love: Your life will be more profoundly satisfying and your interactions with others will be much more meaningful if you follow the fundamental guiding principle of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And opening your heart to God or your understanding of a Higher Power will comfort you during some of the difficult times you may experience while in college. Your choice to pursue a spiritual path, and the love that pursuit can generate, are the most important aspects of human existence. If your family has a religious heritage which has been lost, talk to your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents or family friends about the impact of its loss. If you practiced a particular religion prior to college, don’t abandon it – celebrate it!
Get real! Achieving success in your life starts now. It starts with a clear understanding of what it means to be successful. I believe Ralph Waldo Emerson captured the essence of success in the following:
To laugh often;
to win the respect
of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy
child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed a little easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Personal Challenge: Campus Activities
To increase participation in a variety of co-curricular activities.
1. List several recreational activities which you presently enjoy, and identify which of these activities is available both on the campus and in the local community.
2. List several recreational activities you believe you might enjoy, and identify which of these activities is available both on the campus and in the local community.
3. Create an action plan for exploring each recreational activity which interests you by researching the following information:
b. Distance from campus
d. Others who might enjoy the activity
1. Are recreational activities important to you? What need might these activities play in your college career?
2. Were you aware of how many recreational options were available to you on this campus and in this community? Are you likely to take advantage of these activities? Why? Why not?
3. Have you found new activities that are available that you would like to try? What would encourage you to test out a new recreational activity?
4. Does alcohol consumption impact your ability to participate in your recreational activities?
Adapted from Activities Manual for The Education of Character, Lessons for Beginners, Will Keim (1995). Harcourt Brace College Publishers.