If you’re having four or five drinks (for a woman or man, respectively) a night, three times a week, you fall under the parameters of alcoholism. As in, you’re an alcoholic.
A couple of nights ago I attended a town hall meeting at SBCC focused on underage drinking and what our community should be doing about drug and alcohol use in, mainly, Isla Vista. Now I know that this topic isn’t directly related to politics, but it has an awful lot to do with our society, and it bleeds into every part of our lives as students at one of the top party schools in the nation. I came to UCSB from one of the nerdiest high schools in California; imagine Glee but without the football players and cheerleaders. I attended a performing arts charter school with a graduating class of maybe 120 students. The most I ever drank in high school was a Smirnoff Ice in the garage of a Christmas party, which I shared with two other friends. So I entered college with very little experience regarding alcohol.
I didn’t come to UCSB with plans to drink or not drink; I just wanted to experience college like everyone else. I’ve had a very normal experience at UCSB. I’ve had bad drinking nights, and I’ve had good drinking nights. I’ve had nights where I’ve had to take care of friends who drank too much and vice versa. And from everything that I’ve seen I have come to one conclusion: We all need to change our attitude about drinking.
That night that your friend got so drunk that she had sex with someone who she otherwise wouldn’t have even kissed? Not cool. That time that your friend got so drunk he got in a physical fight with someone, and both idiots got hurt? Not funny. And that time that your friend had to spend the night in the hospital and will never know what happened after 10 p.m.? Not safe.
I am not promoting sober living — I’m not an idiot. And I love my wine just as much as any other 45-year-old woman. But a girl died two weeks ago. And alcohol was related, we all know that. Alcohol had some part in the death of the poor girl whose life was incredibly promising, and who, from the looks of it, was loved by everyone she touched. We go to a party school, and that’s awesome but it doesn’t mean that people should be getting injured, or for Christ’s sake, getting killed.
Every year 1,825 U.S. college students die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, more than 690,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, over 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault (those are only the reported instances) and about 25 percent report that their drinking has caused them to miss class, fall behind and receive lower grades overall.
I talked to my dad after I left the town hall meeting because I came to a realization about my own drinking habits. I was incredibly frustrated when I realized that my level of sobriety takes a lot of effort. It would be a whole lot easier to be drunk all of the time here. I have to actively work to maintain a healthy amount of drinking, and that’s not how it should be. It just isn’t. This is the same realization you have when you realize you’re an adult. It sucks to think about all the shit we are going to have to deal with considering that we are entering the work force during a terrible economy — the world kind of seems to be working against us. We as 20-somethings have to actively remember to be happy and keep going amidst the pretty shitty world we were handed. I’m terrified of my future, and I’m a white, middle class, completely abled person. I can’t imagine what my life would be like had I not had the opportunities that I have been blessed with since the day I was born.
But I can imagine what my life would be like had I not stepped back at some point last year and legitimately thought: hmm, am I drinking a normal amount? Do I look forward to drinking too much? I know you think I’m a dweeb (I also know that “dweeb” is the dweebiest word ever), and I know that this is something that you are going to scoff at in a condescending manner much like my usual attitude. But just get off your high horse for a second and throw away all of the societal definitions of cool that we let rule our lives.
Go out, have fun, drink a couple drinks. But also keep in mind that although you should grow out of the “drink to get drunk” attitude around 25 or 26, what happens if you don’t make it there? And if you do, what happens if at 21 you think that you’re perfectly fine to drive, but you’re wrong and get slammed with up to $10,000 in fines for a felony DUI because someone broke their leg when you got into a minor accident but blew a 0.08. Try getting a job with a felony on your record. Try imagining what your adjustment is going to be like when you graduate from UCSB, enter the real world, and realize that regular adults don’t get drunk every night — they don’t even get drunk every weekend. And if that doesn’t do it for you, try imagining your little sister who drank too much and couldn’t say “no,” or your little brother who drank too much and didn’t hear “no.” And if you truly think that it’s the lamest thing in America to be sober, maybe you have some other things you need to work out.
Stop cheering on your friends when they do idiotic things while drunk. Stop cheering on that one extra shot even though your friend clearly cannot take it. Stop laughing in the morning when your friend doesn’t remember where they slept. If not, we as students at UCSB are asking to be laughed at, and we are going to lose potentially wonderful students who are timid about coming here because people have fallen off of cliffs and died, because there have been police riots, because there have been gang rapes. There is clearly a cultural change that needs to happen regarding our relationship with alcohol. You don’t need to be sober all the time, but you also don’t need to be drunk.
Mckinley Krongaus is tired.