Alcoholism doesn't start after graduation

Alcoholism doesn't start after graduation

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“You’re not an alcoholic until you graduate college.” Many of us have heard this classic adage used to justify repeated nights of binge drinking. While it is funny and can reassure us that our drinking habits are not that unhealthy, it reflects an ultimately harmful attitude toward alcohol that is all too prevalent on our campus. 

The college drinking culture is a subculture glorified in the media. Portrayals of college in movies and television shows almost always center around the consumption of extreme amounts alcohol. Our ideas of drinking are formed even before we set foot on campus, and are then reinforced by almost all our social interactions and Alabama “traditions.” Many people see game days as incomplete without a Yellowhammer from Galletes, and fraternity parties feature kiddie pools filled with Natural Light; the Strip is packed every game day, bar after bar. Alcohol is so ingrained into being a student at Alabama that we can fail to recognize the degree of its prevalence. 

The culture of alcohol also creates norms and even expectations for how people should drink. We expect people to be able to drink a certain amount before it affects them, or else they are branded a “lightweight.” People who don’t want to drink at parties are often ridiculed and labeled as boring prudes. We treat heavy drinking as if it is something that all people should be able to do. The expectation, though, is that this subculture ends. After we graduate, it is expected that we cut back our drinking. No more Wine Wednesdays or black out weekends when you’re in the real world. What no one seems to talk about, though, is that our drinking habits do not just disappear the second we are handed a diploma. 

The reality is that if we foster a dependence on alcohol in our fours years of college, this dependence is going to continue on into our adult lives. There are some people who the culture of drinking will not negatively affect. These are the people we love to hate: those that can go our four nights a week, get black out drunk, and still manage to do well in their classes. For them, drinking can just be social and does not turn into an addiction. What we need to realize, though, is that this is a very small minority of people. Many of us have family histories of addiction, and science is finding that genetics is a huge factor in whether or not someone becomes an addict. For those of us who have families affected by alcoholism, it is so important to start healthy drinking habits in college. If we do not, there is a possibility that addiction will haunt us our entire lives. 

This is a conversation that we at The University of Alabama need to start having. Yes, drinking is fun, but we need to shift the narrative that everyone should be able to drink the same way. Every individual has different family histories and different circumstances that should be taken into account as they build their relationship with alcohol. The University needs to provide more resources to those who struggle with addiction or simply want to learn how to drink more responsibly. Though there is a Collegiate Recovery Community, it is not a well-known resource on our campus and it deserves more attention and funding. Responsible drinking does not mean abstinence. Go out, have some beers with friends, and maybe even get a little buzzed. But just remember, alcoholism does not only start after graduation.

Marissa Cornelius is a junior majoring in secondary education. Her column runs biweekly.

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