98 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

18 Dec

Just because almost every college student drinks, and may drink frequently and to excess, does it mean they are alcoholics?  I don’t think so.

Anecdotal Evidence:

When I was in college, I went through a period of heavy drinking.  I was having family problems, felt isolated in the Cabin-Mansion, felt overwhelming pressure to get the good grades, work full time to afford tuition and rent simultaneously, and pick a stellar career–fast!  It was too much.  Also, I’m Native American, and many of my relatives had abused alcohol.

When I found myself getting drunk at my work’s Christmas Party, having wine or brandy every night, or thinking about having a cocktail while I made the hour-long commute home, I began to worry.  I’m a worrier by nature.  [Paranoia and OCD also run in my family.]  So I thought I would go to the free alcohol counseling offered by my university.  Just to see if maybe I had a problem.  To get help if that’s what was warranted or to ease my mind if I was fretting for nothing.  I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t heading down some alcoholic track.

I went in with an open mind, and filled out all the forms being very honest about all my background, habits, and stressors.  Before my counselor even looked at my papers or talked to me–he treated me like an alke.  He also looked at my stature.  He said a female with my petite frame should not be having more than one drink a week.  That was it.  I was immediately labeled an alcoholic.  It made me distrustful of the whole process.

As an example:  The counselor asked why I liked to drink.  When I answered I liked how it made me feel more comfortable and outgoing–he tried to trick me by saying that didn’t make sense–alcohol was a depressant.  Having taken general science–I told him it made perfect sense because alcohol depressed my inhibitions.  It made me wary of everything he said.  He would quote statistics, and by his logic, every student on campus (and everyone in Reno) was a raging alcoholic.  Just by walking in the door of the alcohol counseling center, I was considered an alcoholic.  No one even considered any other options (paranoia, situational, highly stressful year) at all.

I believe putting such a generalization on a group of newly independent young adults learning their limits and appreciating their new-found freedom minimizes a legitimate disease.  Alcoholism is a serious impediment brought on by genetics, environmental factors, stress, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Next up:  The seriousness of alcohol–and how the abuser has little power over drink.

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