A few nights ago, I overheard two people bragging about being alcoholics. The only reason you would ever brag about it is if you had no idea what it actually meant. You’ve never gone home to see someone you love constantly staring into space lifelessly because he had been drinking all day and had no energy for anything else. You’ve never had bruises caused by a drunken rage. You’ve never had to wonder if you were going to be able to go to school at the rate money was being used to buy more alcohol. You’ve never had to hide your pocket money, fearing that if he found out, he’s ask, and in spite of all that you believe in you would give it to him. I say this with confidence because if you did have an inkling, you would never think to consider it a bragging right.
In college, it’s never seen as alcoholism. It’s always thinly veiled under terms like “fun,” or “being wasted” or “craziness.” Even if you find yourself wanting more of it, more often. Even if you start to feel that life is pretty meaningless without it. Even if you find that being someone other than yourself (a funner, louder, more adventurous version of you) needs to be a regular part of your weekly routine. When does a silly memory turn into a huge regret, and when does that huge regret turn into a habit? When does drinking turn into a habit you can’t break?
We like to picture alcoholics as scruffy middle-aged men who wear white singlets and beat their wives, but addiction doesn’t have a face or a demographic. Some might be more inclined to it than others, but we are all endowed with the power to choose. It’s ugly to think about it, but the white college-educated kid might be in the same position as the beggar down the street. That’s just one consequence of being part of one humanity. We often like to convince ourselves that we are in control of our emotions and will never let anything get the better of us, but it only takes one look at our individual pasts to know that that’s not true.
I’m not very good with drawing margins and coming up with step-by-step analyses on moral codes, but I can say that if you find validation in alcohol, you will never be satisfied. Your life has to be founded on stronger principles that are unshakable in the face of circumstance. For every moment that you are wasted, seek sober moments when you can say you are fully content. For every group of friends that you just drink and have superficial conversations with, hold on to ones that give you life and push you forward. Seek a fountain that doesn’t run dry.