It’s September, and there will be social drinking events. You’ve just started the semester and already you’re beginning to feel that heaviness and exhaustion that is synonymous with relentlessly working toward an education. Maybe it’s been a week or a month and the pressure is beginning to really set in. Pressure from tuition and project deadlines, of keeping that GPA up, of keeping the parents happy, and of course leading an ardent social life.
You head out after what feels like the longest week ever to let loose and have a little fun.
SCENARIO ONE: Social Drinking and Strong Dependency
You arrive at the party and immediately a drink appears in your hand and it seems for the entire night to be perpetually full. You notice but you don’t really mind. You’ve had a hard week and you deserve to have little reckless fun. Besides, you think to yourself, I’ve just met this really cool guy/girl and the drink is definitely helping. They call it liquid courage for a reason, right? After what feels like a while you lose track of time. The music is loud, people are dancing, the conversation is flowing, and you’re having fun. The next morning you wake up at home with a bit of a headache and little recollection of the previous nights’ events but you shrug it off, pour some coffee, and tell yourself that you will know better next time.
SCENARIO TWO: Social Drinking and the Road to the Addiction
You arrive at the party and you’ve already got a bit of a buzz on since you pre-gamed hours before yet before you do anything else you need to find a drink. You had a hard week and once you have that drink in your hand the party can really start. You get a drink and try to find your friends but you realize that you already need a refill. Best just take the bottle with you so you don’t have to keep going back and forth. You wake up feeling pretty terrible and look at your phone to see you have a bunch of missed calls, voicemails, and texts from friends. They have called to check in and while some of them can’t wait for round two tonight, there were quite a few who were worried or angry with you. From what you recall, you didn’t do anything that bad. And those concerned friends? They are just killing your vibe. As you pour yourself a drink – hair of the dog, right? – you decide to ignore the haters and run with the thumbs up friends from now on. Sure, you get a little wild sometimes and maybe you drank a little much but you know you’re a fun person and your party friends get that.
Surely you’re familiar with the two types of drinkers above. Maybe you know one of them or both of them or perhaps you are one of them. Social situations like this are inevitably a part of entering adulthood and the difference between a mistake and a problem can be a very grey area. Being an adult is hard and celebratory drinking can be an easy form of escapism from the everyday. There are many symptoms that play as warning signs for alcoholism and it’s when these symptoms begin to show patterns that can lead to problems with alcohol.
Let’s take a look back at both scenarios and see if we can spot the red flags.
In scenario one, you enter the party and immediately start drinking. You aren’t paying attention to your alcohol intake and this can lead to what is called binge drinking. You’re also drinking as a way to escape even if only momentarily and like most people you’re using it as a social lubricant. You lose track of time and wake up with a bad hangover and your memory is a bit hazy. Aside from binge drinking, these things are usually harmless. It’s only when you start to form consistent patterns out of these habits that they tend to be problematic.
In scenario two, the signs are a little more clear. You arrived already having had a few and it was the first and only thing on your mind. You needed that drink to have a good time. The night flew by and you woke up with no memory of what happened. Although your friends are upset with you and you can feel the space between you and the people you truly care about growing, you chose to turn your back to them and surround yourself with those who only enable your unhealthy behavior.
Taking a more in depth look at these two types of drinkers, do you see yourself? Someone you love? Stay tuned for part two, where we will go over how you can navigate these situations.