Alcohol and the College Freshman: 3 Questions
Ahhh, to be free of parents telling you what time you need to be home when hanging out with friends…to set your own schedule and make your own decisions…this is what college is all about right? Independence is something that most college students look forward to although it’s not always as good as it’s cracked up to be. In some cases, college students quickly discover that what starts off as a “freedom fest” ends up being “crash and burn” – especially when alcohol is involved. Alcohol is an adult privilege presumably because adults make well-reasoned decisions and are responsible for their actions. And although college students are legal adults their brains don’t fully mature until their mid-20s and so this – combined with their new found freedom – may mean that experimentation and impulse gratification takes precedence over deliberation and self-control. If something has happened – or happens during your first year of college – and you’re wondering if your use of alcohol is becoming a problem then it might be a good time to pause and reflect on these three questions:
1. What purpose does drinking alcohol serve for you? Stress or anxiety relief? An easy or “safe” way to connect with people? A temporary escape from less interesting or important things? Something else? How do your values and goals figure into the equation?
2. What would happen if you didn’t drink to the point of intoxication or getting a “mild buzz?” Would you feel OK about this or would you feel disappointed – that you’re missing out on or being deprived of something? Maybe it wouldn’t be a big deal one time, but would be more bothersome if you or someone else placed constraints on your alcohol consumption as time went on.
3. Has there been a time when you, a roommate, friend or family member has expressed concern – directly or indirectly – about your drinking habits (or your behavior when you’ve been drinking)? How did you react (e.g., “I don’t have a problem” vs. “Hmmm…maybe this is something I need to look at.”)? Are others even aware that you drink – or drink as much as you do – or are you trying to keep this a secret? If so, why?
These are worthwhile questions to think about – not for the purpose of deterring you from drinking as you will need to make your own decisions about alcohol use based on your values, attitudes and beliefs – but to examine what role it plays in your life and to ensure it doesn’t result in unintended consequences.
If you’d like to have a conversation with a professional about the three questions – either now or in the future – then consider contacting your college counseling center to schedule an appointment. In addition, Dr. Christopher Quarto – a licensed psychologist in Michigan & Tennessee and the author of this blog post – offers convenient “Skype-like” counseling services to college students and can be contacted at (615) 403-5227 (chrisquarto.com).
Tennessee & Michigan