Straight Talk Advice

Aug 20, 2013

Warnings from the trenches about drinking

Dear Straight Talk: My daughter is heading off to college. She has a history of drinking and I'm worried. I know that many kids die each year from alcohol poisoning.  What can I say to instill caution? I also worry about  the hookup scene. Any suggestions for warning her in that regard, too? —Worried Mom in Colfax, Calif.

Erin 20, Grass Valley, Calif. Ask me a question

I spent a college holiday getting my heart defibrillated on the beach and waking up in ER. I remember nothing. I almost drowned, my heart stopped. My “friends” were too inebriated to help. Thank God someone  called 911. I had stopped drinking at what I thought was my limit, then I was handed a water bottle, told it was water, so I chugged it. I spit it out after I felt the “burn” but it was too late. Things went foggy, then nothing. I now trust nobody around my drink and I cut off drinking way before my limit — if I drink at all.

Ari 23, Los Angeles Ask me a question

The pressures of fitting in and being seen as 'fun' are huge for freshmen. Perhaps my story of being raped while unconscious — something that happens frequently in college — will serve as a warning. Basically, while blacked out, I was dimly aware of yelling 'no' and struggling. I woke up bruised, sore, and peeing blood. My hair was all over the bed. Because I was intoxicated, I still struggle to believe the rape wasn't my fault. Three out of four of my lady friends have been raped also. It's almost like today's rite of passage in college. So horrible. To your daughter: Please don't drink, or drink rarely.

Ochatre 23, Kampala, Uganda Ask me a question

Four years ago, I was among a batch of intelligent high school friends in whom great community hope was placed. We got recruited into our country's top universities, many under scholarship.  Once there, excitement, peer pressure, and desire for experience exposed us to all kinds of bad habits, alcohol taking the lead.

Notable among my friends was Phillip. Tall and handsome, Phillip was one of the greatest guys to know, very charming, funny and caring. His family revered him — despite his new behaviors of taking drugs, smoking and drinking. One Tuesday evening as I was playing rugby, Phillip approached me to borrow a pen as he headed to his evening lecture. This is my last memory of Phillip. He died at 5:34 AM the next day, falling off the stairs because he was so drunk. On graduation day — just this February  memories of my good friend kept flooding in and I wished he had lived his life differently. I believe asking your daughter, “What are your plans after college?” will cover more than you can imagine.

Chris 25, Washington, D.C. Ask me a question

I was caught speeding during high school. There was no alcohol involved, but the judge deemed we were driving as if drunk.  We were sent to a morgue, an emergency room, and a MADD seminar. It really impacted my drinking behavior.  I highly recommend you contact MADD about their programs at

Dear Worried Mom: Your conversations do make a difference! As emphasized by the panel's sharing, drinking is the major culprit in college hookups, rapes, arrests, alcoholism, early death — not to mention being illegal for most incoming students. A recent Penn State study shows that drinking is significantly reduced when parents speak calmly with their kids about the dangers. The most effective time for such conversations is before college starts. Don't delay. A top parent handbook for how to communicate effectively is from Tufts. I beg you read it at

More cautionary tales next week.

Editor's Note: If you're reading this editor's note, which only appears on our website, you're very likely a teen or young adult, so I'll address this to you. Some of you have parents who have or will communicate with you about the realities of underage drinking. And many of you don't.  And some have parents who communicate it, but not very effectively, so you blow it off.

I'm telling you right now, this is YOUR life. Almost every major decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life, you will make when your parents are not around. I had parents who actually supported me — to drink! I first got drunk with them when I was 12. Though alcoholics themselves, I believe they were misguided, thinking that if I got sick enough I would leave it alone (and not end up like them). But alcohol doesn't work like that, and the younger you start, the more likely you will end up alcoholic. At 14, I drank to unconsciousness. I weighed only 80 pounds and am lucky to be alive and writing this.

Eventually, I learned that I needed to be my own best parent if I was going to get anywhere in life, or even have one. In fact, I spent a lot of time thinking about what a 'best' parent does so I could have one inside me — and someday possibly be one for my own kids. That said, the Tufts' parent handbook is a great resource for you, too. I can't recommend it enough for developing your own best inner parent: one who holds high expectations of you, listens, loves you unconditionally through mistakes, respects and understands you and your world, is reasonable and fair, and who you can trust to be honest with you about the facts — including being tough when needed.

For many, you are all you've got. For all of you, your life ultimately comes down to you. Developing your own inner parent is part of becoming the best you can be. —Lauren

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  1. By Caite M, age, from Albuquerque, NM on 08/23/2013

    Thank you so much for this column on drinking and the Tufts Handbook.  It is so distressing to learn how widespread the binge drinking is…and the rapes!  I am around college kids all the time and in college myself.  I am grateful for being made aware of the extent of the problem.  You can’t be helpful if you don’t know what is going on.

    Reply to this comment

  2. By Mike Domitrz, age, from Milwaukee, WI USA on 09/05/2013

    If you are worried about hooking up and alcohol, talk to your daughter about how the best sex is sober sex – when you can feel EVERYTHING (unlike when alcohol numbs you). Share how if you are going to engage in sex, you should not need one ounce of alcohol to help it happen.

    If anyone ever tells you “Sex is better when you are drunk,” that person must be BAD at sex. When you are a sober, confident sexual partner, you are sharp in bed and everyone loves a vibrant passionate partner. Plus, sex is meant to be wonderful and so you should want to remember it afterward too.

    Let her know that a drunk partner can NOT consent to sex and so team up with your friends at parties to intervene when you see someone acting like a predator – trying to use alcohol to facilitate a sexual assault.

    Share that if anyone ever does do anything sexual with her at a time she couldn’t give consent, that you will be here for her – ALWAYS. Let her know how much you want to hear the words, “I WILL ALWAYS BE HERE FOR YOU.”

    Then remind her that only the rapist is at fault for a rape. If you were to get drunk and someone were to ever sexually assault you while you were drunk, know only the rapist is at fault for a rape.

    Share how you know people this happen to and you saw how much it devastated individuals, especially when they blamed themselves (only say this if its true). No one ever has the right to make you feel guilty for the awful acts that person did to you.

    Then remind her how much you love her!

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