Straight Talk Advice

Aug 27, 2013

Warnings from the trenches about drinking — Part 2

Dear Readers: Last week, "Worried Mom" asked how to speak to her pre-college teen about the realities of college drinking and the college hookup scene. The panel reported from the front lines and I'm hoping their stories will motivate all parents to speak up.

Parents: Please share this two-part column with your teen. Expressing informed negative consequences of drinking along with your position regarding alcohol makes a positive difference. Tufts' parent handbook "Talking with College Students about Alcohol" is a must-read. —Lauren

Jessie 21, Eugene, Ore. Ask me a question

To all college students: Don't be the kid at the party who needs a babysitter, is puking, picking a fight, passed out — or off having sex you will regret. A friend recently got separated from our group, threw up on the sidewalk, fell off the curb and passed out. The police sent him by ambulance to the ER. Cost: $1200. He's still afraid to tell his parents.

Omari 20, Washington, D.C. Ask me a question

A friend's cousin died from alcohol poisoning just hours after her college won an important football game. She didn't even finish her first semester. Regarding hookups, a friend's words still echo: “I think of how many people I've had sex with and wonder, 'What would my future husband think?'”

Ari 23, Los Angeles Ask me a question

In addition to being raped while unconscious [last week's column], I got a DUI at 19. I'd only had two beers all day, so I “covered” for my boyfriend and switched seats. Somehow I blew a .11 so the cops took me to jail. Along the way, they stopped to pick up a shotgun which they positioned with the barrel facing my head. Then, the cop in the back seat said he was “hot” and removed his uniform. Next, they sexually harassed me, asking how I liked to have sex, what positions were my favorite, etc. Mind you, I'm cuffed the whole time. It was horrible! After years of contesting my blood alcohol level, and a lawyer, I got the case dismissed and obtained a clean record. A typical DUI costs $10,000. Moral: Don't drink. I don't anymore.

Treyvon 19, Yorba Linda, Calif. Ask me a question

For me, “hooking up” isn't nearly as much fun as being with someone I love.  However, I don't judge those who seem to enjoy it. That said, a big concern is how commonly in college drunk girls are raped while in a state of semi- or unconsciousness. Tell your daughter if a guy really wants her, he'll still want her when sober.

Brandon 21, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

Tell incoming college students from me about the rapes, the idiot freshmen puking all over themselves, and the social stigma attached to “drunk whores.” Many party animals drop out the first year owing $6000 in student loans and working at McDonalds.

Katelyn 18, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

Regarding empty sex, a friend's friend constantly talks about it, plays songs about it, assesses guys based on it, etc. She even compared a pastry to a guy's anatomy, saying I “couldn't handle it” because it was too long. She's the perfect example of how shallow casual sex makes people. They're never satisfied, they're a little creepy, and they turn people into “things.” Their sense of worth, beauty, and being loved depends on random sex.

Christina 22, Marysville, Calif. Ask me a question

I recommend all students attend a “Red Watch Band” session (free daily at most campus Alcohol and Drug Education Centers). Take-away message: each body processes alcohol differently — with many contributing factors. Just because a few shots don't affect you one night, doesn't mean they won't the next. Plus, at house parties, you don't know how much alcohol you're getting.

Editor's Note: Less is more. I hope the panelists' stories in the last two columns inspire moderation in alcohol consumption. The graphic we've used for today's column of the cartoon kid passed out after making "offerings" to the "porcelain god," is one of drinking's better outcomes. It, unfortunately, also comes with rapes, arrests, unintended pregnancies, STDs, and death — none of which are uncommon, as we've seen from the panel's testimony. 

If you are wistfully thinking, gee, if we were only more like the Europeans and introduced alcohol earlier and "normalized" it with meals and family, Americans wouldn't have this "idiotic"* binge-drinking phase in college, well, you are in for a rude awakening. The European tradition of "normalizing" alcohol has earned it the highest rates worldwide of both alcoholism AND binge drinking — both significantly higher than the U.S.

Best practice is for parents to not to allow alcohol at all to growing children and young adults under age 21. The longer a young person waits before having their first drink, the less their chances of becoming an alcoholic. We dug into the topic of "first drinks" in our column Sept 28, 2011. Please read for more sobering statistics on how alcoholism starts young.

To those partiers who figure they will "outgrow" binge drinking after college, please know that alcoholism often comes back to bite later in life following a long-term sober or near-sober phase. Please don't take any chances and use moderation always! If it's too late and you've already binged heavily in college, work therapeutically on your emotional issues and childhood wounds so you don't drop back into this  now-familiar-to-the-brain coping mechanism when things get tough/lonely/overwhelming later in life. —Lauren

*(credit goes to Brandon for the adjective)

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  1. By Mike Domitrz, age www.DateSafeProject.org, from Milwaukee, WI USA on 09/05/2013

    When talking to teens about alcohol consumption and connecting the conversation with sexual assault, please be extremely careful to point out that the only person responsible for a rape is the rapist.

    One of the biggest mistakes parents make is a comment like, “The more you drink, the more likely things like rape could happen.”

    How does that statement do harm?

    If the child does drink and is sexually assaulted, the child is likely to blame his/her self for the assault. The child will say, “I was told not to drink and so obviously its my fault.”

    Also the child is unlikely to report the rape because he/she is afraid of Mom and Dad finding out (after all, they said not to drink that much) or afraid the police will blame him/her for drinking.

    Way too much victim blaming occurs against sexual assault survivors and “Don’t Drink” talks often lead to such victim blaming.

    Talk about drinking, drinking responsibly, and being there for your friends when they are drinking. Let your child know you want the best for him/her. In the end, no matter what choices they make, you, the parent, are there for them – ALWAYS.

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  2. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 09/05/2013

    Mike—I am so grateful for your comment. Many girls who are drunk or unconscious when raped blame themselves for it. Our panelist, Ari, is one of them. She described her rape in Part I of this 2-part column (last week’s column).

    It has been drilled into our kids’ heads that the choice to drink has consequences. While this is true, rape and sexual assault fall into a different category and NOBODY has the right to sexually assault another NO MATTER WHAT.

    THANK YOU for pointing out this distinction and how important it is for parents to be extremely careful to point out that “the only person responsible for a rape is the rapist.”—Lauren

    Reply to this comment

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