By Alta Mira
You started drinking in high school: sneaking beers with friends, raiding your parent’s liquor cabinet, attending (and hosting) well-stocked house parties. By the time you were a senior, you were drinking almost every weekend. You couldn’t wait to get to college and join the Greek life. And this was when the parties really started–every weekend there was some occasion to have a few beers with your brothers or sisters. Eventually you surrounded yourself with a group of like-minded partiers who were on an endless search for the next big binge. Almost anything became a reason to party: first day of classes, holidays, end of exams, obscure president birthdays, sun, snow, or rain. It was a drinking life for you, but you didn’t see a problem with that. You assumed it was just part of the lifestyle, and that it wouldn’t affect you after college. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a temporary thing. For some students, it was a college fad, but for you, it was the opening up of your latent addictive tendencies. Those college days of drinking have stayed with you–and now it’s time to acknowledge your addiction, and seek help for your alcoholism.
It seems obvious that students in Greek societies drink more–and there is ample research backing that up. But just how much more? A recent study showed that between their freshman and senior years, Greek students increased their number of drinks per week from five to eight–compared to an increase from two to three for non-Greek students. So not only are these students drinking over twice as much as non-Greek students, but they’re also increasing their intake more rapidly. This is always dangerous, but for some, it increases the chance of addiction. It opens someone up to a lifestyle that sticks with them. If this growth isn’t curtailed by graduation, where might it lead?
Nowhere good. With the increase in drinking comes a potential increase in negative outcomes.
We’ve all heard about the promising athlete who lost his scholarship due either to underage drinking, illegal activities performed while under the influence, or some freak accident that happened while drunk. And these are only the cases you hear about in the local paper. The effects touch far more students, and research paints a stark picture. Each year in the United States:
◦ Close to 700,000 students are assaulted by another student who has drunk.
◦ Over 97,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
◦ Close to 600,000 students suffer alcohol-related injuries.
◦ About 25 percent of students experience academic problems due to their drinking.
◦ 150,000 students develop alcohol-related health problems, and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent try to commit suicide.
◦ Almost 5 million students drive drunk, putting themselves and others at risk.
The saddest statistic of all: each year about 1,825 students will die from alcohol-related injuries.
You were one of the 150,000 students who developed an alcohol-related health problem while at college, and your drinking problem has followed you into the present day.
After college, you expected your drinking would slow down–after all, most Greek students are able to cut down their drinking after graduation. However, for you, Greek society was the catalyst for a lifelong addiction. You have realized that drinking has become a part of you, a part you can’t easily leave behind.
So maybe your drinks over lunch to discuss the latest ad campaign turned into two-hour liquid lunches. After-work drinks might have become an almost daily occurrence. Your weekends were a haze of bingeing. Alcohol might have been your escape from a hectic day–until one day, when it went too far. This was the moment when you realized you need help.
Seeking treatment seems like a daunting task. It is. Life or Death.
By Kristin Reinink
I remember sitting through my first AA meeting like it was yesterday. The first person to share was a seventy something year old man who announced that he was a “grateful recovering alcoholic.” He went on to explain that he had been clean for over twenty years and runs six miles a day. I thought to myself… these people make me sick.
As our disease progresses we find new and creative ways to support our active addiction. Our internal self-talk finds a way to rationalize why our using is “normal” and why we aren’t “addicts/alcoholics.” By doing this over a time we become internally conflicted with believing and therefore behaving in a way that does not align with our morals and values. This process is difficult because we start losing ourselves to our addiction. Our goals, dreams and ultimately our identity is slowly taken from us and replaced with a substance. Most alcoholics and addicts can show with this process and often have a hard time articulating how this process happens or happened.
When someone stops using and gets sober finding inspiration and gratitude can be challenging. The act of getting sober is scary and for many a last resort. Our behavior and thought process has revolved around our using. The motivation behind what we do, say and feel supports our addiction and continued use.
In my experience waking up in a detox unit after a five-year bender was not particularly inspiring. To be honest my disease continued to rationalize why I was not like all the others who had a “real drinking problem”. This thought process took time and patience. It involved accepting the help and guidance of others. Initially I found inspiration in treatment, from my peers, my counselors, mentors and books. I had to trust the process and I still do.
So what helped me find inspiration in recovery? Below is a list of suggestions and techniques etc. that helped me find and maintain sobriety.
• Create a gratitude list – Put a notepad next to your bed. If you are a morning person write a list of things you are grateful for in the morning; if you are a night person then write your list before you go to bed. If you are an over achieve do it both in the AM and PM. If you have a hard time knowing where to begin try making a gratitude list using the alphabet to offer as a guide. (Example: A is for AA Meetings, B is for Books, C is for my sister Chelsea and so on).
• Take in your five senses – Go somewhere quiet, if it helps close your eyes. And think what do I now see, feel, hear, taste and smell. It is easy to move through your day on autopilot. It is healthy to bring yourself back to the present moment and feel grounded.
• Remember – One Day at A Time. In early recovery this saying got me through tough times. Often I would even break this down further and tell myself “one hour at a time.“ Before I knew it my one hours were turning into days, my days into weeks, and weeks into month and so on. It made time doable and helped me do small goals.
• Get out into nature – This is very personal to me and I could probably write a book about it. However, finding the beauty in nature has enhanced the quality of my life…period. I remember talking to a very good friend and mentor who is also in recovery. At the time I was feeling stuck, it was winter and my attitude needed adjustment. I remember my friend saying “Don’t you enjoy skiing? When you are riding up the chair lift take a moment to really take in the beauty of the outdoors.” I have always remembered this advice. It is simple but has dramatically affected my outlook. This would be a good time to take in your five senses.
• Appreciate the small/simple things – It is easy to take life for granted. One of my favorite quotes “That breath you just took… it’s a gift” by Rob Bell really summarizes what I mean by appreciating the small and simple things. Another favorite memory I have that shows this was a time when I was facilitating a group at a residential treatment facility. One young woman in particular shared that she was grateful to see the sun for the first time sober in 10 years. This forever will be a perfect example of what I mean by finding gratitude.
Today, I am a little more than four and a half years sober. I am now the person who attends meetings and introduces myself, “Hi I am Kristin and I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.”
“Do this and you shall live.” Genesis 42:18
Do this, and I will live. Sounds pretty simple. Now, all I have to do is figure out what “this” is. It’s really easier than you think. But you have to look for the answers, chase after them. They are not going to come chasing after you.
The Rabbis tell of a wicked man who committed all kinds of sins. One day he asked a wise man to teach him an easy way to repent. The wise man said, “ Refrain from telling lies.”
That’s a beginning. Starting the process and being comfortable may hurt but the more we do it the more comfortable it becomes. First of all, stop lying to you be really frank. It will get better. God only asks that we make progress. There isn’t any perfection except in The Power of the Universe and it only wants you to be happy, joyous and free.
Then stop lying to everyone else. Make truth part of your soul, the fabric of your heart, and walk on that path without doing harm. Be gentle and loving in all your truth. The Psalmist says, “ Light is sown for the righteous.” Let truth illumine your path and guide you on your journey.
We are searching for and living in spiritual renewal, and by making positive choices with awareness and full recognition of rejecting the negativity, we enlarge our spiritual life.